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Big Business Sustainability and Small Business Lessons

In my continued pursuit of nuggets of good news, this week I’m focusing on three very different examples of big business sustainability taking positive strides, and looking at the lessons small businesses can take from them.

First up is Unilever, the consumer goods giant that makes everything from ice cream to laundry detergent. A fascinating report in The Economist explains that Unilever’s sustainability goals are far reaching, encompassing “not just environmental factors, but improving the lot of customers and workers – its own and those in its supply chain. It also aims to contribute to society as a whole.” This increasingly holistic approach to sustainability is hugely encouraging. It is a recognition that even though a behemoth like Unilever can’t succeed alone, it can still draw on its ample resources to collectively drive change. One lesson that we can all take from the Unilever example is the way in which they encourage employees at every level to contribute ideas to help achieve their sustainability targets. A fund named “Small Actions, Big Difference” has been created to support ideas that come in from every business unit, its name alone a reminder that no positive action is too small.

Continuing the theme of the benefits of a more integrated approach, I was interested to read the surprising reaction of a CEO of a life sciences company who missed out on his full bonus last year when his company missed its sustainability targets – he didn’t complain. Instead he saw it as absolute confirmation that his company is serious about sustainability and viewed it as an opportunity to apply renewed vigor to achieving future sustainability targets. Keeping the link between sustainability and economics front and center is key, and establishing a bonus-led element is something businesses of any size can do.

Finally, another giant in the consumer goods industry, Kelloggs has announced its decision to step up its sustainability efforts. As with Unilever, Kelloggs is looking beyond the confines of its own company to the supply chain and will ask its farm suppliers to “publicly disclose their greenhouse gas outputs and targets for reducing them.” It has also set targets to responsibly source its top ingredients, including the controversial palm oil. Setting targets and being transparent is the first step to achieving sustainability goals, as is having the framework to properly qualify potential suppliers. This openness may initially feel challenging but holding oneself publicly accountable is surprisingly motivating and sharing goals with each staff member makes it much easier for everyone to contribute more fully.

As ever, it would be great to hear any great sustainability innovations your company has implemented. Please don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

Until next time!

 

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