Sustainability strategies as part of company branding

Key information:

  • Sustainable development is development that allows both current and future generations to meet their needs to the same degree.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals revolve around five areas: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership.
  • By meeting its sustainability goals, the company can reduce its environmental impact, cut costs and gain better access to subsidies.
  • When implementing a sustainability strategy, there are three aspects to consider: economic, environmental and social.
  • There are many companies on the market that are proving that responsible development activities are not only socially and environmentally viable, but also economically.
  • Implementing sustainability policies helps harmonize business goals with community and environmental concerns.
  • Barriers to implementing corporate social responsibility can stem from a lack of awareness and limited human and financial resources.

Details below!

What is Sustainable Development?

Sustainable development is one that allows both current and future generations to meet their needs equally. This means that society, government and all businesses have an impact not only on the present, but also on the future they are currently shaping, and in order to find a balance between economic growth, environmental protection and social progress, they must work together.

What are the goals of Sustainable Development?

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have been adopted by all UN member states as the 2030 Agenda. They are centered around five areas: people, planet, prosperity, peace, partnership.

Why are Sustainable Development strategies crucial for SMEs?

  • Ability to gain access to new markets - Many large companies and public institutions are required to report on whether their suppliers are compliant with the Sustainable Development Goals, and as a result they pay special attention to this aspect when selecting business partners. They may prefer to work with entities that operate in accordance with the ESG strategy, which makes small and medium-sized companies that follow the Sustainable Development Goals program more attractive and sought after by larger organizations.
  • Minimize your impact on the environment - Incorporating sustainability initiatives can include resource conservation, energy efficiency, waste management, or investing in green packaging or sustainable products. This improves the company's reputation, contributes to environmental protection and reduces company costs.
  • Reducing the cost of operations - Energy and water savings and waste reduction have a positive impact on cost reduction, which supports the company's growth and contributes to better achievement of sustainability goals.
  • Strengthening relationships with business partners - The ESG strategy also takes into account community development and sustainable supply chain management to achieve better trading conditions, reduce supply costs, improve brand image, and thus contribute to environmental protection.
  • Improving the company's image - By implementing a sustainability strategy, a company not only stands out in the market, but also gains access to more customers and investors by minimizing the risk of negative perception.
  • Increasing competitiveness - The implementation of sustainability goals contributes to increased innovation and brand appeal, increased production efficiency, and access to new markets. It makes the company stand out more in the SME market.
  • Increase in innovation - The implementation of sustainable development policies can lead to the need to develop new technologies, production processes, etc., which increases creativity and innovation in operations. Innovation can make it possible to become a leader in green transformation, open up new business opportunities and attract new customers.
  • Better access to funding - More and more investors are paying attention to sustainability and, as a result, may prefer companies demonstrating this approach. What's more, EU regulations, such as the European Green Deal, make companies demonstrating a track record of sustainability more likely to receive subsidies or grants for innovative business strategies.

Companies that implement sustainability initiatives minimize their environmental impact, improving their reputation, reducing costs and protecting the environment. Implementing a sustainability strategy not only differentiates a company in the market, but also increases its access to customers and investors and contributes to innovation and competitiveness. In addition, you can gain better access to financing thanks to growing investor interest and EU regulations supporting sustainability.

What makes up an effective Sustainable Development strategy?

When implementing a sustainability strategy, there are three aspects to consider:

  1. The economic aspect - Sustainable companies need to make a profit to survive in the market and be able to invest for long-term growth. They can also support their region by creating jobs, working with local suppliers and engaging with local communities.
  2. Social aspect - Sustainable companies care about their employees, customers, the local community and other stakeholders. They can engage in social programs, promote employee relations and fair business practices, respect human rights, provide good working conditions and corporate diversity.
  3. Environmental aspect - Institutions striving for sustainability are taking steps to reduce the negative impact of their operations on the environment. This may include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water and energy, minimizing waste generated and promoting recycling.

