What makes a successful corporate sustainability (CSR) strategy and where does waste management fit into it? Dan Howells, Senior Partnership Manager at Cloud Sustainability Ltd, talks us through five simple steps that could help you and your business…
The concept of corporate sustainability is becoming more widely understood. In addition to drivers such as ethical responsibility and PR, taking sustainability seriously also exhibits a simple understanding that the notion makes economic sense. A sustainability strategy is a demonstration of understanding that organisations that make themselves more resource efficient will make themselves more successful in the future.
Consider the example of the price of oil. Volatile markets through oil shortages, the need to import, associated political and localised issues lead to price fluctuations and often hikes. This impacts the cost of plastic – a raw material used by many businesses, impacting purchasing costs, fleet costs, energy costs and rebate prices.
Organisations that move to use such resources more efficiently will start to protect themselves from the risks and, in turn, give themselves a head start over their competition. Steps can be taken to reduce reliance on such raw materials. To take the example of oil; effective procurement (reducing over orders and introducing long-term price fixed contracts), effective product design (reducing offcuts and less packaging) and making reductions in energy use (infrastructure changes and behaviour change programmes) can make a business more competitive through a more efficient operating cost base.
Some hold a perception that sustainability strategies must include complicated models and provide insight into some sort of new-age rhetoric, full of business buzzwords. When simply put, it is the improvement of business processes to prevent resource wastage and importantly it is an understanding that environmental protection, social and financial benefits are intrinsically linked.
Starting with waste management will illustrate the benefits that effective strategy can bring. You can tangibly see the changes and the benefits – a great “starter for 10” for your engagement in sustainability strategy.
Five Simple Steps
Five simple steps for effective waste management also set the principles for dealing with wider sustainability issues:
- Understand your baseline position – Establish a self-sufficient reporting process (you cannot manage what you cannot measure) How much waste is generated? What is happening to the waste? How much is being spent?
- Identify areas for Improvement – Systematic performance improvements (environmental, financial and compliance) across the entire value chain, including operations, supply chains and products. Can we create our product while creating less waste? Can we purchase products that generate less waste? How can we reuse our waste? How can we increase our recycling? What are our KPI’s? Are we complying with the law or satisfying the needs of interested parties?
- Implement the changes – Regular communication with stakeholders including waste contractors, employees, suppliers and other interested parties is essential. How will the change be made? Who needs to be involved? What is the incentive? How will the changes be communicated?
- Maintain and record information – What internal infrastructure is required to maintain our position? Where will the information come from? How will the data be interpreted?
- Report on progress – Transparent reporting on sustainability strategies, goals and accomplishments. How will this be reported? Who needs to be informed? Who are our key stakeholders?
There are several themes that are important to achieve success. The new revision to the ISO 14001 standard also highlights these themes as pivotal in achieving a proficient Environmental Management System (EMS).
Communication & Engagement – studies show that properly engaged employees are happier, more productive, more committed and are more collaborative. They are also more compliant with rules and guidelines.
Leadership – driving the strategy at board level and at the heart of an organisations operations is paramount. Without effective buy-in, achieving full-potential is very unlikely.
Whole Life Cycle Thinking – taking a holistic view of the organisations operation with a view to identify solutions to the complexities of resource inefficiency.
Such changes will not occur overnight which is why waste and recycling is certainly one of the best places to start. Waste and recycling is one of the most visible areas in the sustainability agenda and is the foundation stone to which other sustainability subjects can also be influenced.
A successful strategy will only be possible through organisational commitment and communication of the issues and how to combat them – this must be driven at board level to incentivise all other departments and individuals.
Daniel Howells is Senior Partnership Manager at Cloud Sustainability Ltd, helping organisations through engagement and behaviour change programmes to create a learning culture that is inspirational, adaptable, affordable and measurable.