The term ‘green business’ gets banded around a lot, but what do we actually mean by it and how can you measure how green your business is?
Clean. Green. Sustainable.
We hear these words used a lot nowadays to describe certain industry sectors, technologies and even businesses, but they’re actually pretty loosely defined.
In some cases, they’re used as a part of an attempt to cast a business or its operations in a better light or simply to try and create an impression of superiority among environmentally-conscious consumers – what we call ‘greenwashing‘; in other cases, businesses use them in a genuine effort to articulate a purpose beyond profit.
It goes without saying that for them to be meaningful, they have to have, er, meaning. But that meaning is context-specific and in order to be measurable, it needs to be assessed against some sort of scale.
Take cars as a good example of how context makes a big difference: diesel cars produce lower CO2 emissions than their petrol equivalents, and so if you’re making comparisons based on climate impacts, you might say that diesel cars are the cleaner choice. However, if you’re concerned with local air pollution, you’d have to rate petrol cars as the cleaner of the two because they produce less NO2 and lower levels of harmful particulates.
When it comes to evaluating whether aÂ business is or isn’t a green business, context is really important and it isn’t limited to any single measure – you have to judge it holistically taking into account a range of factors and performance across them all.
The unique maturity model we use as part of our Sustainability and CSR Performance Review does exactly that. It considers up to 30 separate indicators, codifying performance across them all as either Beginning, Improving, Succeeding or Leading.
Why not take a few minutes to consider Â how clean, green and sustainable your business is according to the following:
Energy and Climate
Do you monitor consumption
Do you actively look to reduce energy use
Do you measure your carbon footprint
Do you educate and empower your colleagues to save energy
Do you have someone with overall responsibility for energy management
Do you generate any of your own power with renewables
If you’re being brutally honest, would you describe your Energy and Climate performance as Beginning, Improving, Succeeding or Leading right now? Would you say you’re a green business?
Procurement and Supply Chain
Do sustainability factors feature in your procurement decisions
Do you have sustainable procurement policies
Do you encourage local sourcing
Do you pay on time and in full
Do you support suppliers in improving their performance
Do sustainability metrics feature in procurement targets
What about the way you manage Procurement and Supply Chain issues – Beginning, Improving, Succeeding or Leading?
It’s by asking questions like this that we’re able to build a picture of environmental performance across a business or business unit.
As you can see, there’s some overlap even just between these two topics – so, for instance, if when negotiating energy supply contracts, you decide not just on cost but also on the percentage of energy obtained from low-carbon and renewable sources, it’s a clear example of sustainability factors featuring in your procurement decisions. At the same time, by buying lower carbon energy, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint.
It’s because of this kind of interplay that you can’t judge how clean, green or sustainable your business is (or anything else, for that matter) without examining multiple aspects together.
In reality, you can never really be 100% clean, green or sustainable because no matter how well you do, you can only ever be less bad whilst striving to keep getting better. Doing green business is a sort of continuum – more of a journey than a destination.
The trick is to identify and understand the negative impacts your business has on the environment before trying to minimise these whilst seeking out and enhancing its positive impacts.
Want to get serious about sustainability and CSR? Watch thisÂ and find out how easy it is in under 2 minutes!