Updated: Aug 24, 2020
"There is no profit on a dead planet." We've all heard guilt-ridden slogans that target our fears. But greening your business is actually the most positive thing you can do, because not only is it good for the planet, but it is good for your business too.
August 22nd marked Earth Overshoot Day this year. That's the day that scientists tell us we have used up all the resources that our planet is able to produce sustainably during the year. This means that every day between now and the end of 2020, we are borrowing the planet's resources from future generations.
That's no way to run a business. Debt against future earnings isn't a bad thing in itself, but you can't pile on more and more every year without having a plan on how to repay it. It is certainly no way to run a planet. And remember, this is Earth Overshoot Day - the cumulative impact across all countries. Looking at the UK, where I am based, our national overshoot day was all the way back in May. I am living on planetary debt for seven months of the year. Indonesia, on the other hand, doesn't start to go into debt until mid-December.
The role of business
None of us gets up in the morning and decides 'today I'm going to destroy the planet', but recognising our role in the problem will help us to find our role in the solution.
As business-leaders our primary responsibility is to our employees, our customers, our owners. They are all relying on us to create a successful business so that they can pay for all the necessities in life. And saying that we can't keep on borrowing from the planet of the future doesn't help us today - especially in the middle of the worst recession ever experienced. So what if I told you that your business will actually perform better if you put the environment at the heart of your business strategy? Oh, you'd probably shake your head and start to walk away. But wait...
The business case for going green
As described recently by a couple of business school academics, there are four main ways that businesses who go green will increase commercial success at the same time:
Innovating and finding new markets
Motivating your employees
Creating positive customer, investor and regulator engagement
Reducing waste and increasing efficiency
There are some fascinating ways to turn these general headings into practical improvements in competitiveness and profit. Taking the waste and efficiency heading as an example, 75% of businesses surveyed said that they saw improved commercial performance after making an investment in green technology. And while lack of cash or risks around the return on investment will be holding some businesses from making these investments, the government is encouraging them through tax incentives and other means. In a recession, keeping profitable by cutting costs can keep you going while you develop new markets and build revenue back.
"This is going to be a green recovery with concern for the environment at its heart"
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, July 2020
Making the change
The case for making a change to a more sustainable business is there, but making the change isn't simple. You've got a business to run, you're not an expert in sustainability, where do you start?
Once you've decided that making a shift towards putting green at the heart of your business looks appealing, then we at 600 strategy recommend taking three steps:
Define your objectives
Assess your options
Make the changes and monitor progress
We have a sustainable business framework that we use to work through these three steps with you. We seek to understand your business and tailor our advice to your specific situation, so this isn't a downloadable, one-size-fits-all template that we just churn through. We really care about your business and we really care about the planet, so we want it to work for you, in your situation, for your customers, your team and your investors.
Sustainable business can be full of technical jargon - sustainable development goals, net zero, circular economy, planetary boundaries, ISO14000. It can put you off before you even start, so 600 strategy's approach is to keep things as simple as possible. You've got enough to think about in running your own business without having to learn a whole new language too.
And to put sustainability right at the heart of your business, it is vital that this isn't something that you as a leader take all the responsibility for. Engaging and involving your team will help you find better ways of greening your business, it will help you smooth the changes you want to make, and it will increase the likelihood that you see all the benefits come to reality.
David, 600 strategy's Founder, has over 20 years of experience in the environment and sustainability. From his Master's in Environmental Management Systems to working in the UK government's Department of the Environment (Defra) and the international science and conservation charity, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, David has extensive knowledge of what sustainability means for the world, and how to implement that within organisations.
If this all looks to be of interest to you then get in touch to start a conversation. We don't believe in the hard sell at 600 strategy, we enjoy hearing from new people and love a good conversation to explore whether we can help you.