We’re all responsible for ensuring the health of our planet and the continued wellness of everyone that lives on it. This goes for entrepreneurs and their businesses, as much as for private citizens. Each business must take a look at how they are impacting the planet.
It’s important, though, to look beyond pollutants. True corporate responsibility doesn’t come from a few superficial improvements to your practices; it comes from a deep commitment to making ethical changes across the board. This is where a holistic sustainability mindset is vital. By considering every aspect of your business, and your actions, you have opportunities to alter how you operate for the better.
Here are a few primary areas to explore.
First and foremost, you should focus on building a sustainability mindset from within. Look at yourself as an entrepreneur, and gain a better understanding of how your leadership can be better utilized to influence sustainability in your business. Research and make a comprehensive list of all the aspects of sustainability — environmental, social, economic — that you feel should be a priority for your business. Holistic sustainability is not necessarily about you solving all the problems of the world, but by educating yourself here, you can start to build a framework around which you build all of your efforts.
You should also be committing to regular audits of your internal processes. A holistic sustainability mindset is not a one-and-done situation. It requires frequent review. Alongside adherence to your general sustainability standards, look to the example of other industries. The beauty industry in particular has been instrumental in implementing and promoting sustainability across every aspect of operations. It scrutinizes the toxicity and environmental impact of the raw materials it utilizes. It maintains efficiency in the management of the supply chain to limit wastage. Learn from diverse sources, and seek to apply the same standards within your business.
Thinking holistically in your internal practices is also not just about what materials you use, how you package items, or what energy efficient methods you adopt. Though these are important. It also has to extend to your hiring, and indeed the mindset of your staff and company culture. Make it clear in your job ads that sustainability plays a key role in your business. Make it a meaningful part of discussions during the interview process. Remember that the talent you onboard has the potential not just to conform to your sustainability ideals, but also bring their own ideas and innovations.
Industry and Partnerships
Getting your own house in order is just the beginning. Holistic sustainability also requires you to consider how you interact with the wider business world. As you begin to cultivate your mindset, pay close attention to the relationships you’re building throughout every area of your operations.
One of the best ways to approach this is to engage in an open dialogue with all businesses you work with. From the very outset talk about your respective goals when it comes to sustainability. Ask them for fine details on their activities — where raw materials are sourced, what the labor standards are if they outsource production — and be equally open about providing your own. When dealing with the agricultural sector, look into what agro ecological and sustainable practices are in place. Talk about what plans they have in place to put less pressure on the environment in the face of rising global demand. Aim to establish a mindset of mutual accountability, and set up regular meetings to discuss what improvements can be made.
It may seem like an overwhelming prospect, but a holistic sustainability mindset must include improving the industry that entrepreneurs choose to join. You have to be cognizant that as a whole, industry accounts for 22% of all greenhouse emissions, to say nothing of the cultural and social damage being done. Look for opportunities to be an influencer in your sector. Attend conferences and roundtables where you can highlight sustainability issues. Host or guest on podcasts, and produce online content that addresses concerns but also gives positive suggestions.
Long-Term Community Impact
A key consideration in your cultivating a holistic sustainability mindset is the fact that industries don’t exist inside a bubble. They play an important role in the communities they exist within, and there is often a delicate balance that needs to be achieved. You have to take time to regularly review what positive and negative contributions your business is making to local ecosystems and infrastructures.
The resources in every community are finite. You must be conscious of how you can minimize your consumption, or leverage combination approaches to resources rather than put pressure on a single source. Invest in renewable energy — solar panels, wind turbines — particularly in areas that suffer from outages in residential areas due to demand imbalance. But also ensure that you are positively consuming resources. Utilize local suppliers and labor wherever possible, as this factors into the community’s long-term economic sustainability.
As an entrepreneur, you are also in a position to contribute to community growth and development. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often attributed to larger brands, but the principles can be applied to smaller enterprises too. It starts with making efforts to engage with local projects and initiatives. You don’t just have to contribute funds; other resources such as expertise, services, and employee time can have a far more meaningful impact on initiatives. Getting involved with your community not only helps to keep it sustainable, it tends to strengthen your bonds with the public, builds trust, and even boosts employee morale.
Cultivating a holistic sustainability mindset means that you have to go beyond the usual energy-saving initiatives. Everything your business does, whether in production or the supplier relationships you engage in, has the potential to both positively and negatively impact the world around us. By committing to applying environmental, cultural, ethical, and economical considerations to all your practices, you have the opportunity to ensure your business makes a meaningful contribution to the world.
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.