Being sustainable is about making positive changes in your business for the planet and people around you. It helps you stay resilient and meet the growing demand for products and services that do no harm. The free business.gov.au checklist guides you through some steps you can take towards sustainability.
Plan for sustainability
Sustainability isn’t something done just once. It’s a commitment to continue improving over time. As with any changes to a business, it’s good to plan ahead.
Developing a sustainability action plan helps you:
* Understand how sustainable your business is now
* Set achievable objectives and targets so you know where you’re going
* Evaluate different actions you can take that work for you
* Develop policies to support you – for example, to communicate new rules for energy use to employees, and
* Develop a statement about progress to share with people.
It can be a simple document, as long as it’s specific and clear, and it should be updated it at least once a year.
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Greenhouse gas emissions harm the climate. Once you know where your emissions come from, you can find ways reduce them. The main source of emissions for businesses tends to be burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transport.
Identify your emissions by calculating:
* Direct emissions from your business that are within your control – for example, the gas for your hot-water system or the fuel for your vehicle
* Indirect emissions from your business such as the energy you buy from the grid, and
* Indirect emissions your customers and supply chain generate – for example, external laundry providers or produce transporters.
Assess sustainability risks
Risk assessment is about looking at what might harm your business and prevent you from achieving your goals.
A holistic assessment looks at risks that relate to sustainability including:
* Global environmental and social challenges
* Your impact on the environment and society
* What happens if you don’t try to be sustainable, and
* Challenges you face in being sustainable.
Reassess risks and review your plan to minimise them at least once a year.
Manage your energy, water and waste
There are ways to use energy and water and deal with waste that save money while protecting the environment. Consider small steps you can take now and bigger changes you can make over time.
Choose suppliers carefully
If you’re not sure how sustainable your supply chain is, you might support unsustainable practices without meaning to. It also puts you at risk of misrepresenting your sustainability, which can cost a big fine and damage your brand.
Ask suppliers what they’re doing to be sustainable. Depending on their responses, you may want to:
* Find opportunities to work with them more as your values align
* Support them to improve their sustainability – for example, by developing sustainable packaging in exchange for more business, and
* Find alternative suppliers that better align with your values.
Be a fair and inclusive employer
A sustainable business cares for the people it employs by:
* Honouring their pay, leave and entitlements
* Protecting them from bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment
* Creating a healthy work environment – for example with good ventilation, natural lighting and ergonomic furniture
* Following rules for work health and safety, and
* Supporting equal opportunity and diversity.
Sustainability is a team effort. Beyond creating fair work conditions, a sustainable business also brings its employees on the journey.
Explain to your team why sustainability is important and what you need them to do. Consider creating a new role to drive sustainability, such as a chief sustainability officer or sustainability manager. If it’s a voluntary role on top of someone’s current role, make sure you give them enough time to do what they need to do.
Support your local community
You can create positive social change beyond the products and services you offer. Social sustainability is about making sure communities can exist in a healthy, fair and equal way. It can start with your business supporting your local community.
Some things you can do for your community include:
* Boosting the local economy by employing people and suppliers in your area, and
* Contributing to causes such as conservation, cultural or sporting groups.
Support doesn’t need to be financial – you can volunteer your time or services too.
Build your sustainability credentials
Sustainability standards and certifications are voluntary guidelines you can follow. They help show people you have good environmental and social practices.
There are many different ones to choose from, so do your research first. You may need to pay a fee, but it can be a good investment for your brand.
Get help and support
Sustainability looks different for each business. You can reach out to other businesses to ask what they do and see if they can give you some ideas. For guidance specific to your business you could start by logging on to business.gov.au.