Why sustainability should be a driving force for businesses in 2023

In this guest post, Boris Manev, head of sustainability and government affairs at IT peripherals manufacturer Epson Europe, sets out why businesses have to get serious about sustainability in 2023

Despite the cost-of-living crisis and political unrest that tend to dominate the news headlines, the climate crisis and ‘sustainability’ are never far from thought and remain firmly in the conversations and decisions being made by people today.

Certainly, for consumers, sustainability forms a large part of their buying decisions, with recent research from Epson finding that 70% of people plan to or are already boycotting unsustainable brands in response to climate change.

If ever there was a greater incentive for businesses to further integrate sustainability into their business framework, surely it comes with the recognition that consumers are demanding it?

Of course, responses to this demand over recent years have meant the term ‘sustainability’ has become increasingly stigmatised as a promotional buzzword, as businesses make unsubstantiated claims about their green credentials.

There’s no room for half-heartedness in this space, and sustainability must become a significant part of a company’s culture if it is to manifest the required change and influence your reputation as a result. Real change needs to first show commitment before being promoted.

Addressing the climate crisis is a shared responsibility

With the cost-of-living crisis presenting a very real and immediate challenge, sustainability is at risk of being put on the back burner for many businesses.

In fact, Epson’s Climate Reality Barometer report has revealed that over half (51.2%) of the people surveyed in the UK believe rising prices and fixing the economy is the most urgent issue governments, companies and people around the world should be focusing on, rather than the climate crisis.

A total of 26,000 participants took part in the survey, which also revealed that 48.1% of people in 28 countries believe that a climate catastrophe will be averted in their lifetime, suggesting a prevailing ‘someone else will fix it’ attitude to this issue, which desperately needs to change.

Sustainability should be seen as a road to economic stability, not an optional turning on the journey. When you choose sustainability over cost, you’ll inevitably find yourself choosing less waste, less energy, longer shelf life, less intervention, and more importantly, a brand demonstrating the foresight to adapt to change. That’s the kind of value proposition pioneering its way through the 21st century – and those not adapting with this change will get left behind.

Investing in efficiency pays off

Traditionally, investing in sustainability has been seen as a trade-off for something else – most commonly price or productivity, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

It’s no secret that record-breaking energy prices are adding extra strain to businesses, but rejecting sustainable practices due to cost is a short-term view on a long-term problem, and often this reflects an oversight of the long-term benefits of energy efficient technology.

Take office printing as one example: a global switch from laser printing to heat-free inkjet printing could save more than 2,240GWh worth of electricity annually, or 1.3m metric tonnes, the equivalent to the amount generated by 280,175 cars over a year.

Small, well-thought-out changes like this offer businesses a cost incentive and help to hit sustainability targets – killing two birds with one stone.

Creating a brand that is truly sustainable takes time and financial commitment. But, as all business minded individuals will attest, you have to spend money to make money, because investing in sustainability will offer your business long-term benefits.

Take consumer technology companies as an example. Those who invest in making the supply chain as sustainable as possible see benefits such as future-proofed product lifecycles, which continue to cost less in sourcing new raw materials as they optimise new product development (NPD) around more compact designs with fewer components and higher longevity. This subsequently minimises the costs and footprint around repair, recycling, and refurbishment of the technology.

Another benefit is a future-proofed brand. When sustainability is a key part of your business philosophy –and consumers can see that– companies benefit from increased customer interest as consumers know that they aren’t contributing to damaging the planet by purchasing your product.

Those not using their business model to address the climate crisis will be the first to lose customer interest.

What sustainability looks like for businesses

Many companies in recent years have been called out for so-called “greenwashing” – the process of conveying a false impression or misleading information about how a company’s products are environmentally sound. And this has called into question what sustainability really means for businesses.

While planting trees was once considered the accepted norm towards meeting environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets, carbon credits have overtaken in popularity as companies look for more manageable ways to offset their carbon emissions.

And while offsetting does offer a quantifiable solution, this is more of an ‘apology’ to the environment rather than a long-term resolution businesses should be relying on. Instead, sustainable practices should be merged into every business process to present emissions from being created in the first place.

Ultimately, environmentally sustainable technology isn’t a compromise. It’s a means to maintaining the stability of product development and consequently the stability of your brand. And with consumers getting increasingly discerning with their purchase decisions, sustainability must be a constant focus throughout every stage of the business, from supply chain to manufacturing, to product lines – sustainability really could make or break your brand.

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