Moving Beyond “Business as Usual” With Sustainability as the Driving Force

opiniongreen 100x100By Nicole Ramberg

November 5th, 2020



When the word “sustainability” is mentioned, what comes to mind? Maybe the battle that is climate change, or on a smaller scale, deciding to bring coffee to work in a reusable mug instead of buying one on the way. A connection that may not be as quickly drawn is how sustainability relates to business operations. This may be attributed to the fact that incorporating sustainability principles into business processes can be difficult and confusing for many reasons. A local organization, Sustainable Hamilton Burlington, recently launched their new Sustainability Leadership Program that helps businesses navigate the process, providing a clear path forward.

sustainabilityThe journey to becoming a more sustainable business is usually not an easy one. There are various challenges that can present themselves along the way, hindering or even halting the process. For businesses either thinking about, or just starting on their path to more sustainable practices, the process can seem daunting:

• Sustainability focuses on the triple bottom line, including economic, social and environmental sustainability – where do you even begin?
• How do you determine your performance indicators, and measure changes to identify when improvements occur?
• When you decide to take action, how can you ensure your actions are credible, and gain recognition for your efforts from your stakeholders and the public?

These challenges can be especially hard for smaller and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). “It really comes down to resources. SMEs often lack the human, technological, and financial resources to implement sustainable change, and quickly. It’s also higher risk because there needs to be obvious returns on their investments – financially and otherwise – to warrant these changes being made,” says Jordyn Divok, Program Manager. “Another challenge is recognizing these successes in a credible way, which is achieved through third-party recognition.”

With these challenges to becoming a sustainable business, it’s important to seek guidance, support and resources to help you on this journey. Sustainable Hamilton Burlington (SHB) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to inspiring sustainability leadership in business organizations for healthier environments and thriving communities. From retail to energy providers, from architectural firms to local airports – sustainability can be built into any business. Business Sustainability 101 is a course offered by SHB to introduce businesses to the vast benefits of sustainability, including increased profits, efficient operations and employee satisfaction – to name a few. This starting point allows for any business to better understand the potential that sustainability has to offer for their triple-bottom line.

When the organization is ready to take the first step on its sustainability journey, the Sustainability Leadership Program guides businesses towards becoming truly sustainable. The membership-based program helps businesses to identify and overcome challenges along the path to becoming a more sustainable operation, building brand recognition and business resiliency in doing so. The program consists of a sequential four-step approach, each of which accomplishes new objectives that help organizations address different aspects of sustainability, while developing the systems and support needed to drive these changes forward.

Outcomes from the steps involve learning about how to calculate the organization’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, expanding the understanding of sustainability to include social and economic pillars, the use of globally recognized standards in sustainability reporting, and ultimately embedding sustainability into policies and work culture as a core value.

Sustainable Hamilton Burlington publishes an Annual Impact Report to highlight the impacts that members have made over the past calendar year. Conservation Halton recently won the Social Initiative Award 2019 presented by SHB for their initiative which positively impacted the Burlington community. Ash trees on Conservation Halton’s properties were removed. Rather than disposing of the wood, they decided to partner with Notre Dame High School to donate the lumber. The wood shop students used the material to create items like live-edge wood tables, in turn auctioning them off to fund raise for their school programs and activities. By incorporating a social sustainability guideline into their organization, and developing initiatives like this one, Conservation Halton was able to increase their brand value and recognition within the communities they serve.

Though this year has been a roller-coaster to say the least, excellent examples of sustainability in business have emerged, which have helped businesses become resilient and able to adapt in a changing economy. With sustainability as the guiding force, the future of business is about more than just the money they make; it’s about the impact they can leave behind.

Nicole RambergNicole Ramberg is a graduate of McMaster University where she completed a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences.  She is currently a student at Fleming College in Lindsay ON, where she is studying Ecosystem Management Technology.

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1 comment to Moving Beyond ‘Business as Usual’ With Sustainability as the Driving Force

  • Lindsay Williamson

    Congratulations Nicole! This is a great article and I appreciate how you included SHB and the SLP! I look forward to seeing what else you accomplish!