19 May 2014 | Phil Machin
2014 is the year for more sustainable working practices to be injected into the lifeblood of every business, large and small. Cue lots of head scratching, as many business owners have very different views on what sustainability actually means to them.
To many ‘sustainable’ means going green and more time and effort spent on activities that don’t generate revenue. The majority of SMEs continue to chase revenue, rather than looking at the extent to which sustainability can and will drastically improve their profitability and client retention through improved business efficiency and purchasing.
In reality, sustainability resonates through every part of the business, your suppliers, and your community, whether big or small.
• Supply chain. Making sure goods are shipped by sea rather than air every time will not only reduce your costs but reduce your carbon dioxide emissions. Sustainable supply chain requires impeccable inventory management and perfect contracts ensuring your suppliers perform and deliver optimum service.
• IT. All technology should ensure the lowest energy consumption and efficiency to maximise investment. More cloud computing means less hardware, energy use, maintenance, disposal, and therefore less cost. Innovative companies pioneering IT efficiencies are at the forefront of sustainable IT. Such companies will help you every step of the way, building the business case and return on investment to help you and your business make the right choices for effective changes to your IT infrastructure.
• HR. Your staff are the DNA of your business, without them you wouldn’t have one. The right employment contracts and benefits aligned to the different roles and work styles in your business safeguard the wellbeing of all employees. Sustainability in the workplace is critical for employee motivation, retention and team morale and ensures you get the most out of your investment.
• Travel. The days of employee travel being seen as a perk are over. The majority of travel is completed on the same day meaning the employee is tired and not prepared for the next day. Ensuring employees only travel when absolutely necessary and ensuring video conferencing is on hand to connect with the world, helps keep carbon emissions low, costs down and - most importantly - employee performance up.
• Operating costs. Typically represent a large proportion of company turnover. All operating costs can be significantly reduced through better management and by just turning off the lights and computers at night can save companies more than 30 per cent on their energy bills. Regular benchmarking and negotiation of utilities and other running costs will ensure what you use will be competitive, ensuring your operating costs are as lean as possible.
The lists goes on, and as I see it, all business have the same sustainability challenges - it’s only that bigger companies have more to benefit from.
While you may believe that you have cracked sustainability, the truth is who really has? Sustainability has moving goal posts and needs to integrate with your everyday business processes and practices. As you continue to grow isn’t it time to take a step back, rally the sustainability champions and agree your plan of action to ensure 2014 is the start of a more sustainable, cost conscious growth trajectory for your business?
☛ Phil Machin is director at Bridge Procurement