Why consider the environmental impact of your business? If you’ve been following our previous posts, you will know by now there are plenty of commercial advantages to acting sustainably and talking about it with your staff and customers.
It will make you stand out, save you money, use your resources more efficiently, help you attract customers and meet the supply chain requirements of large corporate and government agencies.
Ok, but why manage your environmental impact in a formalised way? Imagine trying to operate your business without a budget or financial plan. If your business is going to manage its environmental or sustainability performance, it too requires a plan.
These plans can come in a variety of forms and can be simple or complex. Larger companies tend to use what’s called an Environmental Management System (EMS), but a simple sustainability action plan is really all that is needed by most businesses.
The sustainability plan will do the heavy lifting for you. It will crystallise your thinking around your business’ environmental impact and it will carry you forward, ensuring you meet your goals and objectives.
Formalising your action plan helps you stay on track. It helps you clearly articulate your goals internally and allows you to present a credible document when applying for tenders and explaining your credentials to customers.
Managing your impact with a sustainability plan
At the core of any sustainability plan is an ethos. Fundamentally, a sustainable business strives to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Clarifying this as the core reason for having a sustainability plan before you embark upon writing your plan will reinforce the strength of your business’ will to carry it out.
A plan doesn’t need to be overly complicated or lengthy, but it should be designed so that environmental outcomes improve year on year. Your plan should cover the usual elements of any management system:
• Checking/Corrective Action
• Management Review
In creating your environmental plan, a useful place to start is to ask yourself these questions:
1. What do you want to get out of your efforts? Examples may include; saving money, attracting new customers, becoming a better environmental steward.
2. Who will champion your environmental efforts?
3. What opportunities or quick wins can you identify internally and within the external business environment?
4. How far are you willing to go and how sustainable can you feasibly be?
5. Where can you turn for support in creating a sustainability action plan?
Like any project your business undertakes, spending some time upfront planning and charting a course will save you time and headaches down the track and mean that you will more likely achieve your goals.
There are plenty of tools that can help you put together a sustainability action plan at little cost, but remember to start basic. The International Organisation for Standardisation offers a useful framework under ISO 14001, however such a rigorous system is most likely overkill for the average SME.
As always we’re very keen to hear from businesses that have implemented an EMS or sustainability action plan and gather their feedback. We’d love to hear from you about your initiatives and help you on the journey to become more sustainable.