24 May 18

Sustainability takes centre stage as businesses build for the future

Sustainability takes centre stage as businesses build for the future

Since we founded State of Flux in 2004, global temperatures have risen, on average, by nearly half a degree centigrade. It doesn’t sound like much, but that’s just the average. Anyone out in the UK’s recent record-breaking May bank holiday temperatures might get a sense of the likely impact of climate change on the weather.

Our company started small and grew quickly. We hope to build a business that lasts. All companies do. Some of our clients are global firms which have been around, in one form or another, for more than 100 years. They may well be around for another 100 years, who knows. But what will the world be like?

When people talk about sustainable business, they tend to focus on just a few things: businesses should seek to minimise carbon emissions and other forms of environment damage. They should also consider ethical business practices, human rights and working conditions. Sustainability means all these things, but there is second definition.

Businesses that want to thrive and grow in the 21st century need to ask themselves: will the business be able to sustain itself in the years to come? What do we need from customers, suppliers, governments, and the third sector? Ultimately, what do all these groups need from the natural environment to stand a chance of thriving in a hundred years’ time.

Think like that, and you capture both definitions. Our ability to sustain our businesses in the long term will depend on whether we can ensure the health of the planet and a sense of economic and social balance. We’re not just saying this because it is the right thing to do, although it is. We’re saying it because this is what will drive business in the coming years.

All supply chains end with consumers, and through social media and the democratisation of information, they are driving change across the business world. As start-ups and internet-native companies enter all markets, consumers have more choice than ever before and can instantly compare firms on price, quality, environmental impact, product provenance and social responsibility.  

In response, businesses need to consider sustainability in its broadest meaning. Never has there been more interest in where products come from, what they contain, how they affect the environment and the conditions of the people who make them. The same goes for services. Any slip-ups or shocking news can go viral in an instant, devastating brand reputation and share price. People increasingly choose to buy from, and work with, brands which represent them, reflecting their life- style, values and ethos. Sustainability is not a nice to have: it’s a competitive advantage.

And sustainability means managing the supply chain. That’s where most of your carbon emission will come from, it is where most of your environmental impact will be, it’s the place you’re most likely to find poor working conditions and ethical malpractice.  The only way to do sustainability is with your suppliers on board, and you can’t get them on board if you don’t understand your relationship with them.

Which brings us to SRM. Too often it is seen as a procurement activity. Businesses who do so will not reap the full value. If you want your business to be successful, and sustainable, in the long term, you’ll need another approach to SRM.

In our 2018 SRM survey, we’ll be asking about these issues. Take part in the research and get early access to your results

Complete the survey