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Let’s Talk: Simple ways to make your business more sustainable

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP260) highlighted the enormity of the environmental challenges before us, leaving many business owners feeling overwhelmed and powerless to make a difference.

Not so, say our experts who share their easy to implement tips for a more sustainable business, not just environmentally, but with your most valuable resource, your people.

Let’s Talk…

 Drew Haupt, co-founder, WLTH

“There is no question in 2021 that sustainability and creating a greener world is a significant responsibility that every business should weave into the DNA of their business. Growing up on the coast, my brother Brodie and I have always been passionate about the waters that surround us. From what we have learnt along the way, here are some simple ways to make your business more sustainable.

Greener Office Supplies:
It is common knowledge that paper and plastic pollute the environment. However, in an office space, these two materials can be challenging to avoid. In our office space, we are moving away from paper signatures to tools like Docusign.

Find Your Cause:
It is essential to think big and set goals for your business that can have more impact than simply the industry your business is part of. At WLTH, we are committed to making visible changes in our environment by removing plastic from Australian coastlines.

Advocate Sustainability:
Make green thinking a crucial part of your company culture by including staff in a sustainable vision by getting them engaged and involved. In partnership with Parley for the Oceans, we encourage our team to participate in our ocean clean up initiative. We also are advocates in the workplace, providing biodegradable coffee pods to staff and limiting single-use plastics by encouraging the purchase of reusable keep-cups.”

Erica van Lieven, Managing Partner, InSites Consulting

“We work with organisations of all sizes to make their businesses more sustainable and meet the needs of consumers. Here are some key considerations for businesses looking to start their journey:

  • Build the roadmap to sustainability – communicate the plan to employees, customers, suppliers, any stakeholders that you want to take on the journey. Make sure you flag signposts and celebrate the achievements along the way. The actual journey takes years to realise and it’s important to recognise the small wins and not lose steam.
  • Innovate – start changing even small things. Look at ways to reduce carbon footprint, consider new sources of packaging, educate staff on sustainable actions they can take, consider sourcing solar power and reducing business travel, where possible.
  • Don’t be afraid to give your customers a choice – Making sustainable changes can help you stand out. Short term, it can lead to higher cost, however this is not always a reason to not embark on the journey. There will be customers who will place greater value on sustainability and catering to these customers can be the first step to normalising the behaviour.”

Dr Eamonn McCarthy, CEO Lighthouse Foundation 

“Obviously, sustainability in business stretches across a number of domains including environment and profitability. However, by far the most important resource to me, and ultimately the mechanism through which the other domains are promoted, is people.

“Good business leaders should recognise their staff are by far the most valuable resource in the organisation and create a positive and nurturing community within their work environment that prioritises staff well-being accordingly. If this is done effectively and authentically, staff will feel a sense of connection and fulfilment within their work community, which in turn allows staff to sustainably work to the best of their ability. In addition, such an environment maximises creative, collaborative and consequential thinking, which are all essential factors to achieving sustainable business practices across all domains.

“While prioritising internal community is vital for sustainable business, leaders should also consider the role their organisations can take with regards to prioritising the well-being of people in the broader community. For example, organisations will often possess an abundance of skills, knowledge or resources that others within the local community aren’t privy to. By identifying these excesses and seeking out parts of the community in need, an organisation can simultaneously strengthen the broader community while further enhancing the sense of fulfilment and connectedness within the internal community.”

Emma Herd,  EY Partner, climate change and sustainability

“Making decisions about climate change can often be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions for your business to consider:

Apply the science: Undertake a formal climate risk and opportunity assessment to reduce the risk of losing competitive advantage in a rapidly decarbonising world. 

Re-assess the impacts: Start thinking about the difference between acute risks (event-driven impacts) and chronic risks (inevitable gradual trends) and how these are managed within your organisation. Apply this locally, as regions will experience the impacts of climate change differently.

Communicate: Use the current media focus on climate change as a hook to progress work on your decarbonisation and resilience strategies. Wherever possible, try to keep the discussion about the long-term science and the practical implications, and not allow the focus to be on short-term politics.

The urgency of the climate change challenge will only continue to gain momentum, there is no time to lose and no better time to act.”

