7 Ways That Sustainable Business Serves the Greater Good
A sustainable business is an organization or company that conducts its business activities with minimal negative impact on the global or local environment through the application of the principles of sustainability to its business operations.
In this 21st century, it’s imperative that sustainable businesses remain ecologically avant-garde so that the earth is not compromised by their activities, and at the same time, ensuring human dignity.
There are several types of sustainability: ecological, social, and that of sustained economic growth. The sustainability concept in all its ramifications, is the bedrock of Corporate Social Responsibility. A growing number of businesses have joined the sustainability movement and the numbers grow exponentially.
Here are 7 ways that sustainable business serves the greater good:
Increased Productivity from Resources: This is the ability to get more goods or services by using less materials or energy. It’s also known as dematerialization.
Two examples include:
- Window design: This involves a process of redesigning windows which results in daylight being enhanced by 600% and a reduction in solar heat penetration by 400%.
- Carpet manufacturing: Interface and Collins and Aikens are two of the world’s largest manufacturers of carpets. They’ve been able to reduce the amount of virgin material they use in their carpet manufacturing by as much as 40%. They were able to achieve this by redesigning their operations to recycle carpet, which would otherwise have gone into landfills.
- Remanufacturing: Many sustainable businesses are now doing this – reducing waste by extracting more productivity from what they produce. Xerox is a good example. They developed a remanufacturing process for their copiers by using old parts and materials to make new units, which in turn, generates new income and saves materials inputs.
Eco-efficiency: This is a term used by businesses to describe their goals as they relate to protecting the environment. The World Business Council on Sustainable Development states that eco-efficiency is achieved by the delivery of competitively priced goods and services that satisfy human needs and add quality of life, while reducing negative ecological impacts. Many of the improvements in business practices have come from new ways of approaching customer needs and by redesigning production processes, with environmental concerns placed high on the agenda.
From Larger to Smaller: Sustainable business practices extend beyond the traditional businesses of recycling and waste management and include many other things. For example, the traditional razor blade and ball-point pen are made by companies which use less materials and resources than in the past.
Another example is where buildings are designed by a team of various professional and technical groups along with those who are going to use the building – all of whom work interactively and together, making the building as environmentally friendly as possible. This creates dramatic results in terms of the reduction of material and energy needs.
A good illustration of this is the ING Bank head office in Amsterdam. It is 12 times more energy efficient than its predecessor, thereby reducing operating costs. It has fresher air and other benefits without the increase in costs that would normally apply to a traditional building of a comparable size.
Cost-Savings: The less energy and materials used by businesses, the lower their operating costs. Many sustainable businesses continue to embrace resource productivity (the process of using resources as effectively as possible when producing goods and services, in order to reduce or avoid waste) because ultimately it saves them money – definitely a win-win situation!
Waste Reduction: Dematerialization results in less waste, which helps preserve the environment. Waste disposal can be costly, and more so if the waste is hazardous. Conscious green companies have adopted the viewpoint that waste is a measure of inefficient use of resources and many have set a goal of zero waste for their operations. What happens here is that waste from one business operations becomes the input for another:
- A Japanese beer company sends the dregs of its beer production to farmers who use them for cattle feed.
- Skansa, the Swedish construction firm, only delivers to a site what will actually go into the building, thereby saving construction materials, and also transport costs.
- Very basic design changes such as making beer cans lighter has saved up to 40% of the material involved.
- Office buildings that used to need 100,000 tons of steel can now be (safely) constructed with new designs using only approximately 35,000.
Transition to Renewables: Current energy technologies create a variety of environmental problems and if they are inefficient, they won’t be able to support future demand. We may not be able to rely on fossil fuel for as long as we initially envisioned, thus making a case for renewable energy sources. Sustainable businesses have responded by reducing their dependence on fossil fuels and increasing their use of solar, wind and other renewable sources of energy. Major oil companies like BP and Shell have both become producers of renewable energy.
Mimicking Nature, or Permaculture: There are businesses that allow nature to take the lead and be the teacher. Why? Because nature offers many tested examples of sustainability. The rationale is that anything that survives in nature has (often) undergone millions of years of trial and error and epitomizes efficiency. This approach is being used to develop new products and processes.
Two examples of this are:
- Spider Power: We look to nature to explain how it’s possible for a spider to produce a fiber that has a strength that’s stronger than steel, yet without involving the use of high temperatures or pressures.
- DNA Power: Many process applications have resulted in new designs for computers, based on DNA molecules.
This topic is inexhaustible, especially as increasing numbers of sustainable businesses come on board and become more engaged in eco-friendly practices. Many innovative products have emerged as a result – all of which support the principle of sustainability.
To learn more about sustainable business practices, we invite you to become informed about everything green. Visit us at healestate.com and read articles on food and beverage, health and beauty, pets, environment, water, air, architecture and design, and more.