Sustainability can be profitable too

Fuji Xerox Singapore CSR head Atkin Pang shares a “Three Ps” approach for companies to reduce their carbon footprint.

Every year, World Environment Day highlights the importance of purposeful action toward environmental concerns.  Progressively, climate change has taken center stage – as stark differences in weather patterns, temperatures and sea levels begin to cause alarm globally.

Both businesses and individuals can no longer take a passive approach towards environmental sustainability, as this threatens the future of our next generation.

The climate agreement at the United Nations conference in December 2015 saw 195 nations agreeing to make significant cuts to carbon emissions in order to manage the increase in global temperatures.

This is especially important as the United Nations highlighted that global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by almost 50 per cent since 1990, and grew quicker between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades.

According to the Asian Development Bank, Southeast Asia is likely to sustain larger economic losses affecting labor productivity and health due to climate change than any other region around the world. Given the threat posed to the economy, organizations can no longer afford to overlook sustainability.

Reducing a firm’s carbon footprint becomes even more important, as businesses rely on revenues and growth to determine their ability to progress in future.

Today, it is imperative for businesses to rethink their environmental sustainability practices, especially as customers currently pay greater attention to the topic – so much so that it can affect purchasing decisions.

A recent Nielsen survey shows that last year, sales of consumer goods from brands with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability have grown more than four per cent globally, while those without grew less than one per cent. Additionally, 66 per cent of global respondents are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, up from 55 per cent in 2014.

This shift in behavior highlights the growing preference among customers towards organizations with sustainable practices.

Understanding the shift in mindset towards sustainability, we at Fuji Xerox have been actively building our environmentally-friendly processes for the past two decades. Our efforts include adopting a holistic approach to sustainability through the Fuji Xerox 360° Sustainable Value Chain.

This approach affects every step in our value chain, from the selection of suppliers to providing solutions for customers and recycling used products.

 We have also implemented an internal environmental management system to improve resource efficiency and reduce our ecological footprint, which also cultivates energy conservation habits amongst employees.

With such practices in place, we have successfully reduced our carbon emissions in Singapore by 38.7 per cent since 2003. During the same period, we have also demonstrated a 219 per cent increase in sales of multi-function devices. This achievement demonstrates how sustainability can be viewed as a strategy that can contribute towards profitability.

According to a Global CEO survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, businesses today understand the importance of environmental sustainability.

Three out of four CEOs believe that satisfying societal needs and protecting the interests of future generations is important, and 93 per cent of CEOs of Global Compact signatories say that sustainability is key to future business success.

Despite the high-level of importance given to sustainability, only 33 per cent of respondents believed that companies are doing enough to address global sustainability challenges. Thus, there is a gap in incorporating sustainability practices in the current business environment, despite its noted importance.

For companies, environmental conservation can be carried out through their business practices, alongside engaging customers and employees, while also ensuring profitability. 

Faced with the urgent need to reduce their carbon footprint, firms should adopt the ‘Three Ps’ approach that has worked well for Fuji Xerox Singapore to reduce carbon emissions.

  • Processes: Companies can embed sustainable practices into their business strategy. This can be done through the integration of recycling into their internal practices. In manufacturing, for example, businesses can look into reusing recycled parts into their new products. Such processes can also streamline the cost of existing practices through better resource management.

  • Products and Services: Companies can also engage their customers by providing eco-friendly supplies that have been certified by environmental bodies. Options include paper and wood products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council™, which are obtained from responsibly-managed forests and meet the highest environmental standards.

    Such business strategies ensure that only products with reputable sustainability standards are procured and promote green practices to buyers. Here, firms can also engage with their partners to promote action towards sustainable practices.

  • People: Last but not least, companies can nurture their people to give back to the community and provide avenues for active participation in environmental initiatives. Organizations can leverage major environmental initiatives such as Earth Hour, World Environment Day, World Car-Free Day to engage, nurture and provide an avenue for employees to care for the environment.

    These initiatives not only promote staff contribution to the community, but also helps them realize the role that every individual plays to bring about wider change.

It is more essential than ever for organizations to play an advanced role in driving environmental sustainability. In addition to a positive brand reputation, these practices also improve resource management, which could directly reduce operating costs.

At present, organizations are under greater pressure to improve their sustainability, as the world takes a proactive approach to protect the environment.

For companies, environmental conservation can be carried out through their business practices, alongside engaging customers and employees, while also ensuring profitability. It is time for businesses, regardless of size or industry, to play a greater role toward creating a sustainable future for our upcoming generations.

Atkin Pang is head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Fuji Xerox Singapore. This post was written exclusively for Eco-Business.

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