• Kate Meyer

The top 5 changes you can action to make your organisation sustainable.

sustainable futures
Imagining and quantifying your vision for an eco-friendly future can help to crystallise what is needed to get there.

Looking to make your organisation more sustainable but not sure where to start? Here are the top five strategies you can take to improve business sustainability

  1. Look at the big picture

The environmental impacts happening on site are likely to be a very small fraction of the overall impacts of your organisation’s operations. Consider a product manufacturer, aiming to reduce their impacts. Internally they can control many different impacts such as electricity consumption, packaging material, and waste management. However, imagine if they started to influence upstream and downstream impacts. Where are their raw materials from and how much energy goes into extracting and transporting these to the factory? How do people use their product and what happens to it at the end of its life?

Levis did a life-cycle-assessment of a pair of jeans and found that the frequency their customers washed their jeans had a far greater influence on the overall environmental impacts of the jeans than most of the internal variations they had modelled.

  1. It’s not just carbon

Greenhouse gas emissions, in particular carbon dioxide emissions get a lot of attention in the media. They are certainly very important environmental impacts to understand, manage, and hopefully eliminate. However, these are only one of many absolutely critical impacts. For organisations looking to be eco-friendly, water use, air pollution, the use of nurients such as nitrogen and phosphorous, and material waste – not only plastic but any materials that cannot easily be reused and recycled must also be considered. It can feel overwhelming trying to manage all of your environmental impacts – and they do need to be prioritised. However, a good sustainability strategy goes beyond carbon to look at a number of critical environmental impacts.

  1. Achieving sustainability is about behaviour change

Of course, technology will be part of the solution to a sustainable future. However, achieving sustainability will not happen without human behaviour. Whether this is decisions made by CEOs, initiatives taken by sustainability managers, or the actions of employees, the fundamental path to becoming environmentally friendly is to consider how to influence behaviour.

  1. Imagine your sustainable future

The magnitude of change needed to “go green” is more than will happen with a few incremental changes. Transformational change that targets every level of society is needed. Imagining and quantifying your vision for an eco-friendly future can help to crystallise what is needed to get there. Imagining the end goal is an effective way to generate innovative processes towards environmental sustainability.

  1. Walk the walk

If you are trying to encourage your staff to behave sustainably you need to practise what you preach. If you forget your takeaway coffee cup, don’t get a coffee today, or sit down and have it at the café. Go paperless. Turn off your computer at lunch time. Pick up rubbish as you walk past it and put it in the next bin. These little acts wont save the world on their own but they will influence others. There have been many studies demonstrating that people are highly influenced by their surrounds so each time you take your own container when you are buying lunch you could be saving 3, 4 or maybe 5 containers by becoming an influencer. When you catch the bus or walk to a meeting you may be saving three times the driver miles. Lead the way, and show how easy it is to live a more environmentally responsible lifestyle.