In the summer of 2022, I worked with three small business owners to take a look at what they were doing, wanted to do, and could do to start implementing sustainability into their small businesses. They were all aware of some impacts they were making but wanted to review this and brainstorm further in order to create a sustainability statement to evidence what they were doing and had pledged and also a roadmap of actions for their business to hold them accountable. This enabled them to get their sustainability off the starting blocks.
I went through a similar process when training with CSR-A and ultimately gained a silver accreditation from CSR-A for Auxilium using the 4 pillars to build a framework to collate this information.
These 4 pillars are
The environment focuses on eco-issues such as climate change but the areas that your business depends on. This can range from electricity, heating and lighting, water, supply chains, recycling, office procurement and deliveries and recycling, reducing, and reusing products and services where you can.
A workplace that looks at activities including the procedures and policies that improve products and services for employees, clients, & customers. This can range from flexible working, cloud document storage, online meetings, reduction paper usage, unsubscribing from emails and not attaching documents to emails, reductions in travel, green investments, and working with sustainable clients and supply chains.
The community wich focuses on the way your business operates with other organisations to improve the quality of life of the people in the local community. How, where, and why do you operate and the areas you support in your local networks and forums, buying and supporting local businesses, mentoring, networking & memberships.
Philanthropy which focusses on the donations of time and money to good causes and supporting charities through volunteering, donation, or sponsorship. This can also mean pro bono work, donations of money and products, giving back, and free or discounted advice.
Auxilium’ SOW programme uses these 4 pillars and I now work with my clients to review and to brainstorm these and you can download your own checklist here to get started.
The three small businesses were in different industry areas, Solicitors, Accountants, and an Online marketing services consultant. All of them were curious and sustainability was on their radar, but they had never taken the time to look closely at this for their business. They may have considered areas for their home and personal life but not yet considered ways to implement this for their business or recognise and appreciate what they were already doing without realising.
Over a few months, we looked at the 4 pillars and brainstormed each one to enable them to document and collate evidence for each area. This information was then added to their bespoke roadmaps so that they had a list of actions that they could prioritise and evidence in-house and to clients, suppliers, and third parties if necessary. The information was also used to compile a bespoke statement based on their ethos, values, plans, activities, and pledges. These two documents have enabled these three clients to start their sustainability journey for their small business and in all three cases, they have gone on to actively action impacts and widen their sustainability activities, and let the whole world know what they are doing to be bold and brave in their actions to build a greener planet.
These three clients have felt confident enough to continue their journey after working with me and I am thrilled to see them go off into the distance with confidence and pride. I liken this to a parent helping a child to ride a bike. You hold onto them whilst they have their stabilisers on and then after a while the stabilisers come off and they ride off into the distance and don’t look back. I the thrilled parent then smile with pride watching them.
Remember there are many benefits to making sustainable impacts for your business.
- Winning new business from like-minded clients.
- Enhancing relationships with your stakeholders
- Attracting and retaining talented employees.
- Raising your profile within your industry and generally to others.
- Access to funding opportunities.
- Standing out from the crowd.
- Reducing long-term costs for your business.
- Increasing customer retention.
- Reach new audiences.
- Collaborations with like-minded people.
- Make a difference and help future generations.
There are also many reasons why you will reap rewards weaving sustainability into the core of your business and every business will have a different focus, but there are huge advantages for investing the time and focus on sustainability to gain recognition for your business – here are some reasons why;
- Sustainability provides your business with positive publicity. People’s ears prick up and they take notice of you and what your business is doing especially when sharing stories.
- Having a sustainability journey woven into your business builds your competitive advantage, especially in a tender process. These tender processes can be lengthy and complex and include a scoring process which is where your sustainability efforts and accreditations will score well.
- Your environmental impacts will save money on areas such as energy, reduce waste, and will make a difference in all your procurement choices.
- Being sustainable will attract investment opportunities, and suppliers and also help retain and gain new clients and employees Your sustainability journey will expose your commitment, processes, causes & values.
- Being focussed on sustainability will enhance and develop relationships with existing and new contacts and improve your business reputation.
- Investing time and energy in sustainable projects and goals will reap rewards many times over in the long run.