By Carmen Ene, CEO at 3stepIT
While it may seem a desirable goal, it can feel like becoming more sustainable is a luxury your company cannot afford. There is a common misconception that more sustainable practices consume excessive resources, and bring limited benefits to the business, beyond ‘doing a good deed’.
Sustainability and productivity are not necessarily alternatives. Efforts to become more sustainable can bring concrete business benefits in their wake. Sustainability initiatives offer a variety of improved outcomes: in savings made, productivity growth, or brand reputation. Better still, in a society that is ever more concerned with the climate crisis, sustainability initiatives resonate with employees and customers who share these concerns.
Sustainability credentials can boost sales
There is a clear consumer trend towards belief-driven buying: seeking brands that offer greener and more sustainable products and services. This trend has been developing for some time. In 2015, Unilever found that about a fifth of consumers preferred brands that clearly demonstrated their sustainability credentials. They also reported faster sales growth in their own brands that integrated sustainability into the products and purpose than the rest of their portfolio. In 2018, Edelman reported this effect had grown: with around two thirds of consumers making belief-driven purchases some, or all, of the time.
This behaviour is not limited to consumer buying habits; it is coming to the business world in the shape of the ethical supply chain. Already, 62% of executives consider a sustainability strategy necessary to be competitive today, a further 22% think it will become more important in the near future. Reflecting this emphasis, companies increasingly consider sustainability when they select suppliers and partners. Approaching these buyers, making your business more sustainable offers a competitive advantage.
Doing good makes employees feel good
In a similar vein, employees and potential applicants consider and value a company’s sustainability efforts more and more, when it comes to deciding to which companies to apply for a job. For example in the UK, 89% of UK employees report that working for a ‘green’ company is either very important or somewhat important to them.
Not only can sustainability credentials improve your business’s appeal for new employees; doing your part to help the environment can help increase morale among your existing workforce. According to Deloitte, the climate and environment are the biggest concerns for both millennial and generation Z employees. Working to make your organisation more environmentally friendly will help to improve employee satisfaction, and that is good for business. The World Economic Forum has reported the correlation between employee satisfaction and performance: it boosts profitability, productivity and customer loyalty, and also helps reduce staff turnover.
Seeking rapid results
These sorts of changes are desirable, but they take time, and we are always impatient to see immediate results.
Consider IT devices as an example: some companies choose to run PCs and laptops until the end of their lives, to extract maximum value from the initial investment. However, looking in detail shows that sweating IT assets is a false economy. When your IT devices become outdated, they fail more often, require more support, and make organisations more vulnerable to hacking and security risks. They will also disrupt the work done on them, affecting productivity, with more time wasted as devices become less reliable.
The alternative is a regular technology refresh. Clearly, using the latest technology will help users to do their jobs more efficiently and enjoy their work more. This can potentially help your organisation toward a more sustainable IT strategy, provided the old devices are refurbished and re-used.
Using devices until they break means your old equipment only adds to the e-waste mountain. This is around 50 million tonnes every year, and the planet’s fastest growing waste stream. The sheer size of this is hard to imagine - to put it on a more human scale, it is the equivalent of 14 Eiffel towers every day, and mostly it is simply buried, if not illegally dumped.
The better approach is to replace devices when they still have some life in them. With a planned refresh, you can use a circular economy approach to give your old devices a new life. The more sustainable approach makes good business sense. Not only is there less e-waste, you reduce your carbon footprint when your old devices get re-used. Employees will value the new approach, and feel valued when you provide them with new tools to work with. An immediate benefit from a more sustainable IT strategy.
Boost both sustainability and productivity
Interest in sustainability is growing: it doubled as a Google search term over the last year. Even so, many organisations have a piecemeal approach. They consider sustainability and the environment in small ways, perhaps as a cynical box-ticking exercise, or simply as something that is ‘nice to have’.
The systematic approach, as an element of business strategy offers twin benefits: a boost for both sustainability credentials and workforce productivity. As a place to start getting more systematic, working with an IT lifecycle management specialist can save money, improve productivity and make your organisation more sustainable too.