Caitlin Zotti, Operations Manager, Pin Payments

“In the past year, businesses have undergone a transformation in the way they work, operate and interact with staff. With many now functioning in a digi-physical fashion, businesses have naturally become more sustainable. Yet, knowing how to take this a step further, can seem daunting. Despite this, even a few simple changes can have an impact. 

“The holiday season is the perfect time to make minor changes that can collectively make a big difference. Statistics show our waste increases by 30% at Christmas, with $400M worth of ‘unwanted’ gifts ending up in landfill. 

“With this in mind, consider giving your staff or colleagues digital gifts or experiences instead of physical presents. A day out of the office to build team morale or a fun experience over the holidays, will save on waste and bring about some much-needed happiness. If physical experiences aren’t possible, digital gift cards to apps like Headspace, Audible or Kindle are great options too. Finally, in the spirit of giving, why not gift a donation to an environmental organisation or charity, who are working to achieve sustainability. Avoiding excessive waste is difficult for offices over the festive period, but it’s a great chance to put your sustainability practices into play.” 

Gulrez Tyebji, managing director, Reebelo Australia

“Businesses can save money fast by implementing sustainable strategies and mindsets. A commitment to net-zero is the gold standard, but there are other, smaller steps that businesses can take to improve their sustainability credentials.

“Technology ‘e-waste’ severely damages the environment, and Smartphones have heavily contributed to this damage. A great starting point in e-cleansing your business is to target employee work devices. Make a careful assessment of needs versus wants. What is your team using their phones for? Do they already have a personal device? 

‘In most cases, they probably don’t need the niche features or the very latest iPhone and could simply keep their old model or opt for a refurbished model instead, to create a circular economy. The circular economy is producing and consuming goods by sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing devices for as long as possible, delaying the time they hit landfill.” 

Kate Furey, Career Insights Specialist at Indeed

“True business sustainability must go beyond environmentally-conscious practices. An organisation is only as strong as its people and culture, which is why diversity and inclusion are critical when it comes to business success and longevity. 

“Indeed’s recent Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Survey revealed that 65% of workers with a disability and 67% of LGBTIQ+ workers say they feel the need to hide their true selves at work. An inability to bring one’s whole self to work is not only detrimental to employee mental health, but can also impact engagement, communication, and company culture. 

“Leaders, therefore, must prioritise cultivating safe, diverse and inclusive environments in which all employees feel comfortable to be their true selves at work. In a truly diverse and inclusive work environment, all employees are encouraged to speak openly and contribute fully, and as a result team morale, job satisfaction and productivity increase, creating a more robust and sustainable business.”

Dan Bognar, General Manager and Vice President, DocuSign Asia-Pacific

“The recent Cop26 event in Glasgow was a timely reminder for business owners to consider the sustainability of their operations. Today, 69 per cent of workers in “Australia agree that businesses should be just as concerned with their societal impact as they are with their financial performance—and this couldn’t be more true. Businesses who transition to accommodate sustainability within their practices are not only contributing to a cleaner future but are also enabling themselves for greater success, particularly when it comes to performance and talent retention.

“One easy way businesses can work more sustainably is by reducing their dependency on paper and digitizing business practices. The move to paperless does take time and investment, but it makes business processes much more efficient and accessible, especially in today’s hybrid or work from anywhere environment. By switching to platforms like DocuSign means that employees do not need to work at a specific location, or near a printer, to manage documentation, enabling them to access and collaborate on agreements no matter where they are.

“Sustainable practices not only generate efficiencies, reduce costs and create a healthier workplace, but they’re also increasingly important in finding and retaining talent. According to DocuSign research, more than half of Australian SMB employees (53 per cent) want their employer to do more for the environment. What a great opportunity for leaders to define a vision and strategy for their organisation that is aligned with their employee’s values.”

Stuart TaylorCEO and co-founder, Springfox 

“Solar energy may be powering your office, but have you considered what’s powering your employees? When it comes to sustainable business practices, employee mental health and well-being is often overlooked despite being integral to the ongoing success and sustainability of an organisation.

