© Earthly Gains Ltd 2017-2018

Approaches

Where to start

There is no fixed starting point for addressing sustainability.  Earthly Gains can help you identify which approaches will best suit your company. It can then help support you through implementing them and identifying benefits.

From global perspective to local action

The United Nations (UN) Charter promotes the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. In 2015, the UN adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 targets. Many companies around the world have used these to help identify where they should focus their own sustainability efforts. With so many goals and targets, it is best to choose a small number that relate to your company’s operations. For example, a small food manufacturing company might align with the Goal 6 target to substantially increase water-use efficiency to make a local difference. To make this more effective globally, it could help its suppliers in developing countries through education or making water efficiency a supplier requirement. 

Related initiatives

There are a number of sustainability frameworks that companies can use to help focus their efforts on what is most important. Two of the best known are: Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) UN Global Compact Both of these help companies to deliver more sustainably. The UN Global Compact is very closely linked to the Sustainable Development Goals but the GRI provides guidance on how to address them too. These two initiatives tend to target larger, corporate organisations but the GRI can be used by any company. The owner of Earthly Gains has used the GRI when working on the sustainability reporting of a company of 60 employees. (He also used it when working for a FTSE listed company.)

Management systems

Many companies use recognised management systems to help ensure that they manage environmental and social issues. There are growing numbers of these but the most relevant are: ISO14001 - Environmental Management ISO50001 - Energy management BS OHSAS 18001 - Occupational Health and Safety Management OHSAS 18001 is likely to be superseded by an international standard (ISO 45001) soon. Other relevant standards are: ISO 20400 - Sustainable Procurement ISO 26000 - Social Responsibility BS 8001 - Circular Economy

 It’s how you use them…

Having a management system is helpful because you know that you have some control over an issue. However, they only really add value to your business if you use them to their full potential. For example, many companies have environmental management systems that record their processes but don’t really improve them. Although there is now a requirement for continual improvement and senior management commitment, few go beyond the minimum requirements. This is a waste of all the effort put into setting up and running the system. If used properly, an environmental management system will help with everyday business decision making and drive innovative thinking on delivery. Contact us to discuss how you can make your management system really add value.

What is resource efficiency?

Resource efficiency is a technique for ensuring that the minimum material, water and energy are used to deliver your product or service to customers. It is a management approach that engages people to drive improvements and innovation in processes. You can download our introductory guide Resource Efficiency - Setting the scene.

The resource hierarchy

Whatever you use in business, try to think through this hierarchy to make sure that you are being as efficient as possible. 1. Can you eliminate a material or process completely? 2. Can you reduce the material, energy or water being used? 3. Can you reuse a material or component that would otherwise go to waste? 4. Can you re-cycle something that might otherwise be waste? 5. If there is a waste that cannot be reused or recycled, only then send it for disposal. Taking action at the top of hierarchy usually saves the most money and makes the biggest environmental improvement. Using paper as an example, if your company prints everything double-sided, it can expect to reduce paper use by about 40% and the cost of buying paper is much larger than the cost of disposing of it.  Earthly Gains can help you to put the resource hierarchy to practical use. Please contact us to discuss how.

Biodiversity and Natural

Capital

Human life relies on the biological systems of the planet – the biosphere. Healthy systems often have lots of different habitats and a variety of species, giving them high biodiversity. The UK Wildlife Trusts put this into business context by pointing out that “every organisation, regardless of size, sector or location depends in some way on the natural environment”. There is increasing evidence that well-being is linked in a good natural environment and that it can enhance employees’ performance. Companies can measure how well they manage the natural environment using the Wildlife Trust’s Biodiversity Benchmark. This makes managing the environment easy to fit in with systems such as ISO14001. The term ‘natural capital’ is used to indicate that natural systems have an economic value. Over recent year, understanding of the importance of natural capital has been increasing. In the UK The Natural Capital Committee () was set up to advise government on the sustainable use of natural capital. Earthly Gains can help you mange your land to bring benefits to your business and the wider environment. Please contact us to discuss how.  

Learn the lingo

What all the words mean

As in many areas of business, there are lots of jargon words around sustainability issues. Here is our take on what they mean in a business context and how they inter-relate.

Sustainability

Sustainability is an approach to managing a business which recognises that businesses can only survive in the longer term if they: make a profit operate within the environmental limits of the planet meet the expectations of the society in which they operate This is often used interchangeably with the term CSR (below).

Sustainable Development

This is development that meets the principles of sustainability given above. It is a term used a lot by governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), such as charities. The UK launched its sustainable development policy in 2005 and focuses on what we need to to ensure everybody can have a high quality of life now and in the future.

CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility

The European Union defines CSR as a concept whereby companies voluntarily integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interactions with stakeholders. This could be identical to sustainability and the two words often seem to be used interchangeably. Our take on the difference is that CSR started out as companies paying to support social issues. So initially it was an added cost that didn’t really help manage the business.

