Article by Lubomila Jordanova, Co-Founder & CEO at PlanA, Head of Jury at Rimi Baltic Sustainability Awards
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues our world currently faces. Our generation and the ones to follow will have to grapple with the consequences of human-made climate change. Our generation is also facing the fastest technological advancement. Thus, this is the moment for companies to take advantage of innovative solutions and use the opportunity to actually move the needle on carbon reduction.
Businesses are both the most versatile and the biggest emitters of carbon emissions, thus by implementing targeted changes they can make a meaningful impact. Sustainability is, by will or by force, making an entrance into businesses through every door. From a long-term perspective, a handful of companies now fail to include sustainability as a part of their core objectives. It is necessary to acknowledge that sustainability aspects are integrated into all business activities – supply chains, operations, production, sales, and marketing. Thus, when making decisions towards meaningful change it is crucial to take a complex look at all these elements. It can be seen that the pressure and scrutiny of the public, consumers, and investors create an overwhelming incentive for companies to take steps to become truly sustainable rather than paying lip service.
Innovation as the answer to the sustainability crisis
When thinking about taking the steps towards sustainability we see that innovation is an integral part of the solution. It comes in many forms and is sweeping through industries from data processing to carbon removal, low tech solutions, and radical new materials and ways of recycling resources. A sustainable model should also include structural and behavioural changes to complement the transformation of our industries into ones that respect the environmental foundations. Our company Plan A uses existing company systems and data to create visibility on environmental, social, and governance indicators. Using these insights our software identifies the areas of improvement and suggests science-based targets through all scopes of emissions to help businesses make meaningful change and decrease their footprint.
Key principles towards corporate sustainability
Another thing we've identified when working with businesses is that there are three key preconditions for sustainability to be successfully implemented within a company: leadership buy-in is essential to unlock vital budgets and remove roadblocks. The second is defining achievable and scientific targets to set a course and stick to it. And finally, an economic reason to pursue, such as investor pressure, client demands or employee engagement. Using these principles, we help companies to establish a road map, which allows them to follow the set targets and monitor their progress. During the process, it is important not to forget the team engagement and the cultural change management, which is essential to bring an entire organisation into sustainability.
Sustainability is not only about the targets
As we've noticed when working with large and small enterprises, in the business environment a big emphasis is put on reaching the targets and certain thresholds. However, when looking at sustainability it is important to recognise that the impact is not only CO2 reduction but also social, governance, and other environmental indicators. Therefore, the goals and targets should be conscious of these multiple facets to create net-positive results for their stakeholders. With regards to carbon reduction, businesses should set science-based targets that are coherent with the global standards and industry specifics. The sense of urgency should be at the heart of strategies, however, transforming a business and leading to net-zero goals takes effort and time. Thus, sustainability must be set as the key value of the company and recalled when making any long-term decisions.
Where to start the sustainability journey
Getting acquainted with all these challenges the question arises – where to start? Start by measuring and assessing your impact to recognize what creates the biggest footprint, and then take action to decarbonise and reduce the negative impacts of your business. As for other parts of your business, be methodical with it – setting up measurable targets, monitoring progress, and constantly iterating to find the best pathway to true sustainability. Building a sustainable business requires taking a true and critical look at your company’s operations, which takes time. We cannot wait any longer to take meaningful action, but sustainability is a long-term aim and an integral part of a future business. Only innovation and progressive technologies will allow us to feed, sustain, and grow our population whilst returning within reasonable planetary boundaries. I am also glad to see the high activity towards sustainable business practices in the Baltics. Together with the Helve team, we have developed the methodology for the Baltic Sustainability Awards, where we search and aim to highlight these real solutions and GreenTech achievements among enterprises and startups. We hope that these success stories will allow others to learn and find inspiration for change.