Why We Need More Businesses to Commit to Sustainability in 2018

By now you’ve likely seen the video of the starving polar bear roaming around its iceless land. It’s heartbreaking to say the least, and it has been used over and over again in the past few months as an example of why we need to use fewer resources and implement better sustainability practices in order to preserve our planet and fight against our negative environmental impact.

Many individuals have taken on this responsibility and are doing all they can to preserve the earth and use up as few resources as possible. Thanks to electric cars, solar power, and many other options available, there are a lot of things individual people can do to better protect the environment, but it will only go so far with so many other factors counteracting it and not enough people stepping up to the sustainability plate.

Luckily, some businesses have also taken on shared responsibility and are working to reduce their environmental impact, helping us work toward building a better planet, but we still have a long way to go. With 2018 just getting started, though, what better time than now to commit to sustainability?

In The Past

Throughout history, there have been efforts made to reduce energy consumption and conserve resources, although it has not been a main focus for businesses until more recent years. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey Global, only 30 percent of businesses surveyed in 2010 and 31 percent of businesses surveyed in 2011 had at least a few sustainability activities, but no formal program.

In the same survey, only 23 percent of CEOs surveyed in 2010 and 26 percent of CEOs surveyed in 2011 had sustainability listed on their top-three agenda items. Overall, only 32 percent of companies surveyed in 2010 and 27 percent of companies surveyed in 2011 were considered to be “very” or “extremely” effective in their efforts at managing their sustainability.

In 2009, this Business Insider article listed 15 companies they deemed to be “the worst companies for the planet,” including some well-known, big brand businesses. Although 2009 to 2011 doesn’t seem that long ago in terms of environmental awareness, it’s surprising to see how little most businesses seemed to care at the time.

Even in more recent years, there are some businesses who have been seriously criticized for their lack of sustainability. In 2014, H&M released their sustainability report, which detailed the implementation of more eco-friendly practices, but an article on Quartz explored the report further and pointed out that with so many stores and plans for continued expansion, a “staggering amount of resources” would be required, seemingly counterproductive to the company’s alleged sustainability effort.

As Of Last Year

Fortunately, as the importance of sustainability has become increasingly recognized, many businesses have implemented official programs in an effort to do better. The main sustainability trends from 2017 include transparency, purpose, adaptation to consumer preference, trying new models, and global context. Implementing these trends has helped businesses to increase sustainability and better satisfy consumers.

Sustainability isn’t important only to consumers, either. A 2016 research report from MITSloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group showed that investors care about a company’s sustainability and even link it to a company’s overall value when making an investment decision. This shows that if you’re looking for investors, increasing sustainability could help get your business what it needs.

Despite the shockingly low number of businesses focused on sustainability a number of years ago, 2017 has seen a positive change. From Germany to Norway, Australia to the U.S., and everywhere in between, companies have implemented programs and are starting to make a real difference. According to this Forbes article, the top five sustainable companies of 2017 are Siemens AG, Storebrand ASA, Cisco Systems Inc, Danske Bank A/S, and Ing Group.

What You Can Do

Making your company more sustainable offers other benefits beside just helping the environment. With today’s consumer consciousness, being a sustainable company helps improve your brand image, attracting employees, investors, and a wider customer base. Sustainability also helps to reduce waste, lower operational costs, and increase productivity.

More and more companies are committing to sustainability. Oroton is one of many companies beginning to publicly commit to sustainability. This is just one example, more and more companies have followed suit.

When planning, remember that “sustainability” not only refers to your carbon footprint and environmental impact, but also includes spending and cost savings, risk mitigation, leadership, employee retention, and more.

Implementing programs and policies for your company is a great way to increase sustainability. Support and/or reward employees in their personal sustainability efforts, keep recycling receptacles around the office, develop green products if possible, get input from leadership and employees about what can be improved, be open and transparent about what you’re doing to change, and form partnerships with eco-friendly, trusted companies.

What do you plan to do in 2018 to make your business more sustainable?

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.