Business Case For Sustainability

A ‘sustainable’ business is one which operates with minimal negative impact on the global or local environment, community and economy. An enterprise that strives to meet the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

In general, business is described as green if it matches the following four criteria:[1]

  1. It incorporates principles of sustainability into each of its business decisions.
  2. It supplies environmentally friendly products or services that replaces demand for nongreen products and/or services.
  3. It is greener than traditional competition.
  4. It has made an enduring commitment to environmental principles in its business operations.

Why is this important ?

With the environment taking centre stage in the news, and with citizens and consumers asking politicians, governments and businesses – ” What are you doing for the environment? “, you need to be prepared to answer the call. You can see markets shift, more people are choosing with their wallets, environmentally friendly products, electric cars. Using the ‘Sustainability’ or environmental and social lens to look at your business will help you:

a. Identify and reduce risk from increases in electricity, water and other utility bills. And reduce your energy and environmental footprint.

b.Identify ways in which you can engage with you employees and improve employee retention.

c.Differentiate your businesses from others because you are taking bold steps to reduce your environmental impact.

d.Share your success with others.

e. Become a leader in your sector by taking the first steps or by sharing all the work you have done with peers.

Here is a video to inspire you. Late Ray Anderson – CEO & Founder of Interface Corporation.

More Ray Anderson. Positive Feedback loop  – Doing well by doing good.

Return on ‘Sustainability’ Investment

So if you say “I want to do the right thing but changing my sources of energy and transport are expensive ? How am I going to pay for it?” Good questions. There is a ‘business case‘ for sustainability. A return on the green investment that can be calculated and applied to your bottom line. Professor Bob Willard has summarized the economic benefits of implementing elements of the business case for sustainability.

Here is a detailed video on The Business Case for Sustainability.


Where do I begin?

Sustainability is a journey, but you have to start somewhere. Below we will highlight success stories and provide you with information you can use to make change now.

Small victories

If you have a store front or other facility chances are you have lighting, heating and cooling.

  • Setup a green team
    • Challenge your employees and get them involved. Working together towards a common goal will engage your staff and provide valuable ideas of how you can reduce your business environmental footprint.
  • Lighting 
    • Lighting retrofits can have a quick return on investment.
    • See how this business did it. (lightenco is a contractor) – hydro ottawa? saveonenergy programs for biz?
    • Do you have neon signs? Exit/open signs? Convert them to LEDs.
  • Reduce  waste
    • Conduct a waste audit by seeing what proportion of your waste is compostable, recyclable and waste.
    • If you have a low percentage of waste you could sign up for the City of Ottawa’s Yellow Bag program. The city will sell you yellow bags for your garbage but will pick up as much recycling and compost as you can generate.
    • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair – work with other businesses or non profits to achieve a low waste business.
  • HVAC System
    • Set your thermostat/change your thermostat to a programmable one. There are wifi thermostats that you can monitor and program over the internet.
  • Insulation, maintenance, building envelope
    • Maintaining the door seals, window seals and replacing when necessary will keep energy bills down, reduce drafts and enhance the comfort for employees and customers.
    • Set a regular maintenance schedule. 
    • Ask customer and employees for their ideas as they may be able to point out issues to be resolved.


Medium victories

  • Energy use: 
    • Often energy use is a large expense besides salaries and raw materials. A comfortable work environment improves productivity and keeps customers and employees happy.
    • Conduct an energy audit or take a self assessment to see how much you could save.
    • Sometimes just programming your thermostat or coordinating the HVAC system more effectively can save money as well as improve the indoor environment.
    • If you are a restaurant consider a variable speed fan control for your kitchen exhaust hood. Here is some information you can use and pilot project links.

Large Projects

  • Employee engagement
  • Supplier engagement
    • Select local suppliers and work with them on ‘green’ initiatives or set goals for your suppliers that benefit both.
  • Customer engagement
    • Share your little and medium victories with your customers. Be proud of the extra effort you are making. You customers will thank you and will share in your successes
  • Readjusting business model
    • Could you consider changing a product based retail to a service based business? (Interface Corporation has carpeting as a service)
  • Go Zero waste
    • Sign up to environmental programs that enhance community engagement – host classes or provide your business space to non profits
    • Become a ‘Take Back’ retailer where customers can drop off used items for recycling.
    • Consider adding a bike rack or enhancing your store front.
  • Engage with other businesses in order to look for symbiotic relationships.

Help me with a self assessment.




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