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September 25, 2019updated 15 Aug 2022 12:11pm

Sustainability strategy: a new way to stand out from the crowd

By Asena Degirmenci

Focusing on sustainability credentials is one of the best ways to increase a business’s public profile. Even relatively simple measures can go a long way, writes Jason Skidmore, chief commercial officer at 3 Step IT.

From an outside perspective, it is hard to tell many companies apart within their particular sector.

If I visit the website of a top UK financial services company, I see similar terminology, similar people and similar qualifications. They all have strong testimonials, and they all show off award wins from organisations I have never heard of.

If there is bland similarity, then a little distinction would go a long way when a financial services organisation is competing for business. Here are three reasons why focusing on sustainability credentials is one of the best ways to get ahead of the pack.

Firstly, sustainability is moving from a nice-to-have to a must-have. As of 2016, companies in the UK with more than 500 employees have a legal requirement to report on their sustainability. This scrutiny filters down to suppliers – if they are not sustainable, then neither is the buyer.

This means clients across the UK private and public finance sector are growing sensitive to the environmental impact. Organisations, therefore, need strong sustainability credentials to match. And the picture is no different outside the UK. Similar – often stricter – regulation is now in force across Europe. Sweden, for example, requires more specific reporting from companies with more than 250 employees.

Secondly, sustainability is rarely a burden. Unlike client hospitality, it is not expensive to save energy, or spend less on travel by leveraging remote meetings. Making sure the lights are switched off after work is much simpler to implement, and may be more significant to your clients than you realise.

Promoting sustainable practices can have a great effect on employee engagement. Knowing that an employer not only demonstrates an environmentally friendly approach in the office, and enforces it throughout its supply chain, will contribute to employee retention and acquisition; it can also help to enhance the company’s wider reputation.

Thirdly, time is of the essence if you aim to differentiate yourself. When clients assess your credentials, it is not enough to give a new, bespoke response. Assessment frameworks like Ecovadis factor in the longevity of sustainability governance and implementation. Your competitors are probably already getting in shape.

It should be clear that even the most environmentally detached CEO has good incentive to focus on sustainability, and take action right away. To begin with, there are the quick wins. Replacing disposable cups with glasses and swapping rubbish bins with recycling bins are straightforward ways to reduce waste. Switching the lights off, making sure air conditioning is not blocked, turning down heating rather than opening windows: these are straightforward ways to lower your office energy bill. You can implement simple, standalone practices like these within weeks.

After a few quick wins, you probably need a sustainability policy and a consistent focus. More sustainable use of IT is a good example. Normally, an office laptop is manufactured, shipped, used until it becomes too slow to be fit for purpose, then recycled, or perhaps thrown away.

A new laptop can cost half a ton of CO2e to manufacture – that is equivalent to producing around 6,000 500ml plastic bottles. Increasing the amount of IT that gets reused, rather than recycled, could be the most impactful piece of your sustainability policy.

In the circular economy, your old office laptop is removed, refurbished and resold for a second life. Creating your own infrastructure to handle this is impractical, and IT lifecycle specialists can help. They can make your IT more sustainable and reduce your costs, as you get a share of the equipment value they preserve.

Building circular economy and sustainability criteria into supplier evaluations can be a straightforward next step in your own sustainability policy.

In this example, IT lifecycle service providers with a circular economy approach remove the complexity and security challenges of reducing e-waste. When your firm needs to prove its environmental credentials, it ticks all the boxes.

by Jason Skidmore

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