At a time of extreme population growth, climate change and ever-dwindling resources, the need to care for our environment - and to act responsibly, mindfully and sustainably - is now greater than ever.
Most of us try to do this on a personal level. But businesses and corporations need to embrace the concept too if there’s any hope of successfully protecting the planet for future generations.
Perhaps I sound like I’m preaching, but sustainability is a topic that’s close to my heart.
Right back at the start when I founded Absolute Essential, I knew that environmental stewardship was key to long-term success, and my business goal has always been to contribute towards ‘making a positive and permanent difference in people's lives’.
Through the company’s on-going sustainable practice we’ve managed to do this - both locally and globally - from the farmers in developing countries where we source our ingredients, to the consumer using the finished product at home (so, a big thank you to you!).
You’ve probably heard, we’ve been the proud winners of NPNZ’s Sustainability Award for three years running, and winners of the inaugural Supreme Business Award for exemplary conduct as a professional sustainable business.
As we enter our 30th year in business, sustainability remains at the heart of all we do. Here are a few things we have learned along the way (perhaps you will gain inspiration from these ideas and be able to apply some of them to your own life).
It’s important to define your understanding of sustainability.
In our case it means:
· Maintaining and, if possible, enhancing people's quality of life
· Enhancing economic vitality - essential to sustainability
· Promoting social equality and mutual partnership
· Maintaining, and if possible, enhancing the quality of the environment
· Using a consensus-building, participatory process for decisions
It’s also important to identify your potential for action.
Once you have a clear idea of the principles you are striving to put into action, look at your business and all corners of its influence and impact. If you break everything down it becomes much easier to see where there is room for improvement and to work towards a more consistent effort.
Some examples of our sustainability in action include:
· Practicing collaborative, consensual management
· Investing in a healthy, energy-efficient working environment
· Upgrading recycled paper stock and environmentally friendly packaging
· Promoting non-paper communications via digital newsletters and catalogues
· Investing in organic/wild certification
· Planting trees on site and mulching paper waste
· Practicing efficient water consumption
· Using only eco-cleaning products and non-toxic pest control
· Implementing intelligent resource management and recycling for a no-waste policy
· Direct collaboration with suppliers to promote fair trade & environmental as well as social sustainability
· Employing locally to contribute to local economy and lower carbon imprint
· Investing in diversification for economic vitality
· Promoting sustainable health care with accessible education initiatives
It’s good to monitor your progress with measurable targets.
Evaluating your sustainability efforts in financial terms might seem tricky because it doesn't always involve hard figures that you can chart, but it is possible to outline each action with professional intent and follow-through.
Drucker siad "What gets measured gets done". Decide what your areas of action are and create realistic targets for improvement. So for example, if you would like to reduce the amount of ground-fill waste that your company produces and you currently produce 2 bags per week, you might decide to implement a recycling initiative over the course of a month, towards reducing to just 1 bag. Whatever your time frame, you can review your progress when you reach that projected marker.
Some facts to illustrate the impact of our sustainability plan include:
· Our NZ-grown company has evolved and stood fast for 30 years and has emerged as a leading brand in its field when 95% of small businesses are seen to fail
· We relocated from an urban office setting to create a protected natural environment around existing buildings renovated to eco-friendly specifications.
· We have established two areas of natural wetlands and over 325 trees and native plants on previously under-populated land
· We have increased by over 70% our offering of certifiably organic products in just five years
· We have upgraded to 100% recycled paper stock for packaging and eco-friendly, re-usable point of sale displays
I’ll finish with a quote from the NPNZ judges:
“Absolute Essential has done an outstanding job of supporting small ingredient producers in a fragile economy. This is a living and breathing ethically sustainable company that was our head and shoulders winner for NPNZ’s inaugural Supreme Award.”