Sustainability 101 – Create the Culture.

Does your business wish to “be more sustainable”?


To reduce your environmental impact, to improve your social impact or be more transparent?


Well, I know it’s an overused quote, but it is so true.


“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi


All too often I have been asked into a business and have people tell me how they are being “more sustainable” as they sip from their takeaway coffee cup, or suck up their smoothie through a plastic straw, or slurp down water from their single-use bottle.


I always judge a business on their understanding of and commitment to being “more sustainable” by taking a quick look in their rubbish bins and by visiting their toilets.


And sadly I almost always find the same thing.


The bins are a mess with recyclables in the landfill bin, food in the recycling, and if they have compostable bins they’ll contain non-compostable plastic.


I appreciate it can be confusing but it really is Sustainability 101.


And then the toilets. I would hate to know how much electricity is wasted in New Zealand by lights that are left on in toilets when there is no one in there.


Two such simple things that will cost nothing (you’ll save money on electricity) and set your business up to really engage with sustainability and move into the 21 century.


It was no surprise to me this year (2019) when the annual Colmar Brunton; Better Futures report found that “Building a solid reputation around sustainability starts with employees.” And, “Brands that have been recognised as leaders in sustainability are working from the inside out.”


Why are so many businesses still falling at the first sustainability hurdle?


I think it’s usually due to one or both of the following reasons:

1 – Far too often the responsibility has been passed on to someone down the hierarchy with little or no help or reinforcement being provided by the senior decision-makers.

2 – There is a belief that contaminating your waste or leaving on lights is not that big of a problem.


But the secret to succeeding with sustainability into your business, and truly being a part of the solutions is – culture. And it’s the little things that build culture.


Far too many businesses are still only paying lip service to sustainability. Claiming they are being “more sustainable” by doing a beach clean-up or getting compostable coffee cups in their kitchen.


If we are to truly move to a sustainable future and a circular economy, and solve our MASSIVE environmental and social issues, we need every business to focus internally and create a culture of caring about the collective impacts of our individual actions. A culture of sustainability.


Further to that how can a business expect to gain credibility, brand loyalty and their customer’s trust when they aren’t practising what they preach? Especially when other businesses are.


If sustainability is part of your business culture it will impact your decision making, your problem solving, your ability to stay relevant, and your ability to future-proof your business.


So before you try and be “more sustainable” in your business start by ensuring you have zero contamination in your waste bins, and you don’t leave the lights on in your toilets. If you can get everyone on your team doing that, you are better than the majority of businesses I visit.


Nick Morrison

Founder / Director

Go Well Consulting


Cover photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels