What is a sustainable business and why do you need to be one?

Seedlings in hand
Photo cc: courtesy of TinyTall via Flickr

Sustainability: meeting the needs of today, without negatively impacting on the needs of tomorrow.

Sometimes referred to as the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit), creating a sustainable business has become a priority for many businesses, both large and small. A sustainable business has a positive impact financially and non-financially, on everyone and everything connected with it.  While generating a profit, a sustainable business also positively impacts society (communities) and the environment. Today, many customers want to do business with companies who are interested and vested in making sure that ‘tomorrow’ is not being destroyed.

So how do you create a sustainable business model for our business?

You are probably already making sure that your business is environmentally friendly by recycling paper, using less energy when possible and perhaps even measuring your carbon footprint.  However, a sustainable business model is one that also influences, leads ethically and honestly; respects and values the people within the business and benefits the community in which they operate.

Alignment: Start by aligning your personal values, morals, ethics and beliefs with the way you wish your business and yourself to be perceived by the world at large.

Make sure that your business vision is aligned with the business goals and objectives.

Strategy: Revise your business strategy so that sustainability is an integral part of it; establish your committed responsibility to profitable, environmental, social and community values.

Integration: Review the effectiveness of your brand, Value Propositions and USPs (Unique Selling Points) when integrated in a sustainable business model.

People: Since people are at the heart of a sustainable business model, bring people in to the business who share your values and vision. Also review your HR policies and make sure that they help create an environment where people feel valued and happy (training, work/life balance, performance reviews, etc.).

As business owners our actions have consequences that affect the lives of others, sometimes in a positive way and sometimes adversely. So by applying sustainable business practices across you’re your business you can make sure that:

  • Your business creates and delivers value (and not only financial value) to everyone you interact with: your partners, customers, employees and the community.
  • You are committed to your core values and integrating them in your everyday business interactions.
  • You are fully engaged in delivering on the businesses’ values and promises.
  • You are accountable and accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions every minute of every day, in all areas of your business and your lives.

Some recommendations to consider when running a sustainable business

  1. Be assertive, straightforward and truthful
  2. Show compassion and empathy to others and to ourselves
  3. Honour all the commitments we take on
  4. Keep all the promises we make
  5. Take responsibility when things go wrong
  6. Not portray ourselves as victims
  7. Not blame anyone or anything
  8. Be positive and have confidence in ourselves and our choices

Creating and running a sustainable business takes a lot of determination and resolve. But it is worth it! A sustainable business builds gratifying and rewarding relationships which result in profitability and success on all levels of the business.

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