Sustainability has become a buzzword in business and it might be easy to think that your company’s efforts could fall in the category of public relations, but being a responsible organisation is not just about recycling plastic bottles or helping a local charity.
There is a very clear reason small businesses need to consider a more sustainable approach, according to expert, Julion Ruwette.
"It's really simple, because it improves your bottom line. If you look at it from the long term, sustainability is all about surviving and having the future in mind,” she says.
Ruwette is a Client Executive Leader at Ernst & Young with more than ten years’ experience as a sustainability expert in the MENA region. She says it’s time to stop thinking about just being green.
“Being green is one of the three pillars to sustainability,” says Ruwette. “One is your economic bottom-line, which you want to improve in a sustainable way, the other one is everything around our people, everything from HR to policy and procedures and also how do you actually go about the environment while you're running your business.”
She says this is what’s referred to as the triple-bottom line, and it’s how progressive organisations around the world measure success.
The Emirates Group considers itself one such organisation. It’s latest annual report highlights this focus on people and planet, as well as profit:
“By placing the wellbeing of people at the heart of our strategy and by giving top priority to sustainability, we are driving well-rounded growth, which in turn will increase opportunities, attract innovators, and deliver tangible progress and a better quality of life.”
Emirates Airline has taken a proactive role in its drive towards improved sustainability. It has invested in efficient aircraft and employed smarter flying techniques, to minimise fuel consumption across its fleet and improve its environmental credentials.
It's really simple, because it improves your bottom line. If you look at it from the long term, sustainability is all about surviving and having the future in mind.
But if we want to turn our attention to the ‘planet’ aspect of the three pillars, it can be difficult to know what to consider in boosting our environmental credibility.
“Depending on which industry you are in, let’s say you develop a product, what are the ingredients in that product, is it just something you produce to make more money or is it actually contributing to people's health and long-term benefits,” says Ruwette.
Dubai-based environmental consultant Stefanie Schachtschabel says momentum is building among small businesses seeking to become more sustainable.
“We can notice a clear sustainable shift since the last couple of years on the local level, in which businesses seek to increasingly incorporate sustainable practices at the core of their business model,” she says.
The National Agenda ‘UAE Vision 2021’ was established to offer a framework with guidelines to assist in establishing a healthy environment that promotes happiness and green living.
In 2014, Schachtschabel was working in the media production field and was approached by the Dubai government to produce a documentary on sustainability, which altered the course of her career.
“It changed me being an entrepreneur driven by success to become a purpose-driven entrepreneur in the sustainability field,” says Schachtschabel.
She started ‘Globally Connected Companies’ with the goal to bring innovations to the UAE that can help the country transform into a sustainability-driven destination.
She says the UAE is very centred on sustainability and policies are driven from the national level down.
“The National Agenda ‘UAE Vision 2021’ was established to offer a framework with guidelines to assist in establishing a healthy environment that promotes happiness and green living,” she says.
Programmes exist within each government department to encourage business across industry groups to be more responsible.
There are DEWA incentives to use less energy, RTA schemes to encourage the move to an electric and hybrid vehicle fleet and Dubai Tourism is encouraging the hospitality sector to boost efficiency, cut waste, and reduce single-use plastics in particular.
With a little bit of research, small businesses can find information and resources to kickstart their efforts to improve their triple -bottom line and help people, planet and profit.
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