Sustainable from the start – how to stay ahead of the curve on sustainability?
Most major conglomerates nowadays have sustainability goals and/or a defined ESG agenda on which they commit to deliver to their stakeholders. However, the sequence of events which lead to sustainable strategies being put in place leave a lot to be desired. First the corporate sets up a facility, then there is a push on measuring consumption/emissions caused due to the facility and the corresponding supply chain, and only after all these exercises are complete is there a push to implement sustainability measures to control emissions. This essentially results in a process which is inherently retroactive in nature.
But what if there was a different process in place? What if a corporate already accounted for a new plant being operationalized and implemented mitigation measures in advance to eliminate any adverse impact to the environment? Ideally, the organization would setup renewable electricity capacity, water infrastructure, upcycling initiatives for non-hazardous waste and safe disposal practices for hazardous effluents /or emissions. The net result of all these benefits would result in a sustainable ecosystem which would benefit the community and enable the organization to sustain long term operations.
This proactive planning, if promoted by regulators and implemented by corporates can ensure that organizations sustain their business over a longer period by mitigating any environmental and community risks. In fact, there are some simple steps that a corporate can follow to ensure sustainability is embedded right from the start:
- 1. Understand resource requirements incl. logistics for a new product/plant. This is already available through BOMs, sales plans etc. What needs to change is that all requirements need to be assessed from a sustainability perspective. The lifecycle cost of all inputs/output of the facility or business operation needs to be analyzed.
- 2. Apply a cost to all natural resources being used. Ideally this should be the “True cost” and not just the procurement cost. This cost should then be used to set financial boundaries for potential interventions.
- 3. Encourage and educate internal stakeholders to identify interventions basis the “cost” identified in step #3. The target ROIs for this should consider relevant costs and need to be longer term vs commercial projects. Sustainability itself is only truly sustainable when it makes business sense.
- 4. Post-implementation, educate internal and external stakeholders on the need to monitor, maintain and report accurately. All infrastructure and technological interventions will need upkeep over time to ensure their effectiveness is not compromised.
- 5. Keep an eye out for any technological advancements or innovations which can help enable further optimization in resource consumption.
These simple rules, if implemented from the start, have the potential to truly imbibe sustainability in business processes and change the discourse on sustainability. The world would be a much better place if corporates design sustainably and encourage their value chain to think the same way. As the steps listed above suggest, sustainably is easy if done the right way - it's all about committing to it.
Authored By: Inesh Singh, AB InBev India