Sustainable business in 2023: 7 practical tips

Yes, 2023 has started! For many entrepreneurs, this means: a new financial year, an ambitious annual plan that is ready and a fresh dose of ambition. Expressions such as “sustainability”, “social and environmental impact” or “corporate social responsibility” undoubtedly appear here. But how do you ensure that it doesn’t just stick to sustainable intentions? With these seven practical tips, you can make a difference in 2023.

1) Put sustainability on the agenda – literally

For many companies, it is relatively new to be actively involved in sustainability. And therefore not yet a fixed part of the strategy, consultations, decision-making or action points. By making sustainability a recurring agenda item and consultation, you prevent time from catching up without making progress. Even if the plans aren’t concrete yet, at least making time for them and getting the conversation going helps.

2) Set social and environmental goals

“Making it more sustainable” is an ambition or goal for many entrepreneurs. But when is it a success? What do you want to have achieved by the end of 2023? What difference to people or the planet do you want your company to make?

By formulating concrete social and ecological goals, you ensure that it is clear to everyone what you are working towards. You might want to make goals SMART. It is advisable to designate a person in charge or initiator for each goal. This means that there is at least one person monitoring that the topic gets the attention and action it deserves. A few examples:

  • In 2023 we will create 3 initiatives to increase (awareness of) mental health in the team, where >75% of the team have participated at least once.

  • In 2023, we will reduce the required packaging material per product by 25% and we will switch to 100% FSC material.

  • In the first quarter of 2023, the entire management team will follow an education in diversity, equality and inclusion.

  • In the first half of 2023, we will map our CO2 footprint. In the second half of 2023, we set concrete targets to reduce our footprint, which must be more ambitious than the requirements of the Climate Agreement.

3) Remain critical – of yourself and others

Have you really gone for the most sustainable packaging material? Couldn’t the transport be even more efficient? Is an urgent shipment by air really necessary? Have you done everything you can to reduce energy or water consumption? Is it impossible to reduce your waste?

Entrepreneurship is also: making choices. And sometimes you deliberately choose the most unsustainable solution. You can argue for that. But in a world where social and environmental challenges are growing by the day and transparency is increasingly valued and demanded, you would do well to remain critical. By regularly asking yourself, your team, but also your suppliers what they are doing or not doing in terms of sustainability, we ensure that we continue to see opportunities for improvement.

4) Pay attention to greenwashing

Greenwashing is not alone lame, it is also a significant reputational risk and stands in the way of the actual sustainability of business life. So avoid! How? By keeping communication about your own sustainability performance clear. You do this, among other things, by being transparent about concrete results, supported by facts and in terms that leave little to the imagination.

Also be aware of this within (potential) collaborations. Can the other party correctly explain what is green or socially responsible about the product or service? Can it show results or will it stick to promising plans? Companies don’t always burn their fingers on purpose greenwashingbut that doesn’t make it any less misleading.

5) Lead by example

An open door perhaps, but when it comes to sustainability, a good example is definitely set. Indeed, sustainability is always accompanied by (behavioral) change. We want to get from A to B, but we don’t know exactly what B looks like. What is expected of us in situation B? What should we replace the “old” process or behavior with?

In short: we need imagination. Examples of other companies or individuals showing us how it can be done. As an entrepreneur, manager or teammate with a passion for sustainability, you could be the one. After all, it is different to say that sustainability is important to you or to the company than to show it. This can be done with small actions, such as carefully recycling in the warehouse (and helping others to do so) or checking all screens if you are the last one. Or more drastically, for example by changing energy supplier or moving to a more sustainable building. But also by presenting or inviting external examples.

6) Get inspired

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel yourself, and you’re not alone. Thousands of businesses and people just like you are looking for ways to do a little better today than you did yesterday. To create a business that you can ultimately leave behind with pride and satisfaction. To contribute to a world where future generations can live a healthy life.

Also read: A look back at sustainability in 2022

Your energy for the sometimes heavy subject of sustainability will surely flow again when you listen to an inspiring podcast, read a good book or watch a powerful documentary. Having a good conversation with an entrepreneur who inspires you, attending an event or visiting an organization that you think is doing great things for people and the environment can enrich you with fresh sense and ideas. In the world of sustainable business, there is a great willingness to share. So expose yourself to this regularly, it will surely make you happy and wiser.

7) Celebrate the steps taken

Finally, a pitfall that many entrepreneurs will recognize: Don’t forget to reflect on the steps you’ve taken towards a more sustainable business. And don’t wait for the Christmas party in 2023, but use small moments to celebrate these successes with your team, partner or close friend.

Whether it’s extending partner leave, a tasty vegetarian version of the annual BBQ, the Contact to a supplier on their own continent, phasing out an unsustainable product or successfully reintegrating a colleague with burnout; each one of those concrete steps that deserve a moment and a compliment.

Onward to a sustainable 2023!

Author

Floor Meeder

For a sustainable future, we need more companies – large and small – that want to make a difference. My mission? Gets entrepreneurs started and helps them create value for people and the environment in their own way. I do this by writing on platforms like these and directly supporting SMEs with Etiquette: A sustainability study that helps entrepreneurs make a difference and secure a place in the new economy.

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