Why Sustainability Matters to Business

Like many consumers, businesses have sustainability on their minds! Some businesses are taking steps to become more sustainable and are experiencing its many benefits. However, others are hesitant to change. For those who are unsure or want to learn more, here are some benefits of sustainability practices!

Businesses need resources such as people, materials and land to operate. Without a healthy environment, resources will become too scarce. If there are too few resources, the business will struggle. Sustainability practices avoid scarcity by helping to ensure the health of people and the environment.

In addition, a sustainable business uses resources more efficiently. They plan meticulously and use exhaustive efforts to produce their products by wasting very little. According to Forrester, “tech leaders consistently [tell us] that specific efficiency initiatives contribute to sustainability… and sustainability initiatives force optimization.” So, innovation and sustainability work together to optimize and increase the company’s value while helping the world.

Next, stakeholders care if businesses are sustainable. Consumers and investors are more likely to engage with sustainable companies. Also, according to an article in the Harvard Business Review, a company emphasizing “regular dialogue with stakeholders… is better positioned to anticipate and react… to changes as they rise,” which gives them an advantage over their competitors. However, “when firms fail to establish good relationships… it can lead to increased conflict and reduced stakeholder cooperation.”

Stakeholder support and feedback are invaluable for a businesses seeking long-term success. So, by becoming sustainable, businesses experience increased investment, a competitive advantage and long-lasting support.

Finally, a sustainable business is better for people and the planet. Sustainable businesses provide a healthier environment, better support for their workers and the community. As a result, these businesses have a greater positive impact.

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Learn about sustainable business strategies and make a green difference by enrolling in UW-Green Bay’s Sustainability Certificate Program. Continue your sustainability journey!

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Sources:
Forbes. Why You Should Care About Sustainability. Forrester. November 30, 2020.
Harvard Business Review. The Comprehensive Business Case for Sustainability. Tensie Whelan and Carly Fink. October 21, 2016.

Writing/Research Credit: Benjamin Kopetsky, UW-Green Bay Marketing Intern

Sustainability’s Many Inter-Relationships

Peace & Prosperity for People & the Planet

In 2015, all Member States of the United Nations collaborated on a call to action to forward Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for all countries in a global partnership.

The SDGs build on decades of work by countries and the UN and acknowledge the need to address challenges synergistically and unilaterally in order to have meaningful impact.

Each goal is important and significant, and collectively the 17 Sustainable Development Goals represent an ambitious framework of change.

Many of the SDGs have been impacted by COVID-19, demonstrating the inextricable link between human and planetary health

The latest Global Development Sustainable Report (GSDR) concludes:

The COVID-19 pandemic may give us an unexpected opportunity to make deep structural changes in our energy system, our food system, and our economy that may have seemed too expensive or too disruptive before. We have the chance to build back better and greener. By working with nature and using nature-based solutions, we can not only protect the environment but also benefit from nature’s capacity to help us enhance our resilience and address a whole range of development challenges. For the sake of our planet and our human family, we cannot let this chance slip away.

To underline the importance of the moment, we share below the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

  1. NO POVERTY – End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  2. ZERO HUNGER – End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
  3. GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING – Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
  4. QUALITY EDUCATION – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
  5. GENDER EQUALITY – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
  6. CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
  7. AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY – Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
  8. DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
  9. INDUSTRY, INNOVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE – Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
  10. REDUCED INEQUALITIES – Reduce inequality within and among countries.
  11. SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
  12. RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION – Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  13. CLIMATE ACTION – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
  14. LIFE BELOW WATER – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
  15. LIFE ON LAND – Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
  16. PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS – Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  17. PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOAL – Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

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At UW-Green Bay, we have created a noncredit Sustainability Certificate Program that encompasses the multi-facets of sustainability — environmental, business practices and public policy. The program not only adopts a proven and successful model, but it is affordableaccessible, and flexible.

The program is 100% online with three core courses six weeks in duration and a final capstone course requiring participants to put sustainability theory into practice within their organizations. Full program details are available online.

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RESOURCES:
GSDR 2019. United Nations. “Global Sustainable Development Report 2019. The Future is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development.”
The 17 Goals. United Nations.

What NOT to Wear

(with apologies to TLC)

When choosing to live more sustainably, small steps can make a big difference. Every choice or purchase we make has an impact, including what we choose to put in and on our bodies.

Fashion is a new vanguard of sustainability with savvy, professional women shopping smarter by doing their research and investing in pieces that last longer. “Fast fashion” is a major culprit in the industry – that is, clothes made cheaply to meet demands for hot new styles – and these cheap processes can put the planet at risk.

Investigating what to wear (and what not to wear) shouldn’t stop at the garment itself, but should also consider the full lifecycle of the product – from the design, sourcing and production processes to the product afterlife. Just because a garment carries a hang tag that says “sustainable” doesn’t mean the retailer or manufacturer used clean processes to get it on the hanger.

Ethical or sustainable fashion is sometimes called “slow fashion” and addresses one or more of five main issues of concern in the fashion industry:

  1. Water usage – Due to pollution and an overabundance of salt water, usable water is a limited resource. Look for brands looking to cut down on how much water they’re using.
  2. Hazardous chemicals – Some dyes and finishes are dangerous not only for the workers who are required to work with them but also the communities in which they live. Identify brands coming up with new ways to address these chemicals.
  3. Short lifecycle – Look for brands that are striving to overturn the trendiness of fashion. Buy less. Wear longer.
  4. Waste – Collectively, brands and shoppers, need to find ways to create less trash by learning to mend, repurpose and recycle.
  5. Agriculture – Natural fibers like cotton, hemp and linen are the most sustainable, but we need to pay attention to growing practices, including pesticide and water use.

