Follow the money
Editorial, Feature, Green
July 28, 2019, 5:23 am
Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications & Marketing Services Director, Canon Middle East and Central and North Africa
Sustainability and climate change are two of today’s hottest topics. From Adidas selling 11 million pairs of shoes made from ocean plastic to IKEA pledging to phase out single-use plastic from its stores and restaurants by 2020, there is little doubt that a change in mindset is taking hold across the globe. But while the key drivers for sustainable products and lifestyles are often ethical or moral, there are also practical business reasons for adopting sustainable ways of working.
THINKING BIG, STARTING SMALL
Any change to how a business runs will invariably come at a cost. Sustainable practice is an investment like any other. But the cost doesn’t have to be insurmountable. For example, reducing waste is likely the simplest and most obvious method to begin engaging in sustainable practices – and it’s practically free. Since the 1990s, offices have been making inroads in this area. From collecting empty cans for recycling and changing out incandescent lights for LED bulbs to reducing the amount of waste paper created, businesses have been reworking or developing new processes that use fewer raw materials and waste less in the production of goods.
Some brands have taken this approach to impressive levels, like Deloitte’s Amsterdam building, The Edge. It is one of the most sustainably built office spaces in the world and it’s connected lighting system is so low energy that the LED lights can have their power needs met through ethernet cables.
Canon Middle East’s regional headquarters have also recently undergone a major upgrade based on Space Utilization Study and a Workplace Survey to make the space more efficient, smart, future proof and sustainable. For instance, by upgrading the ceiling with perforated gypsum ceiling tiles, noise reverberation was reduced, and it also provided a passive constant cleaning of the air circulation to enhances the indoor air quality. Live biophilia was also added to actively clean the air in the space and the modular lights were replaced with high performance LED panels for very low power consumption.
Of course, investing in a building or office space like these is not necessarily going to be the end goal of every company: despite the fact that it would no doubt prove a return on investment within a number of years. But this is not just about investment – it’s also about protection. By stepping up sustainability, organisations not only save money in energy and storage bills, they also future proof their business. Investing in sustainable practices ensures that companies remain ahead of changing regulations before they come into force. For example, the United Arab Emirates as part of its Visions 2021 is looking to increase its target for power generation from clean energy to 30% by 2030 and aims to produce 25% to 30% of its electricity requirement from both nuclear and solar energy. Similarly Saudi Arabia announced a decree requesting organisations to meet the air, water, and noise pollution standards approved by the nation’s Council of Ministers. Adapting an office space can help organisations abide by regulations and avoid paying fines which, aside from being costly, could also damage a brand’s standing with today’s increasingly environmentally conscious consumers.
DO IT FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS
Indeed, sustainability seems to be one of the hot issues that is having a strong impact on business bottom lines. 87% of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase a product because the company advocated for an issue they cared about, while more than three quarters (76%) would refuse to buy a product if they found out a company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs. Consumers already actively prefer to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. Organisations must think about their sustainable practices if they want to harness the benefits of this trend.
For example, Fine Fare Food Market which operates Spinney’s and Waitrose supermarkets conducted a plastic bag charge trial and saw a 75% decrease in single-use plastic use and a rise in the purchase of reusable bags to more than 5,700 only two-weeks into the trial period up from 60 bags. The company also offered customers to deposit their used plastic bags for other customers to use to further limit the number of plastic bags. Customer feedback was extremely positive after the trial with nearly 60%, saying that they support the initiative due to the impact of plastic on the planet.
It is not just retailers who stand to benefit, but industries who are not typically associated with environmental sustainability. The Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC) has implemented several initiatives to transform the oil and gas industry into a more sustainable practice. By introducing biodiesel fuel, electric charging stations at its newer fuel stations, installing Photovoltaic (PV) solar power solutions in all future stations, vapor recovery solutions RFID system for refuelling, and 15 other innovative and sustainable technologies rolled-out at ENOC’s smart stations. ENOC has achieved Dhs45m ($12.2m) of savings through energy efficiency and resource management initiatives, and very close to achieving a return on the Dhs55m ($14.97m) invested between 2014 and 2018 toward sustainable practices.
Sustainable practice has been shown to affect talent acquisition and hiring too. Research has found that improved brand image makes it easier to attract new employees to a business. 76% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work and 75% would stay for less money, if they worked for a socially responsible company. This kind of retention is a cornerstone of success and healthy work culture, and the cultivation of engaged and passionate employees protects the longevity of an organisation while driving it toward future success.
Sustainability drives purpose and passion. Deloitte found that 73% of employees who feel that they work for a purpose-driven company said that they are engaged with their job. People want to be part of something good and something bigger than themselves. They want to feel great about what they do every day. When employees are fully engaged, they give more, and the company gets more. This serves to emphasise why incorporating sustainability into a business can prove so effective in the long run.
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
According to the recent Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) report, Arab Environment In 10 Years, the region account for more than 5% of the world’s population, yet we only have 1% of the global water resources. It is projected that by 2030, the effects of climate change will have reduced renewable water resources by 20 percent. Figures like these are driving the momentum for change in society’s attitude toward sustainability and businesses need to do their part.
Companies which feel sustainability is something they are required to do to keep the board happy are missing out on an opportunity to be a part of a generational change in mindset. Customers, employees and even investors are all keen to interact with brands that reflect their environmentally friendly goals in a positive way. This opens a door not just for new businesses looking to enter the market, but also offers more established organisations a chance to rethink their position and update their strategy to make it more relevant to their target market. In both cases, the end result is a healthier bottom line.
Businesses just need to keep in mind that customers want more than words, they want to see real momentum towards a more environmentally friendly future. To make certain adopting sustainability is a success, organisations need to ensure it is included at the start of any new processes and that commitments are followed through. With that in mind, a mountain of opportunity for growth is out there for businesses to tap into.