The answer may seem obvious, but the question remains : why should a company become sustainable today ?
The notion of CSR or Corporate Social Responsibility has existed for over 70 years. It is only in the last few years and more particularly since the health crisis that this term has taken on its full meaning. COVID-19 has shown more than ever the importance of protecting the wealth of our planet. But also, what was less clear until then, is the need to preserve and improve the well-being of employees in companies. All this, while continuing to be profitable.
There are three poles that summarize the concept of CSR and sustainable business : putting the environment, employees and the economy at the center of business concerns.
A question still remains : why, and especially how, to become an eco-responsible and sustainable company ? This is the subject of our article today.
What is a sustainable company ?
Today, there is no "official" definition of what a sustainable company is. But as mentioned in the introduction, it is now a proven fact that a sustainable company is one that bases its values on the balance between employee well-being, respect for the environment and profitability. This is the golden triangle that creates basis for a sustainable company.
A company that protects the environment
This is one of the key pillars of a sustainable company : being a company committed to sustainable development and environment protection. In concrete terms, what are the actions that can be taken to limit the impact of a company on the environment ? This can be done through more impactful measures
First of all, to become an eco-company, you have to improve your management of everyday consumed products. Paper, water, internal printing, packaging....etc. This is made possible first by involving and making your employees responsible. But it's also possible thanks to the installation of adapted infrastructures : shorting bins for better management of waste for instance, recycled and recycle paper... This can even go as far as the installation of a compost in the company. As an example, it has been shown that good print management can generate up to 40% money savings in companies.
Also, to become a sustainable company, it is necessary to look at the question of energy consumption and sometimes even to engage in a real energy transition. The first items on which it is possible to consume less are : heating, air, conditioning, lighting and transportation.
A sustainable company is therefore a company that listens to its employees
The goal is no longer for them to come to work to earn money. They want to find a meaning in their daily lives and work in a company that helps society as a whole to evolve, thanks to sustainable and environmentally responsible values.
Employees thus become ambassadors for the company. Of course, a company in which employees feel good and work in a good conditions is a company that is both more productive and keeps its employees longer. To achieve this, it is possible to prioritize certain point such as communication between employees, but also with managers, employees safety or adapted infrastructures (relaxation rooms, bring plants in the offices...) Employee well-being also means equality inclusiveness and diversity
Becoming a sustainable company, a major challenge for tomorrow's companies
Responding to new consumer expectations
If being a sustainable company has become essential in the eyes of employees and managers, it is also without a doubt the case in the eyes of consumers.
This was revealed by a Kantar TNS study at the end of 2020. According to this study, no less than 71% of the French population would like brands to be committed, to communicate and to act transparently. In addition, 23% of french people admit that they would stay away from a brand if it did not take into consideration health or environmental issues. Finally, the study also reveals that 86% of french people select their products according to their packaging. The les packaging, the better.
These new consumer expectations have been strengthened by COVID-19 crisis. They are also enhanced by the use of apps like "Yuka" or "Who's the Boss ?" that empower consumers. The fact that consumers are asking for more and more transparency and more eco-friendly products is pushing companies to get up to speed.
Adapting to an ever changing society and adapting a new model for sustainable growth
It is because our society is evolving that consumer's expectations are changing. If several years ago, we were a little bit aware of environmental issues, it is now impossible to ignore them.
Due to numerous articles, studies and other publications have alerted us to our consumption patterns and more particularly to over-consumption. As an example, this year, we reached the "Earth Overshoot day" on July 29th, that is to say 5 months before the end of the year... The Earth Overshoot day marks the day when humanity's demand for ecological resources exceeds what the Earth can regenerate in that year. Meaning that for the five remaining months, we'll be over-consuming...
Also, mentalities are evolving on conditions of life in companies and more widely in our societies. It is therefore essential today for employees and consumers to favor equality, inclusiveness and diversity. This means not making differences between genders, skin colors or social status...
It is impossible today to close your eyes to this kind of observation, which is why the society is transforming, consumer habits are changing and companies must also be the driving force behind a change in the way they produce and work ! Today, a company cannot plan for long-term growth without integrating positive impact in the environment and on society, into its economics and values.
4 actions to become more sustainable
Switch to renewable energies
We have already mentioned in the first part of this article some of the main lines of thought regarding the energy transition of companies. This concerns heating, air conditioning, lighting and transportation.
Lowering heating in winter and air conditioning in summer is a solution. As well as lighting buildings according to seasons with low consumption lighting. Even modifying working hours of employees of a positive impact on environment and also on company's budget. The must ? Run the company on renewable energy by installing solar panels on the roof, or regulate the temperature in the premises by installing green walls...
In term of transport, it is possible to optimize management of delivery rounds, thanks to geolocation, installation of GPS and on-board computers. It is also possible to choose cleaner vehicles, electric or hybrid, and to train staff in economical driving. Finally, thanks to the tools offered by digital technology today, companies can reduce business travel as much as possible.
Measuring and reducing the carbon footprint
In order to reduce one's carbon footprint, one must first be able to quantify it. This is why ADEME developed a methodological guide "Bilan Carbone", which allows to know what are the CO2 emissions of a company.
More concretely, when company makes its GHG (Greenhouse Gas) assessment, it must define "scopes". This then makes possible to determine the scope of the GHG emission study. The first scope takes into consideration the direct GHG emissions linked to the company's activity.
The second scope is based on indirect emissions, i.e emissions linked to the company's energy consumption (water, heating, electricity, etc). F
Finally, the third and last scope concerns other indirect emissions, linked to the company's purchases, employee travel, etc. From a certain size, companies are required to carry out "Greenhouse Gas Emissions Assessment" (BEGES). It is limited to the first two scopes of the Carbon Footprint. It is therefore possible to start an assessment with the BEGES, and then make a complete Carbon Assessment by adding the third scope.
Collaborate with sustainable suppliers
This may seem secondary, but choosing the right partners and suppliers is also a key factor in the impact of a company. And it is a responsibility that falls to the company. It is up the company to select partners who have good environmental practices.
Having eco-responsible suppliers and partners can be determining factor for an end customer who would only choose to work with companies concerned by the impact they have on the environment and society.
Involving employees in the company's strategy
Today, employees choose to work in companies whose values they share. And it is up to the company to spread its values and its eco-responsible convictions so that employees feel involved in the process !
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