Sustainability is all the rage

Simple ideas to get your business started

Article: Sept. 23, 2019. Image: colorful bird and tropical flowers in eucalyptus leaves

A lot is happening in the world today as climate change becomes a top concern. Since I, like you, plan to live past the 11-year deadline for the point of no return, it’s become apparent that businesses need simple as well as more complex methods, regulatory requirements, or whole scale change efforts. Even better, sustainable activity can help relieve employee angst about their retirement.

But what are those simple things?

And what do they have to do with retirement (besides helping assure that it takes place in a less tumultuous world)?

Let’s take a look below.

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First, does your business retirement plan have at least one fund that invests solely in sustainable businesses? These may be companies that produce tech or products or renewable energy options all targeted specifically to environmental protection. Some funds may specifically look for companies that strongly embed sustainability into their operations and way of doing business, such as Stonyfield Farm, or Timberland, or Pete and Gerry’s, or IKEA, or Butternut Mountain Farm, or Unilever, or Panasonic…   These companies have not waited for legislation or public opinion – they saw a need and answered it.

A nice diverse list, but where to start activity-wise if you’re cash strapped?

Besides making sure your retirement plan has sustainable investment options (which have proven to be every bit as profitable as other companies in their industries), use that option to help drive change internally. How could your business sustainable accomplish its work?

If you are in charge of transportation, have your tactical team contract with companies that will reduce your supply chain’s carbon footprint. When a strategic target for carbon reduction is hit, reward your employees with a combination of cash (short term gratification and show of appreciation) and a company matching reward into their retirement plan’s sustainable fund account (long term satisfaction knowing their work supports like-minded efforts and a more comfortable retirement).

Another simple thing: make sustainability important to the business.

Encourage your employees creatively brainstorm sustainable options as they work to create a more efficient supply chain and operational environment.

If embedding environmental stewardship is important to you as company leaders, then it will be important to your employees.

How do I know?

For one, Millennial and Gen Z talent will turn down a lucrative job offer if a company does not have a larger purpose than profit. Often that purpose must incorporate sustainability.

Second, when I present on these topics, employees at companies with leadership that has not recognized sustainability as being important react differently to case studies I use to brainstorm potential sustainable business activity.

Employees from non-sustainably concerned companies provide comments for sustainable activity that include “eliminating cow farts” or “others already took our use solar panels idea, so we don’t have anything more”.

Contrast this to companies that do focus on their sustainability work and are both proud and excited to share their accomplishments. For example, a smaller New England manufacturing company took the time to analyze replacements for a large number of chemicals it was using. While expensive to convert, the change not only removed the chemicals and environmental hazards, it provided operational savings without any loss to quality or cycle time. While not simple, changes such as these are very effective as measured by many different metrics – including financial. Plus, leadership and employees have bragging rights about their sustainability efforts – which in turn leads to more effort.

More and more companies are finding similar savings as well as increased appreciation and approval from customers and consumers.

Is your business a part of the group?

The climate clock is ticking.


Keywords: climate change, sustainability, operations, supply chain, change, retirement


Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky is the president of Process & Strategy Solutions  The upcoming Recession Proofing Your Business series helps owners, CEOs, and decision makers plot paths to growth, retain talent, and increase revenue by eliminating the internal chaos and improving business performance customers pay for.

For companies ready to embed sustainable practices in their supply chain activity, Process & Strategy Solutions offers a 3-day training course on how to profitably align processes and embed meaningful sustainability into your operations and supply chains. Click the link to ask for more information.


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