Examples of successful Sustainable Development strategies

  • IKEA - a company that implements the Sustainable Development Goals program on many levels. More than half of the materials used in the manufacturing process, are renewable or recycled materials. What's more, 100% of renewable energy is used to power factories and packaging and distribution divisions. Every day, IKEA inspires its customers to live with respect for the planet.ikea
  • Unilever - a corporation with big plans for sustainability. Unilever has pledged to reduce carbon emissions, improve sustainable raw material sourcing practices and increase positive social impact through its products. By 2025, the company plans to use 25% of recycled plastic for its packaging.dove
  • Google - a company that impacts social engagement and responsibility through sustainable development. Google supports community development, promotes access to education and invests in social initiatives. It also uses many innovative technologies to reduce energy consumption in its offices. Since 2017, Google has been using energy sourced from renewable sources in 100%.google
  • Danone - The company is committed to reducing methane emissions, reducing water consumption and to sustainable agriculture. To achieve sustainability, Danone is promoting sustainable practices throughout its supply chain. In addition, the company significantly increased the percentage of recyclable packaging in the previous year, reaching 86%. By updating its growth strategy, the brand has improved its reputation and increased customer confidence.
  • Philips - for responsible development, the company focuses on a closed-loop economy. This means that Philips designs its products to be durable and easy to repair and possibly recycle, reducing waste. In addition, the company creates technologies focused on the needs of healthcare systems, improving the health and quality of life of people around the world. What's more, the corporation managed to reach 78% of renewable energy use in 2023, exceeding its 2025 target of 75%.pggfa
  • Foodsi - is a Polish SME-owned start-up focused on reducing food waste. It helps more than 3,000 small and medium-sized enterprises increase their profits by selling unsold food. It promotes conscious resource management in the food and catering industry.foodsi

These companies are perfect examples of sustainable development strategies, using a just transformation to ensure a sustainable future in all ESG sectors. They show that responsible development activities are not only economically viable, but also socially and environmentally.

Sustainability policy in line with your company's business strategy

Implementing sustainability policies is extremely important for SMEs and can bring many benefits in terms of business growth and economic benefits. To make your sustainability policy compatible with your company's business strategy, you need to pay attention to these aspects:

  • Sustainability goals - it is critical to identify goals that will support your business strategy. To determine this, you can use agenda 2030:
  • Your company's environmental, social and economic impact - make a detailed analysis to find out what elements need improvement, and what innovations can be made.
  • Sustainable products - adjust the products in your portfolio so that they have as little negative impact on the environment as possible, thus ensuring your environmental transformation.
  • Commitment - supporting sustainable development also includes community development and area development opportunities. It is important to promote equitable transformation and social development. Large corporations, which by the nature of their business have a large impact on the environment, are at least trying to promote ESG initiatives through marketing. An example is the McDonald's campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRs6l943i-Y
  • Monitoring - regular tracking of the activities undertaken in the field of sustainability by your enterprise, will allow you to assess their effects and make any improvements.

Challenges and barriers to implementing corporate social responsibility in your company

Small and medium-sized enterprises face many barriers during the process of implementing CSR into their company. One of them is the lack of knowledge about the benefits of corporate social responsibility and, consequently, the lack of willingness to incorporate ESG-related goals into their development strategy. This may also bring concerns from employees about changing existing business practices.

Implementing CSR for small and medium-sized enterprises can be much more challenging than for large companies, primarily due to financial constraints and a lack of know-how with which to update development strategies. Introducing corporate social responsibility can be very costly due to the need to innovate and develop new development policies. For this process, it is necessary to have expertise in social issues, legal and economic knowledge, which small and medium-sized companies often lack. Introducing CSR can also be challenging in a significantly complex supply chain. It will require cooperation with all parties involved in the various stages of the chain.

It is also important to remember that inappropriate implementation of CSR can be poorly perceived by employees, customers and stakeholders, as well as damage the company's reputation

Is it worth implementing sustainable development strategies?

Taking into account social development and the EU's strategy for a sustainable future, owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses should start incorporating sustainability initiatives into their operations as soon as possible. This will not only allow the company to grow, but also to save resources and comply with the requirements that the European Green Deal states. In addition, starting in 2027, the reporting obligation will also apply to SMEs, so it is worth preparing today.

With ConQuest Consulting, implementing a Sustainable Development strategy is even easier

We offer assistance in developing a strategy that will not only increase the efficiency of your business, but also contribute to environmental protection. Contact us today and begin the transformation that will bring success to your business and to your environment and community.

Aleksandra Szandecka

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