Why the Pressing Need to Implement Sustainable Business Practices?
By Leslie Lyon
Thursday, 15th October 2009
There are many interpretations of sustainability, and I think that many of us, although interested in the concept and desperately wanting to do our part, are still somewhat confused.

How can we become even more active contributors to the "reduce, reuse and recycle" guidelines, and how exactly do we go about implementing these changes?

Let's first understand the four well-known "Un-sustainability Factors" vs. Four "Sustainability Factors":

#1 Un-sustainability Factor: We mine and remove metals, minerals and fossil fuels (oil) from the earth which either have a very slow re-absorption rate back into the earth, or none at all, and therefore build up to create a toxic environment.

Sustainability Factor #1: Reduce mining and use of fossil fuels;

#2 Un-sustainability Factor: We create chemicals to make products which also build up and contribute to a toxic environment.

Sustainability Factor #2: Phase out production of harmful, unnatural products;

#3 Un-sustainability Factor: We damage nature through overuse; overharvesting/deforestation; landfills and leaching of contaminated compounds; and infringe on wildlife habitat.

Sustainability Factor #3: Changes to our use of water & land, including: agriculture; forestry; fishing and urban development;

#4 Un-sustainability Factor: We create conditions where people cannot meet their basic human needs, including resources and distribution.

Sustainability Factor #4: Better small-scale and world-wide organizational efficiencies, with a greater spread of resources in the wealthier communities and countries.

These dominating, un-sustainability factors have translated into our current dilemma: An imbalance in supply vs. demand

Supplies are decreasing. Our requirements for survival such as food, water, clean air and soil are in decline, as is the planet's ability to regenerate these supplies.

Demand is increasing. The planet holds over 6 billion people whose accumulating need for these supplies is increasing faster than our planet can provide them, therefore compromising our long-term sustainability (survival). Check out www.thenaturalstep.com (click on "View" to increase the font size for this website - it's hard to read otherwise)

So as supplies decrease and demand increases,
social and environmental pressures rise

It is because of this supply vs. demand crisis, that we need to more carefully consider the big picture. We each need to scrutinize the demands we make on nature and it's systems in order to ensure that future generations will have enough to survive on (think of your children, your grandchildren, their economy and living environment). So how are your actions affecting their futures?

Have you heard of the "Triple Bottom Line"?

In today's world, businesses must embrace economic, environmental and social values. John Elkington, co-founder of the business consulting company SustainAbility, coined the phrase in his book titled "Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business". His message:

Triple bottom line accounting means expanding your traditional business reporting systems to not only include financial outcomes, but also environmental and social performance.

Make Sustainability a "Living Plan"

Begin by recognizing the benefits to creating a sustainable business environment:

  • Save money by increasing efficiency;
  • Increase awareness and human health with safer choices;
  • Preserve your business and future by minimizing impact;
  • Strengthen and lengthen lives.
So, if you were interested in operating in a more socially responsible manner and willing to broaden your vision into longer-term goals, you would:

  • Envision the type of business you wanted to become;
  • Analyze where you are today in terms of sustainability;
  • Determine what actions you need to take in order to achieve these goals.
In other words, you "back cast" - analyze how to convert your current reality into your desired vision of the future. To do this, there are five categories needing attention. Consider these points.

Top 5 Areas Needing Attention in Running a Leaner, more Sustainable Business:

1. Management & Staff
Declare your goals - Share knowledge, background and philosophy of your "Environmental Program" with your staff, and prepare a Mission Statement.

Next, develop "Eco-Facts" and Action Plans for each of your staff's functional areas. Install it deeply into the line organization, with an emphasis on full staff inclusion. Continually measure results and sharpen the focus. Compensate your staff fairly for achievements; treat them with integrity; and supply them with the tools to accomplish these tasks to the best of their abilities.

Create a sense of urgency by compiling a set of "Critical Objectives" for controlling usage of equipment; lights; water; products; linens; cleaners; and manpower.

2. Customers & Public Relations
Share your goals - Develop easy to use, eco-programs for your customers.

For example: allow their product packaging to be left with you for re-cycling; provide re-usable shopping bags; invest in a water cooler and discontinue plastic bottles; educate them on eco-friendly behaviours; offer day-time incentives to help them avoid rush hour traffic to the spa; offer light refreshments for AM services to help clients avoid visiting the drive-through prior to their appointment; use products and suppliers that meet eco-friendly guidelines; compost spa food waste; email or text your thanks to clients instead of using direct mail.

As you achieve successes, convey the stats to your customers and the media. As they wake up to the fact that you are operating in a socially acceptable manner and doing your part to protect the planet, your credibility increases, and so do business opportunities.

3. Suppliers, Resources, Products
Announce your desire to achieve new goals - Only buy what you need and optimize your number of shipment requirements to reduce exhaust emissions; choose companies that meet standards on emissions and noise. Understand your printing company's production techniques and materials used.

Opt for post consumer recyclable or reusable paper and materials as much as possible; know what's contained in packaging and marketing materials (alternatives to chlorine-bleached materials and solvent-based inks). Strive to offer products in their purest form; use earth-friendly cleaning supplies.

4. Utilities and Processes
Choosing un-sustainable methods of energy, such as coal-fired electricity means the removal of fossil fuels from the earth, which cannot be re-consumed .

If you cannot consider renewable energy (sun, water, wind), then consider using less energy. Re-insulate walls with eco-friendly products to improve efficiency; use reduced water flow taps; turn off 2 of your 6 Vichy shower heads; install low-flush toilets; use energy-efficient lighting (LED or fluorescent); use a push mower; no pesticides on the landscape; unplug equipment and office machines when not in use; and continually sharpen your staff and business focus to improve usage on the above mentioned "Critical Objectives" (Point 1, Management & Staff).

5. Building, Materials and Furnishings
Furniture, carpets, adhesives and paints are under scrutiny. As of yet, there are not many labels available to tell you what's in them (respiratory irritants; air toxics, and even carcinogens).

Fortunately things have improved over recent years due to consumer awareness and organizations such as www.greenguard.org; www.greenseal.org who deal with air quality and environmental impact.

Basically, you want
low-VOC emissions (volatile organic compounds);
low HAPs (hazardous air pollutants);
with no UF (urea formaldehyde)

Formaldehyde is a biggie and is used in many applications, including pressed woods (particle board) and on carpets and upholstery for water and stain resistance. It produces dangerous emissions, or off-gassing.

When purchasing furniture and carpet, consider ventilating it for a couple of weeks before putting it into your space, to reduce the risks. Polyvinylchloride (PVC) - the "Poison Plastic" emits mercury and dioxins and it NOT recyclable; polyurethane is in cushions, couches, mattresses and carpets and is highly combustible and once burning, emits dangerous black smoke and toxins, which means it usually comes coated in a flame/fire retardant, which can be just as dangerously potent.

Lacquers containing high levels of solvents is not good, as solvents release VOCs. Consider plants to help remove some of these air pollutants (don't you think it's amazing that plants do this??). Use wood from well-managed sources - no rain forest or old-growth trees used.

These points are just the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun). Do some more research and discover how you can contribute to global sustainability by avoiding more un-sustainability factors in both your personal and business lives.

Spas2b Inc. Copyright ?2009 - 2010, All Rights Reserved

Leslie Lyon, President
Spas2b Inc.
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