What is a sustainable business?

Today, the concept of sustainability has become a central part of our lives, increasingly shaping economic and social policy. Sustainable business, sometimes referred to as ‘green business’ is a crucial part of this broader sustainability movement. But what exactly is a sustainable business, and why is it so important to consider becoming one?

Defining sustainable business

Sustainable business is a broad term, but can be generally categorised as a company that operates in a way that takes into account its impact on the environment, society, and the economy, with the aim of maximising positive effects while minimising negative ones. This business still wants to be successful and make a profit, but not at the expense of social well-being or environmental impact.

What are the traits of a sustainable business?

  • Environmental responsibility: Sustainable businesses make conscious efforts to reduce their environmental footprint. This involves minimising waste, conserving resources, and implementing eco-friendly practices. Some common strategies include using renewable energy sources, reducing water and energy consumption, and adopting sustainable sourcing and production methods. Our net zero toolkit for businesses can help you get started with these changes.
  • Social responsibility: A sustainable business places a strong emphasis on social well-being. This can encompass fair labour practices, community engagement, and ethical supply chain management. Companies may invest in employee development, select suppliers or partners that reflect these practices, or contribute to local community projects.
  • Economic viability: For a business to be sustainable, it must remain financially viable. This entails making sound financial decisions, focusing on long-term profitability rather than short-term gains, and fostering innovation and adaptability to respond to changing market dynamics.
  • Governance: Sustainable businesses uphold high ethical standards and good governance practices. They ensure transparency in their operations, and follow the legal and regulatory requirements.

What are the advantages of being a sustainable business?

  • Reduces your environmental impact: Sustainable businesses play a crucial role in minimising damage to the environment. By reducing their carbon footprint, conserving resources, and adopting eco-friendly technologies, they contribute to a healthier planet and help combat climate change. This also helps with reducing costs, such as energy bills and waste disposal.
  • Meets changing consumer demand: With consumers increasingly conscious of their environmental and social impact (see Deloitte’s report on ‘The Sustainable Consumer’), sustainable business practices are often preferred. Companies that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability can attract a broader customer base and enjoy a competitive advantage.
  • Attract and retain talent: Sustainable businesses are often more attractive to talented potential employees. Employees increasingly want to work for companies that align with their values, and a strong sustainability commitment can help with talent acquisition and retention.
  • Long-term resilience: Sustainable business practices are inherently more resilient. By diversifying supply chains, emphasising local suppliers, reducing waste, and fostering innovation, these enterprises are better prepared to weather economic and environmental crises.
  • Prepared for regulatory change: In response to challenges such as climate change, governments are increasingly introducing regulations and incentives to encourage sustainability. Sustainable businesses are better positioned to comply with evolving environmental and social standards, reducing their regulatory risks.
  • Ongoing cost savings: Many elements of sustainability will ultimately save your business money through changes such as reducing energy and other utility costs through greater efficiency and lowering business usage, reducing waste collection and processing costs, and reducing packaging.

Remember, sustainable business is not just a buzzword. It’s a fundamental shift in the way companies operate. By integrating environmental responsibility, social accountability, economic viability, and ethical governance into their core strategies, sustainable businesses aim to secure long-term prosperity for themselves and the world at large. Embracing sustainability is not only an ethical choice, but also a strategic one for businesses looking to thrive in a changing world.

Learn more

Discover how to plan to become sustainable

Check out our net zero toolkit for businesses

Find out how our circular economy guides can help change your practice


05th June 202412:00 pm - 2:00 pmFREE

Net-Zero Business Toolkit

The Net-Zero Business Toolkit aims to make sustainability simple and is suitable for businesses of any sector or size. Download the toolkit today to get started or continue with your net-zero journey.