INspring Growth Business Blog

by Tim Schoonenberg, Ultimate ISO

Supporting the growth of SMEs in Worcestershire 

In our latest business blog series, Tim Schoonenberg from Ultimate ISO, based in Worcester, Worcestershire, writes about how business sustainability can boost growth and achieve increased customer confidence. Read on to find out more.

 

HOW BUSINESS SUSTAINABILITY CAN BOOST GROWTH AND ACHIEVE INCREASED CUSTOMER CONFIDENCE

Enhanced value and differentiation

In a world of resource scarcity, environmental awareness and global connectivity, companies have never been faced with so much complexity in meeting the demands of their customers. The impacts of harmful business practice are visible and immediately shared and judged on social media by the world over. Customers expect companies to provide zero harm goods and services. Not only to have processes and supply chains with minimal negative impact on society and the environment but ones that create social and environmental value. Companies are differentiating themselves from their competitors using business sustainability as a key selling point.

The Benefits

Companies quick to react to these needs are both seizing the market opportunities and mitigating the risk of losing customers and market share. People, communities, countries and regions of the planet all face different challenges and have different priorities. It is vital for any business to make sure that their product offer meets the priorities of their customers by mitigating the environmental, social and business risks.

Compliant, sustainable organisations are resilient, competitive and deliver long-term value. They want to know what is on the horizon and how to prepare for it, how to embrace it. Sustainable businesses take care of their stakeholders, their environment and the impacts of their products and services. They are global stewards with a sense of  economic, social and environmental responsibility.

How ?

Any business can improve their sustainability, from a one-person micro-business to a multinational corporation, the path to achieving it and the benefits are the same for both.

  • Start by mapping out your environmental footprint. List your products or services and the activities and processes that it takes to get them from the moment you receive an enquiry from a customer to the point you deliver your service or product.
  • List the material inputs and outputs for each of those activities and processes to make a chain of supply.
  • Rank the inputs in terms of the largest volume or the most environmentally damaging and then so the same for the outputs.
  • Now do the same exercise but this time think about the social impact of your activities and processes.
  • Look at the origin of your raw materials and product sources. Are they in countries where there is deforestation, modern slavery or other harmful practices ?
  • Now you have listed your environmental and social impacts try and find ways to reduce them by looking at alternative sources of inputs. Go for the low-hanging fruit such as;
    • Switching energy supplier to one that uses a high percentage of renewable energy
    • Replacing energy hungry machinery, equipment and lighting with ones that consume less
    • Purchase from suppliers certified to ISO 14001 or other environmental standards
    • Same for haulage and delivery companies

There are many free sources available on the internet to help you evaluate your supply chains and find ways of reducing your environmental and social footprint. Remember that you don’t have to do all of them at once and don’t forget to tell your customers all about it, especially your potential ones.

If you want to go a step further and put in place a formal process for ensuring that your footprints are on the way down and not up, consider using a management system such as ISO 14001. This will provide your business with a formal structure to identify your risks and deliver your objectives with continual improvement in sustainability. You have the option of independently certifying your management system to validate your efforts and gain an internationally recognised status that can help you grow your market share.

Ultimately, it’s about making a sustainability statement to your customers, taking steps to deliver on it (however big or small they might be), documenting your actions and then telling the story.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR INSPIRING GROWTH CAMPAIGN

Inspiring Growth is a dynamic business support campaign created by Worcestershire Business Central to discover the unique businesses in Worcestershire that have strong growth ambitions, an entrepreneurial spirit, and looking to maximise their opportunities in Worcestershire.

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