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Businesses, it's time to step up: Sustainability isn't just about your Carbon Footprint...

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

When people talk about sustainability, they're typically referring to the 'greener' aspects of the topic. But whilst it's absolutely essential that organisations work hard to reduce their carbon footprints, reuse and recycle as much as possible, there are other equally important but less broadcasted sustainability fundamentals that businesses must also focus on in order to secure a sustainable future for our people and planet.

Although the United Nations (UN) has published 17 Sustainability Goals, covering a wide range of targets and measures, we tend to focus in on the greener 'headline acts', predominantly because:

  1. They're familiar - media coverage of climate change, for example, is extensive.

  2. The goals themselves were created for governments and public bodies, not businesses.

But that doesn't mean that businesses shouldn't take the time to familiarise themselves with the full range of UN Goals. They can then interpret the underlying principles and sentiments behind each one, and adapt their business practices to focus on supporting those goals they're most aligned to and feel able to deliver against.

Let's take an example. The aim of UN Sustainability Goal 8 is to "Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all." Breaking this statement down, some key themes can be extracted:

  • Employee, customer, partner and supplier inclusivity

  • Long term business viability and growth

  • Constructive and profitable employment

  • Meaningful and rewarding roles

These are all things that businesses can work towards with relative ease. More than that, they have a fundamental, vested interest in doing so. After all, what business doesn't seek economic growth or a happy, motivated workforce?

However, the key is to focus on sustainable practices rather than quick wins. A fast buck or a temporary pay rise won't necessarily make for a stable business. But when you paint a picture of a business with a meaningful vision and viable purpose, that includes its staff, customers, partners and suppliers in its journey, pays decent wages and supports employee wellbeing, you have a solid set of ingredients for maintaining longevity.

And that in turn provides the forward momentum for a sustainable future: innovatively and ethically evolving products and services to meet emerging needs, providing employment and prosperity, protecting health and wellbeing, and engendering purpose and spirit. It's the best kind of sustainability: one that benefits all...

Key takeaway: It's time to broaden the interpretation of 'sustainability' and open our eyes to the extensive array of factors that contribute to (or detract from) securing a sustainable world. Businesses must step up and place a magnifying glass over the full range of UN Sustainability Goals that need support in order to protect the long term future of our beautiful planet. Many of these goals will benefit businesses themselves as well as the wider world. Then it's time to choose, and act.

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