January 2024

How to Conduct a Sustainability Audit of Your Company

Arowana Insight Sustainability Report 1

Conducting a sustainability audit is crucial for businesses as it allows them to comprehensively assess and manage their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. The process enables companies to identify and mitigate potential environmental impacts, social risks, and governance issues, fostering responsible business practices.

A thorough sustainability audit also enhances an organisation’s transparency, helps meet regulatory requirements, and can attract environmentally and socially conscious investors and customers, ultimately contributing to long-term resilience and success in a rapidly changing business landscape. 

In this Arowana Insight, we discuss the importance of a sustainability audit to an organisation. Find out how you and your team can properly conduct one for your company.  

The Urgency of Sustainable Business Practices

The urgency of adopting sustainable business practices cannot be overstated. With climate change threatening ecosystems, depleting natural resources, and increasing social awareness, businesses are expected to take responsibility for their impact on the environment and society. The business landscape is evolving, with consumers, investors, and even employees favoring companies that prioritize sustainability. 

According to a 2018 Nielsen survey, 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. Moreover, a Global Sustainable Investment Alliance (GSIA) report revealed that sustainable investing assets reached $30.7 trillion in 2018, a 34% increase in two years. This data suggests a growing trend towards sustainable practices, and businesses that fail to adapt risk being left behind.  

What is a Sustainability Audit? 

A sustainability audit is a systematic evaluation of a company's environmental, social, and economic performance. It involves assessing the impact of business operations on the planet, people, and profits. The aim is to identify areas for improvement, set measurable sustainability goals, and enhance overall corporate responsibility. The process typically involves three key steps: assessment, goal-setting, and implementation.  

Assessment: Understanding Your Impact 

The first step in conducting a sustainability audit is to assess your company's current environmental and social impact. This involves evaluating energy consumption, waste generation, carbon emissions, and other relevant metrics. Assessing social impact includes examining labor practices, community engagement, and the overall well-being of employees.  

  • Energy Consumption - Assess the energy consumption of your operations, buildings, and production processes. Consider transitioning to renewable energy sources to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Waste Generation - Evaluate the waste generated by your company. Implement waste reduction strategies and explore recycling and upcycling options to minimize environmental impact.
  • Carbon Emissions - Measure your company's carbon emissions across the supply chain. Identify opportunities to reduce emissions through efficiency improvements, sustainable transportation, and offset programs.
  • Social Impact - Assess the social impact of your company by examining labor practices, diversity and inclusion, and community engagement. Ensure fair wages, safe working conditions, and positive contributions to local communities.

Goal-Setting: Establishing Targets for Improvement 

Once you have a comprehensive understanding of your company's sustainability performance, the next step is to set realistic and measurable goals. These goals should align with your company's values, address areas of improvement identified during the assessment, and contribute to broader sustainability objectives.  

  • SMART Goals - Ensure that your sustainability goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART). For example, aim to reduce carbon emissions by 20% within the next three years or achieve zero waste to landfill by a specific date.
  • Stakeholder Engagement - Involve key stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the local community, in the goal-setting process. Their input can provide valuable insights and foster a sense of shared responsibility.

Implementation: Turning Goals into Action 

Implementation is the phase where your company transforms sustainability aspirations into tangible actions. This involves integrating sustainable practices into daily operations, engaging employees, and leveraging innovative solutions to achieve your goals.  

  • Employee Training - Ensure that employees at all levels are aware of sustainability goals and understand their role in achieving them. Provide training programs to build a culture of environmental and social responsibility within the organization. 
  • Technology and Innovation - Explore technological solutions and innovations that can contribute to sustainability objectives. This may include adopting energy-efficient technologies, implementing circular economy practices, or leveraging data analytics for better resource management.
  • Monitoring and Reporting - Establish a robust monitoring and reporting system to track progress towards sustainability goals. Regularly communicate updates to stakeholders through transparent and accessible reporting mechanisms.
  • Continuous Improvement - Sustainability is an ongoing journey. Regularly review and reassess your sustainability initiatives, adapting them to changing circumstances and emerging best practices.

The Business Case for Sustainability 

While the moral imperative of sustainability is evident, it is crucial to recognize the tangible benefits that businesses can reap from embracing sustainable practices. Numerous studies highlight the positive correlation between sustainability and financial performance.  

Cost Savings

Sustainable practices often lead to cost savings in the long run. Energy efficiency measures, waste reduction, and resource optimization contribute to lower operational expenses.  

Market Advantage  

Consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on a company's commitment to sustainability. A Nielsen study found that 73% of global consumers would change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact. Embracing sustainability can be a powerful differentiator in a competitive market. 

Regulatory Compliance 

Governments worldwide are tightening regulations related to environmental and social responsibility. By proactively adopting sustainable practices, companies can stay ahead of regulatory requirements, avoiding potential legal and financial repercussions. 

Access to Capital

The rise of sustainable investing has opened new avenues for capital. Investors are increasingly favoring companies with strong environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance. A Harvard Business Review study found that firms with high ESG scores have a lower cost of capital and are more likely to attract long-term investors. 

Following a Green Path

The importance of conducting a sustainability audit for companies cannot be overstated. It is one of the things that organisations need to do to thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape.  

As we’ve discussed, the urgency of adopting sustainable practices is underscored by consumer preferences, investor demands, and the imperative to address global challenges such as climate change. By assessing environmental and social impacts, setting meaningful goals, and implementing sustainable practices, businesses can not only contribute to a healthier planet but also gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. 

The business case for sustainability is also very much compelling, with cost savings, market advantage, regulatory compliance, and access to capital among the tangible benefits. Companies have already demonstrated that a genuine commitment to sustainability can drive innovation, enhance brand reputation, and create long-term value. 

As organisations navigate the green path, it is essential to approach sustainability as a continuous journey, involving stakeholders at every step and embracing emerging technologies and best practices. By doing so, companies can position themselves as leaders in the transition to a more sustainable and resilient future. 

For more News & Insights, stay tuned to the Arowana website. 

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