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The trend towards more sustainability in business is gathering pace. It isn’t just the craft, logistics and construction industries, but includes the manufacturing sector too. Customers, but also employees and job applicants, increasingly value companies in which ecological action is an integral part of the corporate culture. It is therefore now worthwhile for every company to develop and establish a sustainability strategy. In this guide we tell you how you can combine environmentally friendly production processes with economic corporate sustainability management.
Why is corporate sustainable management important?
Today’s younger generation attaches great importance to environmental protection and the economical use of resources. Sustainable business is therefore not only important for idealistic reasons, but also an important feature in employer branding to attract young talent.
In addition, many customers now prefer to buy from businesses that work sustainably and leave as small an ecological footprint as possible. Especially in energy-intensive areas such as production and logistics, environmentally friendly strategies are very much in demand. This not only goes down well with customers and employees, but also helps the company to reduce costs.
Measures for more sustainability in production and logistics
If you want to make your production processes more sustainable, there are various ways to do it. These include basic aspects such as environmentally friendly electricity and heating generation as well as the use of energy efficient machines and equipment. But production, storage, transport and logistics sustainability can also be optimised in the following ways:
- Try to reduce fossil fuels and switch to renewable energies. To do this, you can purchase green electricity or generate your own power by installing a photovoltaic system
- If possible, use renewable or recyclable raw materials – ideally of local origin. Always pay attention to the overall eco-balance. Sometimes plastic can be more environmentally friendly than cotton, for example, for which large amounts of water are consumed in the production process
- Avoid unnecessary packaging waste by choosing mainly sustainable, biodegradable and space-saving packaging materials. There are now many alternatives to plastic on the market – for example, bamboo or straw
- In the warehouse, the most important thing is space-saving, efficient storage. To do this, you need storage options that allow you to make the most of storage space. Also, choose the most energy-friendly materials possible
- Work with service providers, manufacturers and suppliers who also operate sustainably
- Optimise the external transport of your goods, for example, by using electrically powered vehicles. You can also have drivers trained in fuel-saving operation to ensure that the vehicles are used efficiently on site
- Plan the manufacturing process of new products to be sustainable and environmentally friendly right from the start
This does not mean that you have to change your entire production structure or source of supply all at once. Each individual step improves your company’s ecological balance. Nevertheless, think holistically and be transparent about the sustainability status of your products. For example, make sure that your advertising material is produced in a climate-friendly way. This way your efforts will be more consistent.
Corporate sustainability in everyday business
The term sustainable business management is not only aimed at the environmentally friendly design of production and the supply chain, but also refers to facilities such as the provision of climate-friendly working materials and equipment, as well as ecological work clothing.
An environmentally friendly corporate philosophy, with appropriate rules and conditions to ensure that all employees behave in an environmentally conscious manner in their daily work, can also contribute to corporate sustainability. There are many ways to do this:
Thanks to digitalisation, it is becoming increasingly easy to make the administration of your business paperless and thus more environmentally friendly. Whether advertising, customer communication or accounting – many of these processes can be managed entirely digitally. More and more companies are therefore doing without paper printouts. Where it is needed, however, it is best to use environmentally friendly recycled paper. Double-sided printing should also be the default setting on the printer.
A large part of internal and external communication can be done by email. But even this leaves an ecological footprint. It is true that only 10 g of CO2 are consumed per email (20 g when sending letters within the UK) but because it is free and less time-consuming, many people send more emails than necessary. It is better to send the information collected in one mail. Refrain from sending emails that contain only one sentence or a ‘thank you’ whenever possible.
Environmentally friendly canteen and break spaces
Catering for staff can also be climate neutral. In the break room, for example, fair trade coffee, organic milk, and milk alternatives, as well as seasonal and local fruit can be offered. Special purifiers filter the tap water or, if desired, add carbon dioxide to it so that cost-intensive bottled water is no longer necessary. If the company has its own canteen, it can be converted to local and organically produced food. Another option is to introduce a vegetarian day or to make all meals vegetarian or vegan.
People often fly for meetings in other cities or countries. If you want to establish sustainability in your company, this is an easy place to start. Many meetings can also be held online via video conferencing tools. This is not only more environmentally friendly, but also saves time and money. If business trips are essential, it is best to switch to the train and only fly when possible.
For shorter distances, for example the commute or customer appointments, you can rely on the following measures:
- Provide your employees with tickets for public transport
- Use car-sharing providers – some large companies have even established their own company car-sharing service
- Offer your employees company bicycles instead of company cars. For the transport of heavy goods, cargo bikes are also suitable
Dealing with waste is particularly important if you want to establish ecological sustainability in your company. Separate residual waste, organic waste, plastics, paper and cardboard from each other. Provide labelled waste containers to help keep the waste separated. You should also know how to dispose of commercial waste properly.
The advantages and disadvantages of sustainability for businesses
Establishing sustainable processes and behaviours in your company is not always easy, but if implemented successfully, it offers many advantages – for both your employees and the environment. Before any new process optimisation, a cost-benefit analysis can ensure that you gain an overview of the planned changes and identify weak points in advance:
|• Many customers prefer to buy from sustainable companies, increasing customer loyalty|
• Future employees value environmental friendliness, enhancing positive employer branding
• The company’s ecological footprint is reduced
• Sustainable companies are generally geared towards longevity
• Sustainable technologies such as green electricity or photovoltaics will save money in the future
|• Greater planning and research effort|
• Higher production and logistics costs
• Not purely profit-oriented, but a compromise between sustainability and economic efficiency
• Not all production processes can be made environmentally friendly
• Sustainability must be made credible to customers and staff – transparency is necessary.
Step by step progress to a more sustainable company
Companies that act ecologically usually also improve corporate social sustainability in their business. This is because environmentally friendly production processes that use regional or fair-trade raw materials generally tend to avoid the exploitation of workers in the countries of origin.
You need to make sure that your sustainability strategy fits in with the economic goals of the business. A professional in corporate sustainability management can ensure that the optimisations are thoroughly planned, well implemented and monitored, especially in the case of major changes towards a greater degree of sustainability in the business.
FAQ for corporate sustainability
Today, the younger generation in particular attaches great importance to environmental protection and the economical use of resources. Sustainability in the company is therefore not only important for ideational reasons, but also an important topic in employer branding in order to attract young talent.
On the other hand, many customers now prefer to buy from companies that produce sustainably and leave the smallest possible ecological footprint. Environmentally friendly strategies are therefore in great demand, especially in energy-intensive areas such as product production and logistics: This is not only well received by customers and employees, but also helps the company to save costs.
• Reduce fossil fuels
• Use green electricity – Use renewable or recyclable raw materials if possible
• Avoid packaging waste
• Work with sustainable service providers, manufacturers and suppliers
• Use electrically powered vehicles
• Use vehicles efficiently.
• Make the manufacturing process of new products sustainable and environmentally friendly right from the start
• many customers prefer to buy from sustainable companies> stronger customer loyalty
• future employees value environmental friendliness> positive employer branding
• the company’s ecological footprint is reduced
• sustainable companies are generally geared towards longevity
• using sustainable technologies such as green electricity or photovoltaics can save money in the future
• greater planning and research effort
• higher production and logistics costs
• no pure profit orientation, but a compromise between sustainability and economic efficiency
• Not all production processes can be designed in an environmentally friendly way
• Sustainability must be made credible to customers and staff, transparency is required
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