Using strategies like automated building controls and limiting waste, companies can minimize their environmental impact in the near future
What Does Sustainability Mean?
Sustainability can be difficult to define, so we compiled a list of the most common definitions for corporate sustainability
Sustainability is difficult to define because it encompasses so many different aspects of our life and how we interact with our environment. As a baseline definition, sustainability means that something can be maintained at the same rate. This definition makes a lot of sense when we apply the term to environmental sustainability. When we talk about environmental sustainability, we are talking about ways that we can alter current practices to sustain our surrounding environments. Sustainability—in this case—also references the human ability to continue consuming natural resources in a way that won’t eliminate them in the near future. When we talk about sustainability in the context of natural resources, we are talking about the preservation of both our environment and our way of life.
Moving on to corporate sustainability, there are a few common principles that the majority of businesses follow to structure their initiatives. Companies break down their initiatives into three different pillars—environmental, social, and economic. As we discuss each solution, we’ll be referencing how it impacts the three main pillars of corporate sustainability with a special focus on environmental impact. Let’s discover a few ways that companies are working towards reaching their sustainability goals.
Why Are Companies Searching for Sustainable Solutions?
Companies are realizing that older, unsustainable operations are harmful to both the environment and the bottom line
When it comes down to it, corporations are all about the bottom line. Only since it has become financially beneficial for companies to begin exploring sustainable practices have environmental concerns become common rhetoric among large corporations. Though the money-saving opportunities presented by environmentally sustainable practices are the top reason companies are making changes, there are several other reasons for businesses to spearhead sustainability initiatives—let’s take a closer look:
- Sustainable practices are better for the environment
- Environmental sustainability can be leveraged for branding purposes
- Gives overall better working conditions in corporate buildings and offices
These three advantages—as well as cost-saving measures—are the most popular reasons why companies are searching for ways to become more sustainable. Now that we’ve covered some of the corporate sustainability basics, it’s time to dive deeper into the ways that companies are reaching their sustainability goals.
- Automated Building Controls
Using integrated automated building controls, businesses can conserve energy and get better insights into their operating systems
Automated building controls are one of the most powerful solutions available to companies that are trying to improve their sustainability. To take advantage of automation, companies can choose to install a building automation system (BAS) or upgrade their wireless network to establish an Internet of Things (IoT). For companies that inhabit large buildings—usually over 100,000 square feet—a BAS is a worthwhile investment despite the high cost for installation and steep learning curve. For smaller businesses, an upgraded network and assorted IoT-capable devices can provide similar automation services at a fraction of the cost. Both of these systems will be able to monitor and control different systems within a building including lighting, HVAC, plumbing, security, and more. Both applications can use sensors that report information to the building manager, adjust system outputs, and make lives easier for all inhabitants of the building. Using these building automation controls, businesses can save money on their monthly energy bills and optimize their building controls—which is why automation is gaining so much traction. Additionally, these systems can collect data and make suggestions for ways to further conserve energy and make your business environmentally sustainable. Using automated building controls, businesses can conserve up to 35% of their yearly total energy consumption.
2. Decreasing Pollution
Pollution is a major environmental concern that can be remedied by the widespread adoption of these solutions
The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the soil where we grow food are all subject to pollution. Companies that are currently running sustainability initiatives need to take a closer look at how they are contributing to the different types of pollution. For companies that are interested in decreasing the amount of pollution they add to the environment, there are a few solutions that can help them reach their sustainability goals. For example, companies can examine how their products or services are produced and search for ways to reduce emissions. They can also choose to cut down or stop using products that contain toxic materials that harm the environment. Companies can also limit the amount of packaging used in their products and facilities along with reusing previously disposed materials. Through these conservation efforts, businesses will be able to reduce the amount of harmful pollution they allow to enter our environments.
3. Conserving Natural Resources
To minimize their impact on the environment, companies are now searching for ways to conserve resources at their facilities
Conserving our natural resources is one of the most important ways that we can ensure that we are living sustainably into the future. This is especially true for businesses, as commercial spaces make up just under half of all worldwide energy consumption. Because companies consume so much energy, there needs to be an effort to cut back to guarantee our futures.
Businesses can start small by installing low-flow faucets and toilets in their restrooms. To create significant change—however—companies will need to make major changes to their operations. Examples of this include greatly reducing the amount of water used for landscaping, using automated building controls to monitor and reduce lighting output, and replacing all light sources with energy-efficient LEDs. These solutions are still just a starting point for businesses to reach sustainability. To make their businesses truly sustainable, most companies will need to halve their energy consumption.
4. Waste Minimization
Companies are making an effort to minimize the amount of waste that ends up in landfills
As part of their sustainability goals, many companies are searching for ways to minimize their waste output. This is an excellent strategy for several reasons, the most important being that the current waste output across the world is overwhelming our landfills and oceans. For this reason, businesses are pursuing zero waste to landfill and zero waste goals. Though these initiatives may seem like they are the same, they are quite different. If a company is pursuing a zero-waste initiative, it means that the goal is to produce zero waste. On the other hand, zero waste to landfill initiatives are a bit murkier. For example, a company could claim they are working toward a zero waste to landfill initiative when they are actually sending their waste to be incinerated. Incineration not only harms the environment due to toxic chemicals dispersed in the air from the burning, but it also creates ash that ends up in a landfill anyway. To truly minimize waste, companies need to consume less and find more environmentally friendly ways to dispose of their waste—like composting. Another strategy used by companies to minimize waste is to prioritize reusable cleaning products. Many cleaning products can be washed and reused like bottles of cleaning products, towels, and gloves. By using these company-wide as an alternative to disposables, your company will be taking the first steps towards becoming sustainable.
These four solutions are just a few of the many ways that companies can take steps toward a more sustainable future. If you are in charge of your business’s environmental initiatives, then you can use our suggestions as a way to introduce potential solutions to meet your sustainability goals. To reach sustainability goals, it is likely that businesses will have to implement a combination of all of the solutions offered to really make a difference in their waste output and energy consumption. Thankfully, there are more options than ever for businesses to reach true sustainability within the next few decades.