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Embracing sustainability

Written by Joanna Swash on Tuesday, 07 June 2022. Posted in Insight, Analysis

Joanne Swash has an important message for business owners who she advises to ‘take ownership and embed sustainability into their day-to-day culture.’

Embracing sustainability

Joanne Swash has an important message for business owners who she advises to ‘take ownership and embed sustainability into their day-to-day culture.’

Question: What is the 21st century meaning of the phrase ‘sustainability in the world of business?’ Answer: It is a term used to describe doing business without negatively impacting the environment, community or wider society. But let’s take it one step further. Is it not the responsibility of every business to make a positive impact? Should we not be prioritising long-term business strategies and practices?

A sustainable business strategy, that addresses global environmental issues, is incredibly important. My view is that a sustainable business strategy leads to long-term business success. However, I also appreciate that ‘doing well in business’ and ‘doing good for the planet’ are not always mutually exclusive. 

Theorists call it the shared value opportunity. Nowadays, investors are using environmental, social and governance (ESG) as a tool to measure a company’s ethics, and how it contributes to the bottom line and how it affects the brand.

What now?

Making your business a more sustainable entity is the next step for all owners and directors. Yet it is much, much more than a simple public relations campaign to explain to people about how impressive your carbon footprint is. It is about taking ownership and embedding sustainability into your day-to-day culture. Results may not be immediate, but the long-term impact will be. 

Arguably the most critical element in creating a more sustainable business strategy is the analysis and research that defines it. What does sustainability mean to your people, your business, your industry and your clients? And how do you use this information to develop a greener approach?

We, at Moneypenny, partnered with Worktech Academy to investigate this topic, especially given the move away from the traditional office, along with the rise of employee consciousness. The result of this research provides four typologies of sustainable organisations at work.

Place-maker

Place-makers firmly place the responsibility for developing sustainability initiatives with the organisation’s leadership. They believe the office building should be used to showcase their green credentials. This can be achieved by utilising smart technology, installing recycling facilities, and having an energy-efficient design, as well as a sustainable transport provision for improving the environmental impact on the world. 

Tech company Adobe has attained 22 LEED certifications for its building portfolio. Eight of these are at Platinum level, placing the company’s offices among the most environmentally sound buildings in the world. Adobe is also leading the way on reducing its use of water, in response to California’s historic drought. Since 2000, it has reduced its water use by more than 60%, after installing environmentally friendly fixtures and landscaping with native plants.

Change-maker

Change-makers believe in the power of peer influence to activate change within the office. This typology emphasises the importance of influencing green behaviour through social support and peer-to-peer encouragement. Companies including Coca-Cola, Intel, Genentech and eBay have appointed green champions to help influence a positive environmental change within the workplace. 

For Coca-Cola, the team’s key role is to spread awareness among employees by announcing sustainable initiatives. Intel has appointed eight green teams across its 80,000-strong workforce. Some teams focus on business objectives, while others concentrate on awareness and education.

Choice-giver

Choice-givers are organisations that use new flexible work policies to promote more sustainable choices. They try to influence employees who are working away from the office, rather than imposing company mandated policies. The choice to work flexibly is offered to employees, so they can make greener choices when working remotely. While this typology has primarily evolved because of Covid-19, some organisations have been championing this model for much longer. 

Sun Microsystems created its Open Work Program in 2008 which allowed 24,000 employees to work from home. The company calculated that office equipment and energy consumption, at head office, was twice the amount of energy consumption that emanated from a home office environment. More importantly, they discovered that the average commute to the office for an employee accounted for 98% of their carbon footprint.

Arbitrator

Arbitrators refer to organisations that extend sustainability beyond the office building. Their purpose is to make more sustainable decisions in the home and community on behalf of their workforce. In effect, they are arbitrating their own employees when it comes to green issues. 

For example, companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook and Johnson & Johnson provide subsidised sustainable transport for their employees. This means subsidised bike travel, group shuttle buses and public transport. Other organisations, such as Goldman Sachs, have supported smart home energy solutions for employees, or subsidised residential recycling bins.

So how do you measure up?

First things first, always understand where you are as a business, before creating any future strategy. Once you have developed a solid business model and structure, it’s time to tap into sustainability to run hand-in-hand with your business’s values and purpose.

As for the typologies mentioned above, they are not mutually exclusive. For example we, at Moneypenny, have adopted a hybrid of all four typologies.  On one level we are the classic Place-maker with a purpose-built HQ and green credentials. We also exhibit traits of the Change-maker through our employee-led sustainable living group.

Regarding the Choice-maker, this has been achieved because of our advanced technological business solutions. And you can add some Arbitrator into the mix thanks to our strong links with the wider community. In general, many businesses pursue more than one avenue in their sustainability strategy. 

Leaders need to demonstrate sustainability strategies to all of their stakeholders. It’s more important now than ever. Rather than feeling pushed into a corner, and reacting to the loudest voice, make it part of your overall business plan. Embrace what it can do for your business in terms of profitability, resilience and impact. 

To find out more about these four green typologies, which have grown immensely in the post-Covid era, download the Moneypenny and WORKTECH Academy report. It’s called ‘From Place to People’ and can be found at www.moneypenny.com.

About the Author

Joanna Swash

Joanna Swash

Joanna Swash is Group CEO of Moneypenny, a global leader in telephone answering, live chat and digital comms. Recruited as Moneypenny’s first salesperson in 2005, today Joanna leads an international business based on a unique culture of mutual respect and trust that has been recognised as a Sunday Times Best Company to Work For for over a decade. She firmly believes that an organization’s most important asset is its people, equipping them with superpowers through technology and the spirit of continuous learning.

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