The importance of sustainability
Today, more and more companies are making efforts to adhere to initiatives that promote sustainability, both within the company and in terms of the actions it takes on a day-to-day basis. But why is it so important for a company to be sustainable? What is its main purpose?
One of the most important aspects is that of value creation. For companies, a positive brand image is crucial: this helps attract new customers and retain existing ones. In fact, these sustainable choices are one of the main reasons why a consumer chooses one company over its competitors, and this is precisely why sustainability is an aspect that should not be underestimated.
In addition, corporate sustainability can also help the company itself, as it encourages a sharp reduction in consumption and waste and enables economic benefits that will pay off these investments in the long run.
How to promote corporate sustainability
Therefore, if a company wants to direct its activities toward promoting sustainable development, it will need to devise and implement a strategy, one that consists of several steps. This starts with an internal analysis of the company where the main objectives are defined and it continues with an external market analysis. This process concludes with the actual implementation: where actions motivated by the values the company wants to communicate are put into practice.
Among the different solutions a company can adopt, here are five examples that any company can put into practice in support of its sustainability commitments.
The 4 Rs
Recycle, Reuse, Recover, Reduce. These are the main actions that can be put in place to limit the company’s impact on the climate footprint. They involve adopting so-called circular solutions, which aim to extend the life cycle of materials and objects, making them in such a way that they can be used in different sectors and for multiple times, or that they are easily repairable.
- Recycle: it is essential to sort materials so that new items can be produced without the use of raw materials
- Reuse: it’s important to reuse an object as much as possible and for multiple uses so that the obsolescence rate of products is as high as possible;
- Recover: in a society with excess production of goods and the associated packaging, it’s essential that disused or discarded items are recoverable in terms of their raw materials so that they can be used for new purposes;
- Reduce: it’s beneficial to opt for products that have little packaging, and to avoid single-use or single-serving packaging, in order the reduce the amount of materials that must be disposed of
An important choice for companies is the adoption of eco-sustainable mobility for their employees and contractors. This is smart mobility, the choice of transportation that has less environmental impact, greatly reducing pollution caused by CO2 emissions.
There are several solutions that some large urban centers have adopted, also those adopted by companies that want to improve corporate welfare, i.e., the general well-being of employees, thanks to the benefits and services offered to them.
A first solution that is often adopted is that of Car Sharing. Here, a company provides cars that can be rented to travel within an urban or suburban area. To take advantage of the service, the user typically has to download a smartphone app through which to make payment at the end of the journey, which is generally calculated based on the duration of the journey itself. For companies who provide this service, an advantage is that they always have a fleet of vehicles available that meet emissions requirements for transportation in urban centers.
Another goal of sustainable mobility is to reduce the amount of cars circulating in cities. This is why the use of Micro Mobility or “light” transportation, such as scooters, bicycles, and any small electric vehicle, is becoming increasingly popular. These are sharing services that allow the vehicle to be rented for a specific period of time.
In addition, some companies offer Zero Emission Travel proposals, through which anyone using a means of transportation has the opportunity to offset and neutralize the emissions produced by supporting a project of their choice. The way it works is that the company offers a series of prepaid travel tickets to be provided as a promotion; a portion of the cost is allocated to support ecological initiatives, such as forest reforestation, urban forestation, and the use of clean energy.
The dematerialization of documents represents another best practice for fostering environmental sustainability within the company. Dematerialization is the process by which a document that was initially paper is converted into a digital format, supporting both its preservation and eliminating paper waste at the same time.
This process, given its growing importance, is subject to numerous regulations. In Italy for example, the reference body is AgID, which provides and oversees compliance with the enacted legislation. However, the transformation of a document from paper to digital is now more than ever a key need for companies who are shifting their focus toward sustainability by adopting green practices.
Maritime Health Provisions
Marine pollution is a constant battle against the emission of substances that have harmful effects on the surrounding environment, such as damage to marine flora and fauna, risks to human health, and impacts on water quality and its consequent use.
There are numerous companies and associations working to safeguard the marine ecosystem with numerous initiatives and projects. For example, GreenPeace has been working against plastic pollution for many years: anyone can help report litter by taking a photo and sending the location via WhatsApp to the number listed on the website.
Legambiente, on the other hand, is an organization that, among other awareness-raising actions, brings together volunteers each year to rid beaches and seabeds of abandoned garbage.
Within the European Union, around 2.5 billion tons of waste are generated. For this reason, the EU is moving in a direction of renewing its waste policies.
But what exactly is the circular economy? It can be defined as a production and consumption model that involves sharing, lending, reusing, repairing, and recycling materials and products for as long as possible.
In doing so, the life cycle of products is extended, aiming to reduce waste. In fact, by doing so, once the product has completed its function, the materials that compose it are reintroduced, where possible, within the economic cycle. Obviously, already in the design phase of a product, it is anticipated that the different components can then be reused.
The principles on which the circular economy is based are in contrast to that instead proposed by the linear economy model, which is based on the availability of large quantities of materials and at the same time energy that can be sourced cheaply.
Its importance is also confirmed by the numerous reports compiled in recent years. More specifically, according to data provided by the European Parliament, the shift to an economy that is based more on the circular model can lead to a 0.5 % increase in GDP. In addition, the report for 2022 forecasts an increase in employment with 700,000 new jobs by 2030 within the states of the European Union.
In Italy, many companies are working toward a transition to the circular model. For example, starting in 2015, Lavazza, one of the world’s leading coffee companies, in collaboration with Novamont, an Italian chemical company active in the bioplastics sector, created biodegradable capsules that can be disposed of in organic waste bins and later become fertile compost.
In 2014, another leading company, Barilla, in collaboration with Favini, one of the largest paper manufacturers, created Cartacrusca. This is derived from the milling of grains that Barilla uses, such as wheat or barley, and Favini takes this and uses it to make paper for the packaging of some Barilla products.
In conclusion, there are numerous sustainable actions that businesses and companies can implement to help improve in the quality of the environment in which we live as well as our daily lives. These are just a few of the examples of how companies can operate here..
However, we can’t forget that every company can also contribute to improving sustainability with small daily actions, which can in turn inspire workers and employees to embark on their own path of sustainability. This includes replacing plastic bottles (and distributing aluminum water bottles to all employees, for example), or reducing paper consumption by digitizing internal documents and communications.