Sustainability: Green revolution

Sustainability means more than corporate responsibility; it is now a bottom line issue that big business needs to integrate into its strategy. Adrian Kirby offers expert advice on how to maximise your returns by leading the green revolution.


The green issue is at the forefront of both the corporate and public mind. Big business has recognized the importance and commercial expediency of sustainable business practices. Green strategies now feature in boardroom discussions across the world.

It is natural that sustainability is now a core part of the political agenda. This is unsurprising given the very real issues and cost implications of climate change. The public is rightfully concerned; if it doesn’t affect you now it will almost certainly impact on your children or grandchildren’s lives.

Corporate society has a moral imperative and commercial obligation to bring about change. Not only is sustainability an issue of corporate responsibility, it is also in the interest of big business to integrate it into its strategy. Governments should be doing far more to assist and encourage the process. They should introduce corporate tax incentives for businesses that actually embrace sustainable practices.

If you don’t have a truly sustainable environmental policy this will affect your corporate reputation and ultimately impact on the company’s performance. Sustainability can increase the efficiency of your business by streamlining the process from start to finish.

The following are some direct actions that will help you to ‘green’ your business while still maintaining your bottom line.

Review your environmental policy
Compile a thorough audit of all your business activity from start to finish, to understand what changes need to be made. Analyse all aspects of your business including the partners you do business with. Start a consultation with your partners and customers—their feedback could be a great source of ideas to improve the overall sustainability of your business. Undertake a similar audit annually to ensure that you keep on top of developing issues. Keep in touch with the technological advancements that can address these issues.

Source locally
Review your transport arrangements and adhere to the proximity principle. This means selling what you produce as close to the point of production as possible. By using local business suppliers where possible, you can significantly save on transport costs and reduce resources. If you source from abroad you should look into finding partners within closer proximity of your business hub.

Look at more sustainable resources
Alternative energy sources should be an essential part of any business strategy and not just used because of the environmental argument. Any successful business should be looking to the future, ensuring that its success will be sustainable in the long term. As non-renewable energy will run out, or become very expensive, it is important to think about how your business will run using other forms of energy. Look at solar installations and ask your provider to assist in helping you manage your energy footprint. Determine what proportion of renewable energy is provided and don’t be afraid to consider changing to greener providers. 

Reduce waste
Reduce your waste to improve the overall efficiency of your business. Waste disposal is often viewed by businesses as an extra ‘overhead’ cost but it is important to readjust this attitude and see waste disposal as part of the bigger picture. Develop a strategy that cuts operational costs at all levels of the business and you will make big savings. Explore whether any of the remaining waste can be reused as a resource internally, or sold on to other industries at a price. A professional waste minimisation officer can be a worthwhile investment for this.

Social marketing
Move with the times and think digitally in terms of your marketing strategy. Use social media and online banner advertising, as these are very cost-efficient channels of communication. They cut costs in two ways. There is no physical deliverable from digital marketing, so fewer resources are used and there is minimal waste to dispose of. Also, digital marketing is usually less labour-intensive—reducing man-hours will always significantly reduce costs.

Review your transport arrangements
Do you really need to attend that meeting in person? Reassess your company’s working calendar. If there are some meetings that don’t necessarily require that personal touch, it might be that you can use telephone or video conferencing instead. This saves resources not only in the obvious way of cutting travel costs but it is also very timesaving.

Streamline manufacturing
Integrate the green agenda into your overall business plan and streamline the manufacturing process. If you take fewer steps to reach the end product, you will save considerable energy and money. A sustainable approach like this will also ensure your business complies with new environmental regulations. There is even some government funding for businesses that want to initiate green strategies.

Don’t rule out the small changes
The small changes can make a real difference when they are multiplied across your whole business. This can be anything from cutting down on paper, to switching office lights off at night, or a combination of various small green moves. If you implement this across the board, you will see a significant reduction in the cost of resources overall. Big business can usually withstand larger green moves also. These could range from rewarding staff for making environmentally friendly choices in the workplace to only buying hybrid vehicles for any new company cars. The long term ROI justifies making large-scale sustainable changes such as these.

Lead from the front
As a figure of authority within your business, set an example. Make green lifestyle choices in your personal life. In your work life, make sure that you lead the way in adhering to any green policies that are being implemented across the board. This could mean cutting transport overheads or driving a hybrid car. Be a true leader and be one of the first to make the change.

Seek help from your government
Sustainability is officially on the mainstream political agenda. Worldwide meet-ups, such as the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009, are a clear signifier of this shift in attitude. Governments are gradually acknowledging the fact that they can’t make significant environmental changes without nurturing big business as a partner. It is worth researching whether your government offers any support or rewards for your green initiatives.

Sell yourself as a ‘green’ business
Employ your new, greener credentials as part of your overall marketing strategy. Environmental issues are a key topic in the media currently. As a result, many consumers would choose a ‘green’ company over a less environmentally aware competitor. By marketing your business as a green and sustainable choice, you can broaden your customer base. Positive sentiment towards your business is key in a world where customers are becoming increasingly aware of corporate responsibility.

The message is clear; embracing green strategy is not just good for the environment, it is good for your bottom line. Ensure your business is not seen as the dinosaur that ignored the green issue. A good corporate reputation is paramount to success.


Adrian Kirby is one of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs with a passion for property, the environment and investment. Adrian’s most recent venture is a private equity investments firm that invests in struggling SMEs. Ravensbourne sets itself apart from other similar companies because Adrian shares his wealth of business expertise as well as financial investment.