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 / Seven great reasons why every business should have a sustainability policy

Seven great reasons why every business should have a sustainability policy

16 Aug 2021

|5 minutes

Understand the benefits of a sustainable business and how you can create a sustainability policy and have a positive impact on the environment.

What is a sustainability policy?

At its heart, a sustainability policy is an organisation’s commitment to practices and standards in order to meet its legal, and wider social, environmental obligations. This includes outlining how a business intends to promote environmentally responsible operations, mitigate its impact on, and positively contribute to the environment and society. It commits an organisation to focusing on the incredible challenges faced on a global scale and what its response will be to issues such as energy security and climate change, depletion of natural resources, water scarcity, and human rights. A realistic and action-driven sustainability policy is now a critical element to a company’s overall business strategy and can support both long-term growth and profitability.

If we take the sustainability-related issue of decarbonisation as an example, every business in the UK will have to implement sustainable measures to achieve the government’s target of reaching net zero by 2050. Realistically, the only way to achieve this is by implementing a sustainability policy that supports short, medium, and long-term goals – this is why we believe every organisation needs one.

Many businesses are already focused on reducing their carbon footprint by implementing sustainable measures like:

  • Choosing renewable electricity and green gas supplies
  • Reducing the use of plastics
  • Becoming a ‘prosumer’ by generating the energy they use
  • Introducing LED lighting and controls
  • Taking part in carbon offsetting projects

In research* we conducted recently, it was encouraging to discover how many large businesses understood net zero and had a sustainability plan to achieve it. Out of 524 UK-based senior decision makers:

  • 97% understood net zero
  • 73% have a net zero plan

The reason for the numbers are the tangible benefits sustainability brings to a business. Here are seven of them.

Benefits of sustainability for businesses

1. Reduced energy usage. Relatively simple measures can increase energy efficiency and reduce energy usage, for example, through the replacement of outdated equipment.

2. Cost saving from waste reduction. A great example of this is reusing – why purchase new what you already have?

3. Increased customer base. Achieving net zero and mitigating climate change is increasingly important to customers and influences who they’re willing to purchase from.

4. Attract investors. Many investors now place sustainability at the core of their investment strategy which means more financial opportunities for businesses with a sustainability plan.

5. Position as a forward-thinking, market leader. Businesses are now ranked by their sustainability targets; we only have to consider the Dow Jones Sustainability Index to see how environmental sustainability can enhance an organisation’s brand.

6. Increased resilience. A realistic sustainability policy will help to protect a business from tighter future regulations. It also complements large business compliance requirements such as Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR).

7. Engagement. The development of a sustainability policy is a great opportunity to engage the internal and external stakeholders of a business.

Getting started – what to include in a sustainability policy

There are several questions a company should ask itself in the creation of a policy. The policy is going to outline a clear commitment to practices that will promote sustainability across all operations, so engaging people in key positions throughout the company will provide a rounded view of both the business and what is important to its stakeholders. Then ask:

  • Where do our operations potentially affect the environment?
  • What are the measures and activities we can implement that will reduce our environmental impact?
  • Where can we get expert help about our energy usage and waste management?
  • What energy and carbon legislation should our business be compliant with?
  • How will we measure our sustainability performance?
  • How will we introduce continuous improvement into our sustainability policy?
  • How are we going to manage the policy, communicate it, and embed it throughout our business?

Implementing a sustainability policy

You’ve got your new policy, now focus turns to implementing it. We all use the word ‘journey’ fairly frequently, but in terms of implementing your sustainability plan, that’s exactly how you need to think of it. It’s an accumulation of efforts that will help you get to your destination, whether that’s meeting the government’s target of net zero, or overhauling your production process to make it greener.

Start at the beginning with small improvements that can create big wins, for example, make it easier to recycle in the office, reduce single-use plastic across the business, or using lower-carbon supply via Shell Energy as a good first step.

Taking it to the next level

Maybe you implemented your sustainability plan a while ago and are looking to take it to the next level. The easiest way of doing this is by setting harder targets. If you had committed to reduce your company’s emissions by a certain percentage and you’ve achieved that, why not consider ways to eliminate them completely?

By thinking bigger, you’ll have more of a positive environmental impact, so you could also look at extending your sustainability programme to include your customers, suppliers and partners to coordinate effort across the board.

Shell’s sustainability plan

Sustainability at Shell means providing more and cleaner energy solutions in a responsible way. Powering Progress is our strategy to accelerate the transition of our business to net-zero emissions, in step with society, purposefully and profitably. It delivers value for our shareholders, customers and wider society, and integrates our long-standing commitment to contribute to sustainable development with our business strategy. Read more about Shell’s sustainability strategy here.

Get in touch

Contact us to book a consultation to discuss how we could help your business deliver on its sustainability targets.

*Research conducted by Opinium Research amongst 524 senior decision makers at companies across the UK, with an even representation of companies of all size (sole, micro, small, medium and large) conducted between 28 October and 4 November 2020.

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