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Sustainability: not a buzzword, but a core business value.

23rd May 2020

By Shweta Bahri

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Growing up in a city like Delhi, it’s hard to miss the sheer amount of waste and pollution that surrounds you. Watching yet another person, throw their rubbish out of a moving car I’d wonder, will things ever change? The problems seemed too huge to tackle and everyone’s behaviour was deeply rooted in an assumption that one person can’t make a difference.

“Even for a person like me who feels strongly about sustainability, changing my behaviour and finding alternatives can be exhausting.”

Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to live in the UK and travel to many different parts of the world. This sounds cheesy, but it has given me hope, showing me that change can and will happen – even if just one person changes his or her behaviour. The fact is it’s just not that convenient. Let’s be honest, being waste conscious, vegan, taking less flights etc. is not easy. Even for a person like me who feels strongly about sustainability, changing my behaviour and finding alternatives can be exhausting. It’s easier to dump all the trash in one bin, especially if  I’m feeling tired. Finding eco-friendly alternatives takes time, effort, and much more money. Wouldn’t it be amazing if sustainable solutions were the norm, and it was the non-eco friendly alternatives that were more expensive or harder to find?

The reality is that there is ‘no one size fits all’ solution. For instance, lack of access to clean drinking water in India makes reusable water bottles an unscalable solution to replacing single-use plastic bottles in India itself. However, this is a solution that works very well in the UK. This is what motivated me to start No More Waste, a platform providing ideas on how to reduce waste in a context like India, which has its own specific challenges. The need for innovation and context driven solutions cannot be overemphasized. It seems to me that businesses are in a stronger position than ever to make this happen. The point at which society places equal value on our planet as it does on convenience and economic growth is the point where change will happen. Luckily, many individuals are hugely shifting towards this mindset, and we have an opportunity to trigger that change.

Recent surveys have shown that millennials across the globe are now much more willing to pay extra to ensure that what they consume is sustainable and ethical. The number of people giving up dairy or meat (or both!) to mitigate climate change is the highest it’s ever been. In Europe carrying your own bag to go shopping is now normalised and expected, rather than taking a single use plastic bag. Suddenly, it’s ‘cool’ to care about our planet!

So, here’s how I see it…

People care, and so should businesses.

At its very core, it comes back to simple supply and demand. Thinking green and sustainable are no longer just buzzwords. Increasingly sustainability is a core value that consumers and investors are forcefully demanding. It is also an effective way for businesses to attract and retain talent as more people want to work for a cause[1]. As a business, you want consumers to experience this journey alongside you.

Remember you’re in business for the long haul.

Businesses must look at their mission, operations, supply chain and footprint to actively move away from an approach that is harmful for the environment. Investing in sustainable approaches is usually more expensive in the short term, but it will pay off. In fact, if businesses were to think outside the box, sustainable options do not always need to be more expensive. They may not be as convenient and easy to access, but worthwhile nonetheless. For example, the world seems to have forgotten that banana leaf plates are a cheap and sustainable alternative to the overused plastic plates. Theses solutions are out there, if you’re willing to look.

“If you’re an entrepreneur, thinking about sustainability and the environment is not just a possibility anymore: it’s a necessity”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, that nature has the ability, to bring life as we know it to a halt. To put it simply, if you’re an entrepreneur, thinking about sustainability and the environment is not just a possibility anymore: it’s a necessity. It may be impossible to do it all at once but building the foundations for your business to be sustainable is now mission critical.

What excites me about Tula – other than tasty Indian food, of course – is the way Tula has placed sustainability and social contribution at the heart of its business model, even before launching. Whether it’s ensuring no food from their kitchen goes to waste or using biodegradable packaging for deliveries, Tula has a plan. Not just that, it’s promise to match every meal a customer orders by a donating meal is exactly the kind of business I like to see!

You can find Shweta’s brilliant sustainability work with No More Waste on Instagram and Facebook.