“One of the simplest and most effective ways to future-proof your business and improve sustainability is to invest in organisational resilience. The power of resilience in business is that it safeguards employee mental health, mitigates burnout, and reduces the risk of a downward spiral. By investing in resilience and leadership trust, business leaders and employees can sustain productivity, creativity, engagement and innovation. Rebuilding and strengthening personal and professional resilience is key to ensuring that your business and its employees maintain high-level performance, are engaged for extended periods, remain adaptable to future challenges and benefit from a psychologically safe workplace environment.”

 Micah Gabriels, CEO, Mooven

“A sure-fire way businesses can increase sustainability is by harnessing the power of data to change their ways of working. Most businesses collect lots of data but fail to unlock their full potential. Without properly activating this data, teams will miss a myriad of day-to-day opportunities that could lead to improvements in sustainability.

“A prime example of this is construction company, WBHO Infrastructure, which was tasked with widening an existing bridge over the Princess Freeway in Melbourne. We worked with the company to analyse local traffic conditions and identify ways to redirect the large volume of vehicles to alternate routes.

“By harnessing these data sets, WBHO significantly minimised delays and congestion whilst also reducing project delivery time by 50%. The shorter project time led to a considerable reduction in emissions due to the drop in congestion levels and the number of trips workers were making to the site. Arming teams with data helps businesses to identify potential environmental benefits and therefore deliver their projects in the most sustainable way.”

Lindsay Brown, VP of LogMeIn, APJ

“The acceleration in the remote work trend itself has boosted many organisations’ abilities to become increasingly sustainable, whether consciously or not. We’re in a period of re-evaluating company values and goals, and part of that is reimagining how we use the office space; whether it will be boosted for collaboration, made to be more environmentally friendly and how it can provide new opportunities to participate in renewable energy efforts.

“Our shift to a remote-centric workforce means that we are continuing to reduce and offset all business travel emissions. Technologies such as GoToConnect have become a substitute for in-person interactions which will play an essential role in enabling business continuity. Not only does this help offset the time, expense, and carbon footprint but utilising technology that makes it seamless for everyone to connect over voice, text, video conferencing and virtual interactions will improve their work-life balance and provide more flexibility.”

Graeme Sheekey, Head of Operations – Oceania, Chamberlain

“At Chamberlain Group, implementing both simple and ambitious sustainability measures throughout the company is a key driver for us. We believe it is paramount for any successful business to look after the local community in which it operates, the environment and its employees.

‘This is demonstrated at the Chamberlain Group’s Central Coast factory in Gosford, where our award-winning strategies represent our ongoing commitment to reducing the impact of operations on the local environment.

“Reducing our carbon footprint through local manufacturing, reduced energy consumption through LED lighting, using recyclable packaging, as well as installing a 100kW solar panel, are just a few of the simple measures we have in place to make our business more sustainable. We encourage all businesses to consider what simple swaps can be made as a starting point. 

“Our blueprint for implementing sustainability initiatives is as follows:

  • Create a sustainability policy throughout;
  • Form a green committee;
  • Measure baseline carbon emissions;
  • Set ambitious climate goals through strategies;
  • Encourage employees and customers to get involved; and
  • Put in place quick and achievable wins as part of a greater plan to generate momentum and morale.”

Paul Weingarth, Co-Founder and CEO, Slyp

“With Aussie consumers expecting to see greater sustainability efforts from the businesses they love, retailers need to meet their customers where they are by making conscious, everyday changes to reduce their environmental impact. Despite single-use plastic once playing a major role in day-to-day operations for many, businesses listened to their customers’ call for change and responded with alternatives. Today we can harness the power of technology to unlock even more of these opportunities on a global scale.

“One way technology can make your business more sustainable is by enabling you to switch paper receipts out for their Smart Receipt alternative. Not only will this small change increase efficiency at the point-of-sale, save time and enable you to provide a more personalised customer experience, but it will also save Australia 1.5 million trees, 249 billion litres of water, and 4.5 billion litres of oil in just one year.” 

James Chin Moody, CEO and Co-Founder, Sendle

“In today’s climate-conscious world, sustainability is a competitive advantage for small businesses. And the good news is, it doesn’t have to cost more. The best way to begin is to start small. 

