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Sustainability as a business priority

Before you start thinking that sustainability is about planting trees, there’s more to it than that! We’ll answer the question: “why should you care about sustainability in business?”
Courtney Norton, Content Writer

The term ‘sustainability’ is appearing increasingly often in the world of business. Whether it’s social sustainability, environmental sustainability, or economic sustainability, this is something that companies can no longer afford to ignore. As such, taking a strong stance on sustainability is no longer an optional extra. It’s essential.  

But before you start thinking that sustainability is all about planting as many trees as you can (though that certainly wouldn’t hurt), there’s much more to it than just that! 

Let’s jump right into the world of sustainability in business and check out some of the different types of sustainability. We’ll also offer actionable steps that businesses can take to increase sustainability. Finally, we’ll attempt to answer the question that we’re sure is on everyone’s people’s lips: “why should you even care about sustainability in business?” 

Social sustainability

Social sustainability can often be left by the wayside in favour of other types of sustainability initiatives that are deemed ‘more important’. The truth is, it plays a key role in employee safety and wellbeing in the workplace. It’s equally as important as environmental and economic sustainability.  


The question is: how can we move social sustainability up the priority ladder so it sits in its rightful place next to environmental and economic sustainability?  

Like so many things in the workplace, the answer is education. 

Workplace learning tools are more than just compliance-based training. Many of these platforms have courses that can educate all members of the workplace about how they can be more socially sustainable. 

It can help them answer questions like:  

  • What can we do to increase psychological safety in the workplace? 
  • How can we make sure that everyone feels represented within the company? 
  • How can social sustainability help public perspective of a company? 

One example of social sustainability that we saw explode in popularity at the height of the pandemic was giving employees the option to work from home. By providing this option, employers showed that they cared about their employees’ wellbeing during a very uncertain time around the world. In other words, it gave employees one less thing to worry about!

Environmental sustainability

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that environmental sustainability is a hot topic in business from an individual level right up to major corporations.  

Understandably, different companies will have different capacities for how they can demonstrate environmental sustainability. However, the point is that companies must make an effort that is visible to both employees and consumers. 


The increasing pressure for businesses to demonstrate economic sustainability is more than just hearsay to make businesses feel guilty. There are some real stats behind it! For example, a 2018 Nielsen study of US consumers revealed that a huge 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should be doing something to protect the environment. 

While it may not be initially expected, environmental sustainability has an impact on employee retention too. Another study of 1000 US employees revealed that more than 70% would choose to work at a company if it had a strong environmental agenda. 

Here are some ways, both big and small, that companies can demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability: 

  • Investigate the type of power used to produce products. If they’re made with coal power, is there any potential to switch to a more sustainable power source like solar or wind? 
  • For documents that you would typically print onto paper, try keeping them as a digital file. Many programs allow for documents to still be highlighted or have notes made on them digitally, negating the need for a printout. You’d be shocked how quickly a sheet of paper or two adds up to thousands of sheets in a business! 
  • For every waste bin you have around the office, have one for recycling as well. You’ll find that simply having the option to recycle will mean that a lot less goes to waste. It’s a small, short term financial investment for long term environmental gain. 

Economic sustainability

A big part of maintaining economic sustainability within a business is finding that sweet spot between cutting unnecessary spending while also still investing money in things that could benefit the business’s long term financial growth. 

As much as we’d like it, there’s no yellow brick road that leads straight to Oz in the world of economic sustainability for businesses. 

To determine what increased economic stability may look like for a specific business, it’s best to get in touch with a financial advisor or equivalent professional. In doing so, businesses can get a clear idea of what specific actions they can take to increase and maintain economic sustainability. 

Why should you care about sustainability in business?

You may think sustainability is more of a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’ for your business. After all, shouldn't things like financial growth and creating a superstar team of staff be the priority? The truth is, sustainability goes hand in hand with both of these things. 

While environmental, social, and economic sustainability all have distinct business functions, they can be likened to a house of cards. If all three are there, the house of cards can stand with ease. The moment one of them is removed or bumped a little too hard, the house of cards is at risk of collapsing.  

That’s not to say that not focusing on one of these types will cause a business to collapse entirely (there’s usually a lot more to it than that). However, if for example, environmental sustainability is being neglected, the social and economic sustainability of a business is likely to suffer as well. 

For more insights, subscribe to the Go1 newsletter to stay on top of all the latest L&D trends. Or, you can book a demo today to find out how Go1 can help with your team’s learning needs. 

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