Building your reputation as a forward-thinking, sustainable business involves much more than slogans and buzzwords. A half-hearted approach could even lead to accusations of ‘greenwashing’, where you suggest you’re doing more for the planet than you really are.
A clear, sustainable business model removes this risk, while helping you drive meaningful change. Specific goals and deadlines will ensure everyone stays focused, from junior staff all the way to executives.
Here are some tips on how to create a sustainable business model that works for both you and your customers.
1. Research and identify priority areas
As a starting point, think about the issues and areas where your company may be falling short. For example, you might be:
- Creating too much waste.
- Causing more pollution than necessary.
- Failing to use sustainable ingredients or manufacturing processes.
- Unclear on working conditions across different supply chains.
- Out of touch with local communities.
It’s important to be honest with yourself at this stage. While listing all your shortcomings is often disheartening, it’s a vital first step.
2. Set realistic short-term goals
If you’ve ended up with a long priority list, it may be tempting to rush in and try to solve everything at once. But launching a series of big initiatives could threaten your profitability and overstretch resources.
Taking things step by step can lead to steady progress instead, and stop you from over-reaching. Short-term goals could be as simple as switching lights off when they’re not needed, installing insulation, or investing in recycling points around the office.
3. Create a long-term vision and values
After a few quick wins, it’s time to look at the bigger picture. Start thinking about what you hope to achieve in the long term. This could involve cutting your carbon footprint over a specific period or expanding the diversity of your workforce.
A company’s core values can also set the right tone, keeping all employees on the same page. Whatever stage your business is at, take some time to review your existing values.
4. Learn lessons from competitors
As part of your long-term planning, take note of any successes achieved by your competitors. For example, did an overhaul of suppliers or a switch to cleaner energy drive savings and efficiencies?
Just remember to review any failures too. For instance, should you have conducted more market research before launching a new product?
5. Involve staff members and customers
An effective sustainability model is a two-way street. You’ll need an open dialogue between those at the very top and the rest of the company.
Staff brainstorming sessions and customer surveys are easy ways to gather feedback and fresh ideas that can feed into a long-term strategy. They can also secure buy-in and engagement from the very start.
6. Hold yourself accountable
Identifying targets and setting sustainability goals is the easy part. It’ll all be for nothing, however, if you fail to turn words into action.
Detailed timelines and rigorous deadlines can help maintain your focus – and hold different stakeholders to account. Regular progress reviews should flag problems early too, and boost transparency for investors and customers.
7. Seek support whenever you need it
Creating and following a sustainable business model isn’t something you have to do alone. Investors, employees, customers and external advisers can all shape your vision of a cleaner, greener organisation. Communities like NatWest Business Builder offer another way to gain fresh insights and perspectives.
Learn more about Business Builder