Time for more action!

Businesses are under increasing obligation to make their businesses more sustainable. Dr Liz Wilks outlines some ways that this can be achieved

Last year the Global Resources Initiative Taskforce, convened by the UK government, recommended that a ‘mandatory due diligence obligation’ be introduced. This would require companies to analyse the presence of environmental and human rights risks and impacts within their supply chains, to take action to prevent or mitigate those risks, and to publicly report on actions taken and planned. 

This has been echoed in the European Union’s mid-2022 Sustainable Corporate Governance Policy and will be applicable to both large and small organisations – though giving smaller organisations time to ‘get ready’.

Here are some key areas to look at if you’re serious about establishing your sustainability credentials – if you haven’t done this already. Make sure they are up to scratch in order to meet consumer demands and changing legislation.

  1. Establishing a code of conduct with your suppliers

The first step to ensuring that your supply chain is sustainable is to establish a code of conduct that outlines what you expect from your suppliers. Knowing your suppliers is critical; for example, where they source their products from, and whether their sustainability ambitions align with yours.

Generally, in this set of guidelines, you should explore health and safety and the company’s approach to human rights and working hours. Another key part of these guidelines is the protection of the environment – for example, ensuring compliance with relevant environmental laws, regulations and standards.  

  • Communicating externally and internally

Communicating internally is about making sure you have an open and transparent method of reporting – after all, that’s the best way to find out more about a particular product and how it is produced. However, it’s important that these guidelines are discussed with suppliers and put in place within the supply chain, as well as being proactively communicated to customers.

Many customers will naturally be looking to fulfil their own sustainability goals through a certain product; by showcasing that a product is sustainably produced the customer base of a company can be reassured and widened.

  • Certification matters

Certification is a tried and tested method of communicating your sustainability standards to customers. We know that customers are willing to pay more for sustainable products – in fact, our research found that three-in-five adults (61%) said they would be willing to pay more for food products packaged in sustainable materials, with 35% saying they would be open to paying up to 10% more. Providing certified paper, packaging and labelling such as PEFC provides independent reassurance.

  • Business Operations

Last in this list, but by no means least, is to review your own business. Conscious consumerism is continuing to grow, particularly during COVID, and it seems this is set to stay. Establishing a sustainable supply chain will not only make your products more attractive to customers, it will also shore up your business in the long-term. A truly sustainable business supports the full eco-system that surrounds both the running of your business and the creation of a product.

Not only is this a good approach for the environment, it also makes commercial sense. Customers expect – and increasingly now demand – products that are made in an environmentally sustainable way, and reward brands that fulfil their wishes. Businesses should also look to take this further, ensuring that products and supply chain are sustainable and that these values are echoed throughout the business itself.

Whatever the size of business – large or small – there is a commercial, financial and ethical value – and soon a mandatory need – in implementing some sustainable measures in the supply chain and the business itself.

Here are just a few ideas for the workplace:

  • Green up your office space: make it energy-efficient, choose LED lamps, turn off the lights off after hours, use re-useable towels and cutlery and focus on employee wellbeing.
  • Sustainable storage: choose an eco-friendly facility and store items in re-useable, ‘green’ containers.
  • Use green delivery methods: use certified, recyclable or compostable bags, and offer reductions for bulk orders.
  • Reduce waste: reduce, re-use, recycle.
  • Involve your employees: give them the option of remote working, and incentivise environmentally friendly habits
  • Make charitable donations: donate to environmental programmes, and, perhaps, link these actions to the products you sell with a logo or % contribution.
  • Find environmental certifications.

By Dr Liz Wilks, sustainability and stakeholder director, Asia Pulp & Paper UK and Europe

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