Why is sustainability beneficial to business? (and how to get started)

Updated: Feb 7

What will UK companies do to incorporate sustainability into their plans? Will Kirkpatrick, Head of Sustainability and Social Impact at O2, posed the question to Nick Torday, Co-Founder of Bower Collective, a sustainable lifestyle business.

Customers today are looking for brands they can trust. Finding brands that share their values – especially environmental commitments – is a common example. So, if you're a small company with less than ten employees or a larger corporation with many locations, sustainability should be a part of your business plan.

We're making some major environmental commitments at O2. Via a series of roundtable meetings, studies, and one-on-one conversations, we've also been talking about sustainability with our customers and partners. These discussions have shown that environmental stewardship is beneficial to people as well as the environment. It can also help you retain customers or workers while also lowering the costs.

Bower Collective, headquartered in the United Kingdom, is a small but rapidly expanding sustainable consumer goods company. O2’s Will Kirkpatrick spoke with Nick Torday, the company's founder, to get his thoughts on how to develop a long-term business.

1. Transparency

“Being honest with your clients is one of the best things you can do. Recognize areas that you can change and what you'll do to address them,” Nick advises. According to a 2018 study by Label Insight, ‘radical openness' – which involves highlighting sustainability activities and shortcomings – has become increasingly popular– is important for brand loyalty. In reality, companies that work in this manner see expanded brand recognition and confidence, as well as consumers that are able to pay higher prices.

2. Demonstrate your worth

Bower Collective is regarded as a long-term enterprise. It is now in the process of becoming a B-Corp. Although this strategy may not be appropriate for all companies, pursuing an accreditation will demonstrate your intentions. You should assess your own approach to find sustainability risks or opportunities even though you're not working against a particular recognised structure. It doesn't matter if you're relating it to new regulations or best practises in the field. This will also aid in the prioritisation of topics that must be addressed first.

Nick understands that some companies would find this better than others. However, it is worthwhile to put in the effort to make a difference. “We have a very lean mentality. It's much better for us when we have a smaller squad. We have a complete picture of what works and what needs to improve, from technologies to packaging,” he adds. One approach to make long-term, meaningful progress is to investigate how you and your vendors affect the environment.

3. Make a large difference with small moves.

You will discover new ways to approach environmental issues by investing in science and creativity. “Bower puts a lot of emphasis on innovation. We realise, for example, that waste has a demonstrable effect and that it is not all recycled. But we made a very basic digital instrument to calculate it, and then a closed-loop method to address the problems, we found” Nick says.

Focusing on sustainability forces one to rethink our assumptions about industry. When there are new limits on what can be delivered, it asks one to think differently. However, creativity does not necessarily have to imply significant improvements or prices. Focusing on sustainability often prompts one to rethink our assumptions about company. When new limits on what can be delivered, it challenges one to think differently. However, creativity does not necessarily necessitate significant improvements or expenditures. This is an incentive for every small company to receive grants to work on long-term business solutions.”

4. Look for healthy partners

Businesses must work together to build a prosperous economy if we want to combat climate change, according to Nick. Bower Collective loves its allies as much as it values its rivals. Cooperation, in Nick's opinion, is essential for creating a prosperous future. Values that are exchanged partnerships can produce short and long-term options much easier than operating independently (and even at shared costs).

Making a large public commitment to anything like sustainability is never straightforward. We should be conscious. We're on our way to being net zero by 2025 of our own activities. This has taken time and dedication; looking at our environmental implications and making progress, such as becoming the first network and one of the eight businesses in the world to earn the highest carbon emission certification from the Carbon Trust's supply chain.

Visit the O2 vs CO2 page to read more about O2's path to net zero and for advice about how you can reduce your CO2.