Sustainability is an increasingly important concept for companies, which more and more are seeking to become sustainable not only for corporate social responsibility (CSR), but also to improve their image among consumers, who are increasingly concerned about the environment and who value more than ever a sustainable business, and choose to buy its products or contract its services.
Many companies of all types and sizes nowadays turn to consultancies specialised in eco-design services such as Kaeltia to adapt their production, marketing or management processes, and make them more sustainable. But do we really know what is sustainability? Let’s take a closer look at what this concept means, why it is so important, and how to apply it to companies today.
What is a sustainable business?
We define a sustainable company as one whose priorities include not only the economy, but also social commitment or concern for the environment, in order to generate not only short-term economic benefit, but also long-term well-being and progress without neglecting its direct and indirect impacts. An environmentally sustainable business is committed – among other measures – to:
- use sustainable materials
- reduce the use of raw materials, and also waste generation
- properly manage the waste it generates
- adopt energy saving measures, and use renewable energies
- encourage recycling
- minimise the use of fossil fuels and travel
A good way to prove that a company’s practices are sustainable and respectful with its environment, is precisely by obtaining a sustainable business certification. ISO standards are a good way to guarantee that companies and organisations meet certain criteria, including sustainability standards.
This is the case, for example, with the ISO 14001 certificate, which establishes environment management systems in companies and is currently one of the most demanded, as it helps to achieve a more efficient use of resources, improving at the same time both profitability and corporate image. ISO 5001, which promotes a more efficient use of energy, is also a good example of a sustainability certificate with high demand among enterprises.
What are the benefits of sustainability for business?
Although sustainability is a consumers’ demand, from an entrepreneur’s point of view it is logical to ask what are the advantages of being a sustainable company, especially considering that, in the short or medium term, achieving that objective may require an investment that – obviously – is expected to pay off.
The truth is that sustainability, by itself, not only provides a corporate and brand image that consumers value and demand; but also, this concept itself brings a number of benefits – beyond the obvious environmental ones – when implemented in companies:
- increases productivity
- reduces operating costs
- improves competitiveness
- increases attractiveness to potential investors
- improves company image among shareholders and consumers
- makes tax benefits available
Proof of the many benefits of applying sustainability criteria to businesses is that more and more big companies see it as a key factor for their future. According to latest studies, more than 80% of the executives of the most leading companies believe that following a sustainability strategy is essential to ensure the competitiveness of their business, today or in the near future.
Examples of sustainable companies in Spain
Proof of what we have just have said is that more and more well-known companies are committed to sustainability, as a key to their present and future viability. Let’s look at some examples of sustainable companies in Spain:
Esveva is a Spanish company dedicated to manufacturing vegetable sponges made of luffa through a 100% handmade process; these sponges can be used for everything: from skin care to domestic cleaning, in a totally environmentally friendly way.
La Flor de Limón:
Thanks to their 100% organic production, lemons from Novales (Cantabria) claim to have a unique flavour and are a product that makes the difference, as they have a thick, fleshy skin that keeps them in good condition for longer time.
This Girona-based company promotes organic, certified and eco-designed packaging, and is committed to incorporate organic products into the daily diet of people to improve health and wellbeing.
Naturbrush is a Spanish company that, under the premise of turning everyday gestures into sustainable gestures, focuses on the manufacture of biodegradable toothbrushes made from bamboo wood to reduce their environmental impact. The idea, they say, came about in response to the worrying problem of the accumulation of plastic waste in our oceans.
This company claims to have created a revolutionary and innovative product that transforms used cooking oil into a practical all-purpose cleaner. It also uses a sustainable container made from recycled paper and newspaper scraps.
How to make a business sustainable
There are many sustainable actions that companies can take to apply sustainability criteria and improve their corporate and brand image; here are some examples that are not difficult to implement:
- Reduce paper consumption: digital formats and documents can be used instead, and printing on paper can be limited to strictly necessary cases.
- Save energy: encourage simple habits such as turning off lights or equipment that is not in use, adjust the air conditioning, making the most of natural light, etc.
- Environmental education: environmental training for employees is increasingly important to create ecological awareness, and to change habits.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: the amount of waste generated by a company can be enormous, hence the need to promote the famous 3Rs.
- Seek sustainable suppliers: opting for suppliers who are also committed to sustainability, or who are local, can make a big change.
- Apply eco-design: that is, design environmentally friendly products, from production to the end of their useful life.
- Use sustainable transport: encourage the use of car-sharing or non-polluting means of transport, such as bicycles, electric scooters, public transport, etc.
- Raise awareness: creating environmental awareness campaigns among customers contributes significantly to improving the company corporate image.
- Help: companies can collaborate financially – or even in other ways – with NGOs that carry out actions to care for the environment, for example.
The most important thing when implementing these and other policies is to adopt the values of a sustainable company as one’s own, so that they do not become one-off changes or limited to some kind of greenwashing: most customers are educated and aware enough to be able to identify when a company is really committed to sustainability, and when it is just pretending to change wrong practices but just for show… And this is something that the average consumer ends up penalising.
In any case, it is important to stress once again that sustainability goes far beyond respect for the environment: it is a philosophy that brings numerous benefits to companies, which are not only limited to corporate image but also include much more, from efficiency in the use of resources, to cost savings. That is why more and more enterprises that want to be a sustainable business are turning to consultancies such as Kaeltia, which offers tailor-made advice and consultancy services for companies seeking to change their products or services through sustainable practices, such as eco-design.