Part 9/13 of the Business Sustainability in Nigeria Series with Adiya Atuluku and Jennifer Uchendu

While organizations are encouraged to strive to become as sustainable as possible in their business, achieving 100% sustainability may not be something that exists in our current world. It’s almost like World Peace – we aspire to it, but we may never get there 100%.

The 2015 Forbes list of The Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations revealed that even the most sustainable companies in the world achieved total scores ranging between 73.5% – 70%. This makes sense because varying business models must work out their own sustainability strategy as there is no one size fits all in business sustainability.

While a company may not necessarily be able claim 100% Business Sustainability, there are a couple of susty features they could excel at. We discuss some of them below:

Powered by 100% Renewable Energy
Now this is one feat that is not particularly easy for most companies to do, especially in Africa. It takes strong will, a large chunk of company budget and determination by the management to decide to undertake an ambitious goal like this. Usually, most companies set out with targets of 50% like Facebook, 70% before attaining the 100% mark, for example the Solar Powered South African airport. Another option would be to use equipment that are powered by renewable energy like this Solar Printer. Worthy of note is that the world’s most sustainable company Biogen is also powered by 100% Renewables.

Go 100% Paperless
Some organisations have decided not to use papers at all in their operations, which could work for them depending on the nature of their business. The least we can do in Nigerian companies is to reduce and recycle our paper waste as low as possible, because reducing paper usage to the barest minimum goes a long way to have their susty game well mapped out. For example, Diamond bank has a commitment to reduce their paper usage to 50%. A great example is Overture, which has a commitment to reduce their paper usage to low as 90%. It was interesting to find out that companies recruit IBM to help them with this sort of target.

Empower More Women
Because it is not always the norm to find more women in an organisation, an organisation can pick up this target and decide to run with it. Globally ranked sustainability company Unilever has a goal to increase opportunities for women for the advancement of women’s rights and economic inclusion as part of its Sustainable Living Plan.

Have a Green Value Chain
Some companies are taking a big-picture approach by examining every step of their product lifecycle and applying green supply chain management practices across the board by ensuring that their raw materials are environmentally responsible and the business and payment plan is ethical and commendable. A great example for this is what StarBucks is doing.

Essentially, the least you can do is start and work on several aspects of your business. Perhaps all together, one day, these several aspects may add up to 100% sustainability. We can only hope and work towards it.

Below, we discuss key principles that some of the world’s most sustainable companies have applied to achieve their global ranks as they work towards 100% sustainability, and how your company can be amongst these top league.

 They are transparent
The first step to achieving a high sustainability ranking should be transparency, a highly critical asset that companies must strive to achieve. They must do this by communicating targets broadly and honestly; reporting both progress and failures on meeting these targets. This means that if a company fails to achieve a sustainable target, it is good practice to also report it.

They collaborate with other companies (even competitors)
A company’s biggest test of business sustainability would be having to look beyond profits and being open to collaborations with other company on sustainability projects for the good of humanity or the environment. A perfect example is seen with McDonalds’ quest to source sustainable beef and how they worked with other organisations and members of the entire beef value chain to develop the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef.

In some cases, companies are collaborating with competitors to address specific problems. Refrigerants Naturally brings together Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Red Bull and Unilever in an alliance with Greenpeace and UNEP to develop more sustainable refrigeration technologies.

Even companies from varying sectors have found synergies to work together as in GSK and Barclay’s partnership to provide financing for medicines in low-income African markets.

They possess an excellent Employee Engagement strategy
Sustainable companies are much more likely than traditional ones to have a clear strategy for engaging employees (72% vs. 30% of traditional companies), their plans to carry their employees along in their sustainability vision is a lot more clearer and connected. They identify the employee’s’ role and how sustainability helps them achieve greater success via a seamless communication process. This goes a long way to help these sustainable companies. Top sustainable company and the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev did this perfectly by incorporating sustainability-related goals into individual employee goals. Also, Nigerian organisation Recycle Points does this via their green tricycle idea for waste collectors and safety policies in their recycling hubs – every staff member is conscious of increasing environmental impacts.

They are trustworthy
Trust is achievable when people perceive that they are part of a collective effort to deliver value to stakeholders in a way that contributes to a better and stable people and planet. Only then can work become more meaningful, and people become more engaged and productive. Body Shop is one brand that has won customer’s trust for years due to their consistency in claims.

In all of this, we have seen that very sustainable companies do a lot of things differently to achieve their sustainability rankings. Organisations can decide what they want to be remembered for and run with the vision towards 100% business sustainability. Also, with the SDGs in place now, more organisations can adopt one or two SDGs and drive its advocacy and implementation internally and externally. Now although, there is ‘’no one size fits all rule’’ in attaining business sustainability, there are however some vanguards that businesses need to adhere to, we get to discuss them in the next post.

About the Authors:
Adiya Atuluku is passionate about helping businesses be more sustainable, and she uses her experiences in both environmental and management consulting to achieve this. She is also a believer in the role of technology and good project management in helping achieve sustainability strategies.
Jennifer Uchendu is the founder of SustyVibes and a sustainability analyst with experience working on and pioneering projects for sustainability in indigenous and multi-national organisations in Nigeria, she has a passion for helping businesses practice sustainability in the ways that best fit their size, operations and budget.