Five stages and four tools to become sustainable
To achieve complete sustainability, companies can apply a five-stage model.
Companies at stage 1 (pre-compliance) only occasionally adopt mostly internal sustainability policies (e.g., providing their employees with meal vouchers and healthcare assistance). Their sustainability policies beyond the company’s four walls are limited to donations to non-profit organisations.
The next stage (compliance) is when they start developing projects designed specifically to become sustainable (e.g., preparation of a sustainability report).
The third stage (beyond compliance) is when companies want to become fully sustainable (e.g., work/life balance).
The fourth stage (integrated strategy) is reached when companies gain awareness that sustainability gives them a permanent, tenable competitive edge.
The last stage (purpose/passion) is achieved when sustainability becomes an essential part of the companies’ culture.
To progress easily from one stage to another, companies can use four tools:
1. Biotechnologies and energy efficiency: a steady move away from the use of fossil fuels (like oil) towards the increased use of renewable raw materials (such as solar, hydro and wind energy). As their name suggests, renewable energies do not run out and are potentially infinite (unlike fossil fuels that tend to run out over time);
2. Environmentally-friendly and low-polluting raw materials: some cleaning products are produced with chemical particles derived from petroleum refining. A good practice is to substitute these surfactants with molecules of natural and vegetable origin that are fully biodegradable and non-polluting;
3. Dematerialisation and sustainable production: the production chain is another fundamental step on the road towards sustainability. Companies must ensure that production waste is biodegradable and can be reused and recycled as much as possible. For example, a glass container can be reused more times than a plastic container;
4. Recycling of resources: the quantity of packaging used to sell products can be reduced to minimise the volume of domestic waste brought to landfills. If the packaging cannot be eliminated or reduced, one good solution is to produce it using fully-recyclable materials (such as paper) to limit the generation of waste.