Don’t Know Where to Start?

Using their fabric expertise, Good Housekeeping Institute’s Textiles Lab has worked with an environmental consultant to rank top brands addressing environmental and social concerns. Here are the top 5:

Levi’s

Levi’s focuses on the finishing processes to remove water wherever possible with its Water<Less collection, which it says uses up to 96% less water to make. And because Levi’s is such a big player in the denim industry, steps like this can actually have an impact.

Alternate Apparel

For casual closet staples like T-shirts, hoodies, leggings, and more, Alternative Apparel focuses on using organic cotton and recycled materials.

Pact

All of the cotton garments from this brand are certified organic by Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), so you know the entire manufacturing process follows organic guidelines. They’re also Fair Trade Certified, which looks at ethical factors like wages and working conditions.

Everlane

This brand focuses on ethics and transparency, showing its markup process for each garment and showcasing factories to give an idea of where it sources from.

thredUP

It’s not a clothing brand itself, but the website buys and sells women’s and kids used clothing that’s in like-new condition with lots of life left in it. The budget-friendly retailer closely inspects second-hand garments before selling them, so you know you’re getting garments that are in great shape. Buying used clothing is more sustainable than anything new, and on top of that you’re getting top fashion brands for a fraction of the cost.

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At UW-Green Bay, we have created a noncredit Sustainability Certificate Program that we believe can help drive Wisconsin forward through sustainable business, products and services.

Our Sustainability Certificate Program not only adopts a proven and successful model, but it is affordableaccessible, and flexible.

The program is 100% online with three core courses six weeks in duration, encompassing multi-facets of sustainability — environmental, business practices and public policy. The final capstone course requires participants to put sustainability theory into practice within their organizations, an efficient and practical way to encourage sustainable business.

Full program details are available online.

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RESOURCES:
Forbes, “Why Sustainable Fashion Matters,” Ellevate Contributor, ForbesWomen.
Good Housekeeping, “20 Best Sustainable Fashion Brands You Can Actually Trust,” Lexie Sachs, April 20, 2020.

Coming Trend of All Trends

The United Nations has determined that the environment and climate change are the defining issues of our time.

Business experts say 2020 marks an era of sustainability with every business being called to make change.

A convergence of forces is driving this urgency, encompassing shifting weather patterns, rising sea levels, and an increasing demand for ethical consumerism and governance.

These forces are creating impacts that are hard to ignore:

  • Our “throw-away” culture is creating 8 million tons of plastic every year with only 14% currently recycled.
  • Land masses are becoming inhospitable, putting animal and plant species at risk of extinction.
  • Drought, agricultural failure, food and water shortages are causing human displacement.
  • Mass migration of peoples is creating a humanitarian crisis for governments that need to learn to cope with new priorities and policies.

The impacts are cascading to such an extent that business giants admit it is time for radical action. Microsoft has announced plans to be carbon negative by 2030, and Amazon has pledged $30 billion for climate change.

The World Economic Forum goes even further to say that “businesses must serve society and the planet, not just shareholders.”

How, then, does a business or business professional serve society and the planet? First, the business community needs to recognize that sustainability touches every part of a company – from its physical workspace to its supply chain operations. Second, the community needs to reckon with the fact that consumers are looking for them to lead the sustainability revolution by identifying ways consumers can reduce their carbon emissions and by cutting down on the plastic choking oceans.

Here are some actionable ways other companies are transforming in a sustainable direction:

1. Make sustainability part of your service.

What new tool, platform or ongoing service can your company develop to help consumers reduce the negative impact of their consumerism?

Specific company examples to jumpstart innovation:

  • Ecommerce platform Upchoose stocks organic cotton baby clothes that can be returned as babies grow.
  • Finland-based payment provider Enfuce created an app that shows consumers the CO2 emissions of their purchases.

2. Reimagine your brand or industry to exemplify sustainability.

Not only is your internal culture a key part of your public-facing brand, but so is your whole end-to-end supply chain. Share what you know for the benefit of society and the planet. Look for ways to make your supply chain “circular.” Don’t be afraid to be a disruptor.

Specific company examples as additional idea-starters:

  • The UK-based rock music band Coldplay chose not to tour their new album “Everyday Life,” due to environmental concerns.
  • IKEA built a new store in Vienna without a parking lot with the expectation that shoppers will arrive on foot or by public transportation.

When it comes to sustainability, we are at a defining moment. How will you or your business answer the call?

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At UW-Green Bay, we have created a noncredit Sustainability Certificate Program that we believe can help drive Wisconsin forward through sustainable business and build sustainability leaders.

Our Sustainability Certificate Program not only adopts a proven and successful model, but it is affordableaccessible and flexible.

The program is 100% online with three core courses six weeks in duration, encompassing multi-facets of sustainability — environmental, business practices and public policy. The final capstone course requires participants to put sustainability theory into practice within their organizations, an efficient and practical way to encourage sustainable business.

Full program details are available online.

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RESOURCES:
Forbes. “2020 Will be the Year of Sustainable Business: Here’s Why,” Jonquil Hackenberg, November 28, 2019.
Forbes. “7 Global Trends Impacting the Sustainabilility Movement,” Timothy J. McClimon, April 15, 2019.
Trend-Watching, “The Future of Purpose,” Make-Shift Quarterly Report, February 2020.
United Nations. “Climate Change,” Global Issues.