Learn how to apply sustainable business practices. The lesson will provide general information as well as include country-specific information, e.g. on green banks, national incentives etc.
In Europe of today, and for a liveable future, businesses have to take into account concepts of green and social entrepreneurship, as laid out in the Europe 2020 Strategy titled “Europe 2020. A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”. It goes without saying that an innovative entrepreneur is advised to put a strong focus on these principles when seeking to integrate with EU work life and business culture.
But sustainable business practice is not just about caring for the environment. Instead the target should be threfold: economics, as well as people, and the environment. Sustainability in its most common definition stands for a good management of resources in order to maintain or even improve the framework conditions for ourselves and future generations. So when applying this to the business world, you can guide yourself with the question: how can I run my business in the best possible way to make sure that my financial, natural and human resources will not deprivate, but possibly even improve?
Such a long-term perspective (assumed that you are want your business to be more than just a flash in the pan) helps you to take decisions in a different way: what may seem like an investment exceeding your current budget may turn out to save you maintenance costs in the long run. One good example are energy-efficient devices and facilities which pay off rather sooner than later from the savings in your energy bill. Even better if you can find an energy company open to performance contracting (in German "Einspar-Contracting"): with such an agreement, the company advances money for the installation of energy-saving devices (heating systems for example), and you pay back from your future energy savings, or practically spoken: you just continue paying the "old" energy bill until the difference in saved energy costs pays off for the investment (see more at: https://e3p.jrc.ec.europa.eu/articles/energy-performance-contracting
Talking about investments: globally, there is a number of banks which commit to “ethical banking”, investing your money in sustainability projects and fonds (Germany: GLS Bank https://www.gls.de
, some European countries: Triodos Bank https://www.triodos.com
). So think twice about where to open your bank account.
But sustainability principles should also guide you when managing "human resources", i.e. your own as well as your employees' or colleagues' motivation, health, timely availability, energy, competences etc. If you want them and yourself to do the job in the best possible way, take care of maintaining these resources e.g. by expanding competences through vocational training, providing comfortable and healthy work space (and time for recovery in case of illness). A supportive work environment will be a productive environment for sure.
Last not least, don't forget to think about the environment too. In the end, you are relying on nature's resources inevitably, be it the energy for your machines, computers etc., the material
The best guiding principles for sustainable procurement is still the big "R"s which you may have come across already in sustainable consumption:
Rethink: the crucial opnening question – “do I really need this?”
Reuse: before buying your own, you can share many things, from cars to tools to office space
Reduce: if you buy new, look out for products with a reduced impact on the environment
Repair: fixing or exchanging a broken part can easily extend your products’ lifetime
Repurpose: take something and use it for something else
Recycle: when a product finally goes out of use, try to at least capture some of the original material
When purchasing products, a lot of guidelines and portals help you to make a good choice, s.a. specialised catalogues of environmentally friendly and socially responsible products (Germany: https://www.memo.de/
, Italy http://www.acquistiverdi.it/
). In general, respective labels help you find sustainable products e.g. the EU "Ecolabel", the "Nordic Swan" or US. American "Energy Star", and many more (see an expansive overview of labels at http://www.ecolabelindex.com/ecolabels/
For an official application (and marketing) of such sustainable business practices you can refer to recognised Sustainability Management Systems such as EMAS+ by the European Union and ISO 14001 on international level. They cover aspects such as:
• green business: principles, practices
• different environmental issues (climate change, climate refugees, etc)
• green products and services; green business ideas
• greening your business: techniques, methods, efficiency, sufficiency, resourcefulness
• EU and national regulations and support
• Green finance
• business cycle analysis (to identify opportunities to reduce waste etc.)
Exercise 1 (alone or in groups): write down examples of how you could apply the “R”- principles a) in your everyday life b) in your business