Saving sustainability: not just another business buzzword

Certain buzzwords and phrases will stick with us forever. Some are genuinely useful, while others less so. What do we really mean when we promise to 'reach out' or call for 'blue sky thinking', anyway?

Saving sustainability: not just another business buzzword

Certain buzzwords and phrases will stick with us forever. Some are genuinely useful, while others less so. What do we really mean when we promise to ‘reach out’ or call for ‘blue sky thinking’, anyway? 

Sustainability is a fairly recent entry into the ever-expanding dictionary of business jargon. While it is not a term that lacks in substance, it is often used as a loose, catch-all to show a company’s good intentions towards the environment ‘ and little else. 

To prevent sustainability from becoming a mere platitude, we need to engage with long-term, measurable commitments and actions. This is not an easy task. After all, long-term business success requires companies to re-evaluate their sustainability credentials while acting fairly and responsibly towards their customers, suppliers, local communities, and the environment. It’s a lot to do at once. 

However, it’s not impossible. This World Environment Day is as good as any to consider how we can better work towards protecting our planet and society. 

One way of doing so is by adopting an Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) framework. It may not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, but it is crucial for making organisations accountable for their actions, because their targets are always measurable. Additionally, they also guide companies to work on multiple priorities at the same time. For example, reducing environmental impact while prioritising healthier, smarter ways of working for all.

We must not forget that sustainability can be a multifaceted term. Excellent operational sustainability can ensure that your people are happy and productive. A good ESG framework helps a company to prioritise these employee needs by, for instance, guiding the implementation of hybrid working models. These models in particular help to improve staff retention, attract new talent, and motivate workers to perform to their best, while supporting employee mental health and work-life balance. 

An ESG framework can encompass many different targets, from global greenhouse emissions reductions to societal pledges. However, any target included in an ESG should be an achievable one that uses a company’s expertise. 

At Ricoh Europe, we have pledged to use our expertise to help bridge the digital divide by endorsing the Business for Inclusive Growth’s (B4IG) roadmap. Through this measurable commitment, we provide vulnerable communities with access to digital infrastructure, tools, training and skills. We also revised our 2030 global greenhouse gas reduction target from 30% to 63%, in line with ambitions to reduce our carbon footprint and create technologies that help customers to reduce their environmental impact, too. 

Another way to lend more substance to sustainability is to get employees involved in the journey. Workers want their employers to be part of the solution when it comes to solving societal issues: our latest research reveals that 60% of European employees expect their company to act.

Making actionable commitments is the first step in showing employees that your company is on the right path. But encouraging them to take direct action can go the extra mile. That is why every year, Ricoh Europe hosts Global SDGs Action Month ‘ which we kicked off on June 1 this year. It is a tradition that encourages all of us, as an organisation and as individuals, to take positive action for the sake of our communities and planet. 

The final piece of the sustainability puzzle is technology. When embraced correctly, it can be a wonderful tool for sustainable action. It’s no longer feasible from a cost or productivity perspective to maintain time and admin intensive manual processes ‘ companies that want to secure a long-term competitive position must invest in the tools and technologies that make their business more sustainable. 

Taking action to automate time-consuming processes not only has an impact on carbon footprints; it improves employees’ work experience, too. How? By giving them the headspace to focus on more cash generative and productive tasks. Our latest study found that 47% of employees feel they would be more productive if their administrative burden wasn’t so high. 

The trio of ESG targets, employee involvement and technology offer a brilliant starting point from which to establish a plan for long-term, sustainable, and measurable success. More than that, it helps to pull sustainability back from the brink of the buzzword cauldron.

Nicola Downing
Nicola Downing

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