Business management

How sustainable innovation can lead to good growth

At our recent FutureFit event, business pioneers shared how they’re future-proofing their operations. Here are 10 things you could consider doing today. 

Business leaders know a wide lens on the definition of sustainability is key to delivering good growth. 

“We appreciate how hard it can be to run a business when continually faced with unprecedented events. What makes this moment so exciting, however, is not only the challenges but also the potential new opportunities to overcome them,” says our Managing Director for Corporate and Commercial Coverage, Andrew Gray.

Here are some actions and opportunities suggested by our FutureFit panellists. Watch our FutureFit Masterclass for a deeper dive into why sustainability and growth go together.

1. Take leadership

If you’re not taking sustainable business seriously, there’s a risk you might not be here in five to 10 years’ time. Get stuck in and make it happen – take this chance to potentially deliver more profitability by being a commercially sustainable business. 

  • Top tip: Don’t wait to be told what to do next. A future-fit leader decides, drives, moves.

2. Unlock innovation through your data

The climate crisis can seem overwhelming but there is a need to act now. Start measuring the things you care about to reduce waste and drive innovation, efficiency, and competitiveness. 

  • Top tip: Unlock the data you already have to measure your impact. 

3. Translate ideas into action across the whole organisation

Look for where you can make easy efficiencies such as energy, and get your products and supply chains as carbon neutral as possible. Communicate this to your people so you can bring them along with you. Encourage and educate your staff, then really listen.

  • Top tip: Integrate new ideas into the way you operate and weave purpose through everything you do.

4. Unleash the power of your teams

Sustainable business requires a ‘get on with it’ mindset. To shape a better future is about continuous improvement. Engage all stakeholders to look at what the risks and opportunities might be.

  • Top tip: Ideas come from everywhere, so encourage an autonomous and flexible culture. 

5. Grab the low-hanging fruit

Look at renewable energy, pursue R&D to make lower carbon materials, build consumer trust in your products and supply chain… All of these considerations could optimise a more sustainable strategy.

  • Top tip: The winners in business are already thinking hard about what clean energy means for them.

6. If it’s your property, it’s your asset

Put yourself in the energy driving seat. Many assets in your business could be optimised to make energy savings, drive efficiency, maximise revenues, bring down costs, and deliver greater decarbonisation.

  • Top tip: Explore how you might self-generate energy from your buildings and roof spaces. 

7. See opportunity, not threat

Sustainability could be a competitive advantage, not just a future cost. Think of net zero as the next big bang – we will all decarbonise our operations whether it’s through regulation or innovation.

  • Top tip: Consider this mantra: When the future attacks the present, the answer is never to defend the present. Run to the future.

8. Collaborate with younger generations

Millennials are reaching leadership positions, Generation Z are the cavalry. Their views, values and expectations on what a good employer is and where they want to work is transformational. Start conversations with Gen Z and ensure they’re in an environment where they’re respected.

  • Top tip: Ensure there is equity, trust and integrity in your business.

9. Harness technology and adapt it to your business

The pace of technological change is rapid. More advances may have been made in a year than the last 25 years. Think about how you can use digital technology based on your values, purpose, employees, and products. Can it help you do things in a more efficient and productive way?

  • Top tip: Prepare to implement artificial intelligence technologies and processes. Tech such as AI is already here and can bring efficiency and productivity to your business.

10. Bake your purpose through everything you do

Do your people know what your purpose is? Do they have their own individual purpose statement? Ensure your mission statement is clear and regularly updated. Create energy around your purpose to build altruistic capital. Look at whether you can drive purpose not only by the time someone spends at work but the value they bring to the business.

  • Top tip: Be ready to share really good examples of where you’ve stuck to your purpose and made difficult decisions – actions speak louder than words.

With thanks to the panellists:

Will Butler-Adams OBE, CEO, Brompton Bicycle

Gavin Starks, Founder, Dgen

Elena Zayakova-Williams, Senior Director of Sustainability, Sage

Greg Jackson, CEO, Octopus Energy

Laura Sandys CBE, Chair, Government’s Energy Digitalisation Taskforce

Clare Barclay, CEO, Microsoft UK

Lord Timothy Clement-Jones, Spokesperson for the Digital Economy, House of Lords

Sue Daley, Director of Technology and Innovation, techUK

Julie Dawson, Chief Policy & Regulatory Officer, Yoti

Saasha Celestial-One, Co-founder, OLIO

Flavilla Fongang, Founder, 3 Colours Rule

Patrick Hull, VP Global Learning and Future of Work, Unilever

Kamal Ahmed, Editor-in-Chief and Co-founder, The News Movement

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