Did you know that while 90% of companies believe that sustainability is important, perhaps only 60% of them actually have a sustainability strategy in place? Fewer than 25% actually implement the strategy. Yet setting sustainability goals and putting the processes in place to achieve them can set a business apart and make it an attractive partner for the growing majority of customers who value environmental responsibility.
The statistics may sound shocking, infuriating, or even borderline negligent, but it’s the bitter truth. That’s why, as an entrepreneur who’s focused on reducing their carbon footprint, envisioning how your company is positioned is a crucial step towards success. With more severe environmental challenges shaking them, more consumers are demanding environmentally responsible and ethical practices from companies. Facing a global call for action on climate change, businesses are entering a new landscape that requires a deliberate focus on sustainability.
According to Forbes, 88% of customers will remain loyal to companies that address their social or environmental concerns, and a McKinsey study found that by reducing resource costs, a company’s operating profits could increase by up to 60%. This means that not only do sustainable practices save the planet, but they also offer companies a competitive advantage.
The process of defining a sustainability vision for your company to differentiate yourself in the market and contribute to positive change with a lasting impact is an exciting challenge for a new company. Shift Group created a new program, the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Training, to equip your business with the knowledge and skills to navigate the environmental challenges ahead.
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Understanding the Power of a Sustainability Vision
You need a map for your business. A sustainability vision serves as a compass, guiding your business decisions and actions toward a more sustainable future. Establishing a clear vision can inspire innovation, attract conscious consumers, mission-driven employees, and foster long-term growth. A clear and actionable sustainability vision can create the purpose that aligns all the work in a company, and a goal around which your team can come together to make it happen.
For example, consider the renowned clothing company, Patagonia. Their sustainability vision is “looking forward, not back, to life on Earth” and they “prioritize purpose over profit.” No one at Patagonia wonders whether the environment comes first. This committed approach has positioned them as a leader in sustainable practices while generating a loyal customer base. Are you ready to follow suit?
Crafting Your Sustainability Vision
Crafting a sustainability vision requires a thoughtful and inclusive process. Start by examining and aligning your personal values with your business objectives. What environmental and social issues resonate with you? Identify the values you want your company to embody and reflect on how they can be integrated into your business strategy. For instance, if you’re passionate about reducing plastic waste, your sustainability vision may revolve around creating innovative, environmentally responsible packaging solutions and promoting a circular economy.
Write down your values, then define measurable goals that will lead your company to sustainable outcomes. These goals should be specific, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (“SMART” goals). For example, you may aim to reduce your company’s carbon emissions by 25% within the next three years or increase the use of sustainable materials in your products by 50% by the end of the fiscal year.
Setting and communicating clear goals allows you to track progress and communicate your commitment to stakeholders.
Integrating Sustainability Into Your Business Strategy
Once you’ve crafted a sustainability vision, it’s time to act. To effectively integrate sustainability into your business strategy, consider the following steps:
- Conduct a sustainability audit: Assess your plans and strategy in operations, the supply chain, and product life cycle to identify areas where sustainability improvements can be made. Put measures in place to determine your future environmental footprint, analyze social impact, and engage with potential stakeholders to gain insights.
- Collaborate with suppliers and partners: Foster relationships with suppliers and partners who share your commitment to sustainability. Collaborate with suppliers and partners to find innovative solutions, such as finding recycled or responsibly sourced materials or jointly implementing waste reduction initiatives.
- Engage employees: Your employees play a vital role in driving sustainability initiatives. Communicate your sustainability vision to your team — and revisit it regularly — and empower them to contribute ideas and take ownership of sustainable practices within their roles.
- Embrace circular economy principles: Explore ways to reduce waste and extend product life cycles. Incorporate practices such as recycling, reusing materials, or implementing take-back programs for product returns.
- Leverage technology: Embrace digital solutions that optimize energy consumption, streamline operations, and reduce paper waste. Adopting cloud-based systems that run on renewable energy and remote collaboration tools can also minimize travel-related emissions.
Crafting a Compelling “Why” Statement for Your Sustainable Business
Crafting a compelling “Why” statement is an essential step when defining a sustainability vision for your company. A “Why” statement helps you focus on the purpose, goals, and vision of your business, providing a clear direction for your sustainable entrepreneurship. Answer the questions that your employees, customers, and suppliers will ask: “Why do you invest to be sustainable, what difference will it make for me?”
Using my own company as an example, our Shift Group “Why” statement is the fastest way to restore the planet and communities is by showing people how to make money doing it. This is reflected in our comprehensive programs which provide students with actionable steps to launch and scale a sustainable business.
Here’s why crafting a strong “Why” statement is crucial for your business:
Aligning Purpose and Actions
A well-crafted “Why” statement helps align all business decisions with your sustainability goals. By clearly articulating your purpose, you create a meaningful connection between your business and the pursuit of sustainability, motivating both yourself and your stakeholders to take action.
A compelling “Why” statement has the power to inspire your employees, customers, investors, partners and so on. When people understand and embrace the purpose behind your sustainable business, they become emotionally invested and are more likely to support and engage with your brand. Your “Why” statement becomes a rallying cry, driving positive change and fostering a sense of shared purpose.
Differentiating in the Market
In a world where consumers are increasingly conscious of sustainability, a well-defined “Why” statement becomes a powerful differentiator. Stand out from competitors by showcasing your commitment to sustainability and your unique approach to addressing environmental and social challenges. Consumers are more likely to choose brands that align with their values, making a strong “Why” statement an effective marketing tool. In fact, 63% of consumers have made modest to significant shifts towards being more sustainable in the past five years, and 34% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services and believe it to be an important factor in making purchasing decisions.
Shift Group’s “Sustainable Entrepreneurship Training” Course
To support your journey in setting a sustainability vision, consider the Sustainable Entrepreneurship Training. This comprehensive course is led by experienced experts in various areas of business who provide useful insights and actionable strategies to integrate sustainability into any business effectively. When combined with the knowledge and skills gained from this training, your “Why” statement becomes a powerful driver of positive change.
This certificate course gives you access to over 102 thought-provoking videos, a practical workbook, slide decks, supplemental readings, and three valuable templates. From the business model and finance to marketing, sustainability, team building, and presentations, each module of this carefully curated sustainability training prepares you with the tools and insights to shape your sustainable business journey and bring it from the lab to the marketplace. On completion, you will have a deeper understanding of sustainable business practices, a certificate of achievement, and access to a vibrant global community of passionate environmental entrepreneurs.
About the Author
Stefan Doering is this course’s host and Shift Group’s managing director. He’s been innovating in business and sustainability since 1987 and also teaches and coaches green businesses in three major areas: innovating powerful green business models, crafting, and implementing marketing and positioning strategies for bringing green to the mainstream and creating a consistently profitable and sustainable business. You can follow Shift Group on Instagram and Facebook.