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Decade for Action as Sustainability Climbs the Business Agenda

07 Sep 2020
2020 to 2030 is the most important ten years for us and our planet.

It is widely considered to be the most important period for tackling the climate emergency and biodiversity breakdown. If we take action now, we will do much to avert these unfolding crises and have a planet that is fit for us and our future generations.

Addressing members of the Institute of Directors in Wales at their weekly Wednesday @2pm webinar, I spoke about how, as we see our way out of the Covid-19 crisis, we remain in a number of social crises and a deep climate emergency. The Coronavirus pandemic has made clear how interconnected the world is, and its associated repercussions have shone a light on the domino effect that is activated when one element in this interconnected system is damaged. This crisis teaches us that we can’t go it alone in trying to solve difficult problems. It calls on all of us to come together with compassion and humility. The world is primed for transformation and we have an extraordinary opportunity to build a better way of living.

Business sustainability is often defined as managing the triple bottom line—a process by which firms manage their financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. These three impacts are sometimes referred to as people, planet and profits.

As Digital and Community Director of The Planet Mark, my passion lies in the intersection between sustainability, community and technology. As an ambassador for the Institute of Directors and Vice-Chair of the Young Directors Forum, I also understand how young people are the canary in the coal mine of cultural shift. They are your first warning of the change we will see in the coming decade.

Research carried out by the IoD shows that an overwhelming number of business leaders recognise climate change and its effect on the environment as one of the most significant challenges facing companies today. Indeed, upwards of 90% of IoD members are looking to take action on the topics surrounding sustainability in business, but many of them are at a loss for where to begin. Designing and launching ambitious climate initiatives might be financially realistic for a large corporate organisation, but it is often easier for SMEs or start-ups to begin the practical journey by changing working practices.

In fact, there are a number of easily actionable steps that you can take to ensure your business is doing its bit in the race against time to tackle the climate emergency. As a starting point, it is worth considering establishing a Sustainability Champions Programme within your organisation. Many companies are taking advantage of our toolkits as they provide the insight needed to get the ball rolling including hiring local to develop local skills, increase local spend and reduce the carbon footprint associated with commuting.

The opportunity for impact is huge when you embrace sustainability.

Embracing community-led principles, increasing social value and championing digital community efforts can and will make a big difference to the bottom line.

This is important because the millennials and the future generation of Alphas (those born from 2010 onwards) really do care about sustainability. They might only be ten years old now but from the moment they learned to speak they’ve been told that the planet is in peril, it is the fault of previous generations and surprisingly little has been done to meaningfully counteract it. There is an anger rising up from young people and they’re turning this into action. Businesses need to be aware of it right now because by 2030 it will be too late.

In just five years-time, millennials and Gen Z will represent 75% of the workforce. These future generations of young people are caring more and more about what organisations stand for; they want to understand your company purpose and identify positively with your business ethics. If you want to hire the best talent and if you want to maintain and build your customer base then you’re going to need an existing track record of sustainability, else they will not engage with you.

Sustainability is simultaneously the greatest risk and opportunity of our time. Responsible business practices have been consistently found to increase the bottom-line, deliver greater reputation, loyalty in the workforce and improved resiliency to change. There can be no doubt about the direction of travel. It’s simply good business.

Andrew Griffiths – Vice-Chair – IoD Young Directors Forum

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