ESG - Environmental, Social and Governance

ESG is a term often used by in the investment community to measure corporate behaviour. It is usually considered a non-financial indicator of company performance. So we think of ESG as measuring sustainability and/or CSR performance.

Circular economy

This is a description of an economy where resources are cycled many times so as to reduce or eliminate waste. At the present, most of our business practices use a take-make-use-dispose model, where resources are extracted, made into something, used and then thrown away. While some things are reused or recycled, it is still just a small proportion of what could be. The circular economy would see our use of materials fit into the Earth’s natural cycles without disrupting them.

BREEAM and LEED

These are standards for rating the sustainability of buildings. They look at a range of factors, such as the energy-efficiency of the building, how much natural light workers have and how easy it is travel to.

What else would you like to know about?

If there are some concepts that you would like to know more about, please drop us an email and we will consider including them here.
© Martin Gibson, trading as Earthly Gains, 2017

Approaches

Where to start

There is no fixed starting point for addressing sustainability.  Earthly Gains can help you identify which approaches will best suit your company. It can then help support you through implementing them and identifying benefits.

From global perspective to local action

The United Nations (UN) Charter promotes the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples. In 2015, the UN adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals with 169 targets. Many companies around the world have used these to help identify where they should focus their own sustainability efforts. With so many goals and targets, it is best to choose a small number that relate to your company’s operations. For example, a small food manufacturing company might align with the Goal 6 target to substantially increase water-use efficiency to make a local difference. To make this more effective globally, it could help its suppliers in developing countries through education or making water efficiency a supplier requirement. 

Related initiatives

There are a number of sustainability frameworks that companies can use to help focus their efforts on what is most important. Two of the best known are: Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) UN Global Compact Both of these help companies to deliver more sustainably. The UN Global Compact is very closely linked to the Sustainable Development Goals but the GRI provides guidance on how to address them too. These two initiatives tend to target larger, corporate organisations but the GRI can be used by any company. The owner of Earthly Gains has used the GRI when working on the sustainability reporting of a company of 60 employees. (He also used it when working for a FTSE listed company.)

Management systems

Many companies use recognised management systems to help ensure that they manage environmental and social issues. There are growing numbers of these but the most relevant are: ISO14001 - Environmental Management ISO50001 - Energy management BS OHSAS 18001 - Occupational Health and Safety Management OHSAS 18001 is likely to be superseded by an international standard (ISO 45001) soon. Other relevant standards are: ISO 20400 - Sustainable Procurement ISO 26000 - Social Responsibility BS 8001 - Circular Economy

 It’s how you use them…

Having a management system is helpful because you know that you have some control over an issue. However, they only really add value to your business if you use them to their full potential. For example, many companies have environmental management systems that record their processes but don’t really improve them. Although there is now a requirement for continual improvement and senior management commitment, few go beyond the minimum requirements. This is a waste of all the effort put into setting up and running the system. If used properly, an environmental management system will help with everyday business decision making and drive innovative thinking on delivery. Contact us to discuss how you can make your management system really add value.

What is resource efficiency?

Resource efficiency is a technique for ensuring that the minimum material, water and energy are used to deliver your product or service to customers. It is a management approach that engages people to drive improvements and innovation in processes. You can download our introductory guide Resource Efficiency - Setting the scene.

The resource hierarchy

Whatever you use in business, try to think through this hierarchy to make sure that you are being as efficient as possible. 1. Can you eliminate a material or process completely? 2. Can you reduce the material, energy or water being used? 3. Can you reuse a material or component that would otherwise go to waste? 4. Can you re-cycle something that might otherwise be waste? 5. If there is a waste that cannot be reused or recycled, only then send it for disposal. Taking action at the top of hierarchy usually saves the most money and makes the biggest environmental improvement. Using paper as an example, if your company prints everything double-sided, it can expect to reduce paper use by about 40% and the cost of buying paper is much larger than the cost of disposing of it.  Earthly Gains can help you to put the resource hierarchy to practical use. Please contact us to discuss how.

Biodiversity and Natural Capital

Human life relies on the biological systems of the planet – the biosphere. Healthy systems often have lots of different habitats and a variety of species, giving them high biodiversity. The UK Wildlife Trusts put this into business context by pointing out that “every organisation, regardless of size, sector or location depends in some way on the natural environment”. There is increasing evidence that well- being is linked in a good natural environment and that it can enhance employees’ performance. Companies can measure how well they manage the natural environment using the Wildlife Trust’s Biodiversity Benchmark. This makes managing the environment easy to fit in with systems such as ISO14001. The term ‘natural capital’ is used to indicate that natural systems have an economic value. Over recent year, understanding of the importance of natural capital has been increasing. In the UK The Natural Capital Committee () was set up to advise government on the sustainable use of natural capital. Earthly Gains can help you mange your land to bring benefits to your business and the wider environment. Please contact us to discuss how.