Thoughts expressed Entrepreneur their contributors.
Terms like “sustainable development”, “ESG” and “socially conscious” have become quite popular corporate buzzwords. However, if you’re tempted to just check the box, think again.
A genuine commitment to sustainability can pay off in many ways—not to mention maintaining trust, because a lack of integrity when it comes to sustainability threatens your relationships with both employees and customers.
Here’s what I learned by embedding this value deeply into our business strategy.
Related: What you can learn from developing a sustainable entrepreneurship
Doing the right thing is good for business
Over the past few decades, awareness of green practices and products has grown dramatically. Whether it’s changing generational expectations, the climate crisis or other motivating factors, consumers value brands that prioritize sustainability. A quick look at the numbers: When given the choice, 32% of millennials would choose a green option over a non-sustainable one, and 47% of companies said that sustainability had an impact on their hiring and retention. And investors get it too: 90% of investors said they pay attention to how stable a business is.
How to implement it:
- Start with something. Whether it’s recycling and offering reusable water bottles in the office or creating formal DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) or ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) committees, efforts big and small make a difference. The intention of the contribution is the most important thing. Do not be intimidated by the task at hand and focus on what is feasible and meaningful for you.
- Keep it up. Resilience isn’t a one-time initiative—it’s a muscle that needs constant training to become part of your strategy and operations. Like any other initiative, it should have goals and be reviewed at regular intervals to identify areas for improvement and build on your progress.
- Think bigger. When this muscle becomes strong, try it creatively to increase your values. For example, for each new client we plant a tree. It’s a simple way to do your part while building on what life really means: caring about a future beyond yourself.
By topic: how to turn sustainability into a brand and business strength
Sustainable development is a business way of thinking
The concept of sustainable development goes far beyond ESG. It is a method of growth and a way of thinking that can change the way a company develops strategy and operates.
The temptation to think short-term—how to hit a goal this month, how to put out fires with temporary band-aids—is too great in startup culture. Adopting a sustainable mindset means evaluating the long-term impact of short-term decisions, as well as investing in future growth without expecting short-term returns. Ultimately, the two come together: Yesterday’s investment becomes today’s harvest as you continue to plan for tomorrow.
How to implement it:
- Prove your premise first. Insurance is a game of risk. If you grow before you get your underwriting right, you will grow out of business. We’ve spent years building, testing and refining our risk models to provide a solid foundation for growth.
- Maintain a healthy unit economy. In this market, it’s no secret that most growing companies have focused on unit economics. But in Silicon Valley, the pendulum tends to swing back and forth between focusing on strong fundamentals and driving growth at all costs. Adopting a sustainable mindset helps you stay focused and disciplined as you strive to build a truly disruptive, sustainable business.
- Reevaluate and improve your organization every +50 employees. Growth is important, but scaling properly allows for mission and employee investment. It’s important to reassess how your organization works approximately every 50+ employees to ensure processes and teams are structured to maximize effective collaboration and decision-making.
Related: Are Your Company’s Sustainability Efforts Failing? Here’s what might be getting in the way of your success.
Sustainable development is part of your mission
Everything stems from the company’s mission. So if you make sustainability a part of your mission, you will automatically build its virtues into your DNA.
So my advice is to really look at your mission and understand how sustainable development naturally fits into it. I would go further and say that anyone running a company in this century has a responsibility to do so. Climate change is not a problem of the future; it’s here, now. According to NASA, the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels, extreme heat and catastrophic weather events, are becoming more common.
If your industry’s connection to sustainability seems more indirect, ask yourself how to connect it to your company’s values and product offering in a truly authentic way. Success stories abound, from outdoor gear—with Patagonia’s 1% for the Planet pledge and its CEO’s recent commitment to fighting climate change—to makeup, like Thrive Causemetics’ commitment to using cruelty-free ingredients.
Ultimately, it’s an exercise in identifying and living up to your values—while doing good.