Lean, mean AND green
The Sustainable Business Network is daring businesses to take part in its Get Sustainable Challenge – and maybe save some money in the process.
It’s that time of year when businesses take an exhilarating plunge for the good of their health. Not the Lake Taupo midwinter swim, but the Get Sustainable Challenge. The Challenge was developed by the Sustainable Business Network (SBN), as a comprehensive sustainability improvement tool. It assesses the tangibles, like products, services, resources and business systems, as well as the decidedly more slippery concepts – of commitment and influence, among others.
By taking the Challenge, businesses are motivated to better understand their sustainability strengths and weaknesses, and identify both opportunities and risks. They get face-to-face support, resources and relevant KPIs, making the Challenge a framework for sustainable development and reporting. It also shows each business where they sit on the sustainability continuum.
Robyn Henry, CEO of The Conference Centre feels that the feedback generated by taking the Challenge is invaluable on her company’s sustainable journey. “I think it is great as a benchmarking tool – not just to see where we were when we started but also where we are against other companies. The shared experiences often give you ideas of other areas to focus on, or how they have achieved some of their solutions. Many of the problems are common to most businesses, so there is not always the need to reinvent the wheel.”
And Mike Murphy, managing director of Kokako Coffee, believes that this feedback loop was lacking before they took the Challenge the first time. “I was keen to see how the sustainability practices and initiatives we already had in the business stood up to critical analysis by a third party. It highlighted what we were doing right but also exposed some of the things I was not so proud of, such as staff working long hours – which I’m guilty of – and not actually having a ‘sustainability strategy’. We were just kind of doing sustainable things without writing them all down.”
He’s particularly keen to map Kokako’s recent progress by taking the Challenge again in 2012. “We won an award in 2009 for being a ‘Trailblazer’. A lot has changed since then both externally and internally and our business is now completely different, so what we achieved back then seems a long time ago and I am keen to see how we have progressed.”
Jonathan Lucas, senior associate at James & Wells Intellectual Property, notes that the company’s Challenge process supports its understanding of what it means to be sustainable. “the true meaning of sustainability is about the ability of a business to sustain itself over a period of time while having a positive effect on its staff, customers, community and the environment. Previously we had a narrow understanding that it was just about being green, but there is so much more to it.”
Now further along its journey, James & Wells has developed initiatives to help the community while supporting other businesses in their commitment to sustainability.
Entry into the SBN Awards programme is included in the cost of taking the Challenge – which, for James & Wells, brought a different set of rewards.
“The contacts we made as a result of entering the GSC and entering the annual Sustainable Business Network Awards have been valuable and inspiring to show us what is achievable.”
Actively working with tools like the Challenge perpetuates this kind of virtuous circle, as Robyn Henry has found out. “From a business perspective, other clients seeing you actively working on sustainability, often collaboratively, means resources and costs can be shared.”
Mike Murphy, managing director, Kokako.