“Implementing reduce, reuse and recycle in your business – from the office to the warehouse – can help minimise your environmental footprint. Upcycled office supplies, switching out plastic packaging for compostable mailers, or switching to renewable energy suppliers are really simple ways to introduce sustainable practices in your business. 

‘Take a look at your supply chain to find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.  You can choose to work with businesses that have environmentally-conscious practices, such as B-Corps.

“Finally, join Sendle in pledging to help meet the UN Climate Change COP26 environmental goals, to support the future of the planet. By investing in the future of the environment, you’re investing in the longevity of your business, 2030 and beyond.”

Garry Valenzisi, Vice President & General Manager ANZ, Iron Mountain 

“With an increasing use and reliance on the latest technology and devices, there is growing need for businesses to make sustainable decisions about the management of old devices. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world and Australia is the fifth highest producer of e-waste globally. Containing hazardous and toxic materials, it poses a major threat to the environment and human health.

“A sustainable IT policy is essential and will unlock new value. Planning for the long term by reducing the volume of products purchased is key and will reduce the amount of waste generated. Next, repairing, reusing and repurposing is a simple way to extend the device lifecycle. Recycling and remarketing goes one step further and partnering with an accredited industry expert, such as Iron Mountain, will prolong asset use, eliminate waste and securely dispose of confidential data before safely reintroducing devices to the economy.”

Tom Richardson, Head of Startups & SMB, APAC & Japan, Stripe

“Most climate models agree: to prevent the catastrophic effects from climate change, we’ll need to reduce global emissions from 50 gigatons to net-zero by 2050. Getting there requires both reducing emissions and removing carbon from the atmosphere. In other words, offsets alone aren’t sufficient.

“While emissions-reductions technologies are generally well-capitalised, there is currently no large, consistent market for carbon removal. That’s why Stripe Climate was launched a year ago, making it easy for online businesses of any size, including SMBs, to make high-impact carbon removal commitments. Businesses can contribute to carbon removal with every charge as Stripe uses 100% of these contributions to purchase high-quality CDR that has the potential to scale globally. 

We’re thrilled that Australian businesses have been fast adopters of this initiative – 40% of our APAC customers who have committed to Stripe Climate are Aussie – punching well above their weight globally. It’s a seamless way businesses can make an impact by getting to the root cause of climate change.” 

Jane Betts, Chief People Officer, Findex

“Hybrid and remote working models have become a hot topic as lockdown restrictions ease across the country, but one rarely-discussed perk of such models is their environmental benefit.

“Traditional office arrangements incur a sizable environmental toll – consider the huge amounts of stationary and paper used in day-to-day operations, in addition to energy expended to power lights and computers, and fuel consumed by staff commuting to work by car.

“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Findex transitioned nearly 3,000 staff out of more than 100 offices. The shift culminated in the permanent implementation of ‘Findex Dynamic Working’ – a flexible working model that allows our staff to work from anywhere.

This led to fewer staff in offices, which has reduced the need for commuting, use of printing, stationary, postage and office amenities. Through remote working, Findex has saved around 14,000kg of CO2 emissions per month – roughly equivalent to 100 trees saved each month.”

Danny Lessem, CEO and founder, ELMO Software

“Australians are looking to businesses to do more for the environment. Our recent Climate at Work Report found 84 per cent of Australians want businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and emissions.

“By taking steps to become more sustainable, businesses become a more enticing option for potential employees and for customers. In fact, 48 per cent of Australians won’t work for businesses that don’t take action on climate change. 

“There are some simple behavioural changes that can be encouraged for no or low cost that help businesses operate more sustainably. For instance, encouraging and incentivising employees to take coffee mugs from the office kitchen when going out to buy a coffee instead of using disposable cups. 

“Looking at the individual and collective behaviours of the organisation is a terrific starting point to identify and act on opportunities to be more sustainable.

“Businesses should also investigate how technology can help them reduce their emissions and carbon footprint. Solutions like motion sensor meeting room lighting can help lower energy consumption.”


Read more: Sustainability: Solutions require diversity of leadership and talent

Read more: Make sustainability count for your small business


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Clare Loewenthal

Clare Loewenthal

Clare is an author, business commentator and passionate contributor to Dynamic Business. She was the Founder and Publisher of Dynamic Small Business magazine, which became Australia’s largest small business publication.

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