Here’s why sustainability is simply good business

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important in consumers’ purchase decisions. A handful of recent surveys show just how far sustainability concerns have ascended in consumer’s consciousness:

The Global Sustainability Study 2021 conducted by global strategy and pricing consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners revealed that, globally, 85% of people indicated they have shifted their purchase behaviour towards being more sustainable over the past five years.

Shopify’s ‘The Future of Commerce in 2022’ publication reported that consumers were 4x more likely to purchase from a company with strong brand values, and 77% of consumers were concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy.

• Here in Canada, the recent EY Future Consumer Index found that 31% of survey respondents are now willing to spend more on products that are sustainable and better for the environment, with an additional 64% prepared to adjust their behaviour and practices if it results in societal improvements.

The list of survey results could go on but the volume of data is already loud enough: consumers are paying more attention to the environment and are willing to actively support products that they perceive as socially responsible. There are a number of good reasons for businesses to pay attention to these survey results and get introspective about their business practices. Here are some of the reasons why sustainability is an important foundation for business:

Ensures economic sustainability

The ripple effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be felt for years, if not decades. Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB),
estimates that close to 100,000 Canadian businesses have shut down due to the pandemic over the past two years. We now know that the business landscape we operate in could again change at any moment: economic sustainability is not guaranteed. Given the increasing importance consumers are placing on sustainability, a sustainable business model could offer an extra layer of insurance the next time an unexpected disaster strikes.

Ensures social sustainability

Sustainably encompasses much more than just environmental responsibility. If you refer to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Agenda, you’ll see there are many social objectives built into the organization’s 17 sustainable development goals: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, and peace, justice and strong institutions. There are many ways for businesses to get involved in social sustainability at local, national and international levels.

Ensures environmental sustainability

Natural resources are depleting rapidly in both quantity and quality. In order for the business community to optimize operations, it’s vital to participate in a circular economy that maximizes the use of natural resources while conserving and improving quality of life. Taking those extra steps promotes a cleaner and greener environment today while enabling future generations to enjoy a similar quality of life while meeting their own resource and environmental needs.

Ensures a competitive advantage

Through genuine sustainable practices and goals, businesses can improve their brand perception, develop deeper trust with customers and make a positive impact on their local community by demonstrating respect for environmental and social considerations. In the long term, a sustainable business strategy may also provide greater opportunities to attract capital and human resources, and expand into new markets.

Many highly successful, multinational brands have clearly seen the benefits of adopting sustainable business practices. Nike is aiming to use 100% renewable energy by 2025. SAP Canada aims to be carbon neutral by 2023 and has created a “green” cloud powered by 100-per-cent renewable electricity to help its customers reduce their own operational carbon emissions. IKEA Canada’s ambition is to be a fully circular and climate positive business by 2030.

At MHz, we’ve had a number of clients embrace sustainability and have enjoyed great success in helping them communicate their positive impact on the environment and communities over the years. For the Canadian arm of a globally recognized arts and crafts company, we’ve helped them communicate a variety of sustainability initiatives such as their use of coloured pencils manufactured with wood from well-managed forests, and their construction of a 30,000 square foot community garden in Lindsay, Ontario. We also work with a Canadian packaging solutions manufacturer that makes no secret about wanting to be the most sustainable packaging firm in North America. If every company was engaged in such an ambitious race to the top, our planet would be the biggest winner of all.

The takeaway

Marketing your sustainable endeavours is quickly moving from a luxury to a necessity. Consumers clearly want to know that the businesses they support align with their values. If you’ve adopted any sustainable business practices lately and haven’t shared the great news, contact us to discuss the ideal way to get your message out there. If you’d like to add a sustainability pillar to your core values and need help getting started, we can make strategic recommendations on how to start and how to let your audience know change is on the way. Whatever your unique business case, it’s important to communicate your sustainability efforts as soon as possible to nurture the future health of your business and our planet.

Angelo Perri

Angelo Perri is the founder and CEO of MHZ Design Communications, a customer engagement agency located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Connect on Linkedin.