It is very common for a lot of us to take certain things with levity until it becomes a regulatory issue that attracts penalties when not done. Integrating the principles of sustainability in business operations is one those things that is just gaining its grounds in the world of business. Large corporations, though some for reputation purposes are embracing it faster than smaller ones. This should not be the case because collectively, small businesses make up more than 75% of global businesses which makes sustainability important to them.
Some of the reasons why start-ups and small businesses are not embracing sustainability from the outset is because;
- It seems too complicated and meant for just the large companies
- It seems to be expensive to implement
- It’s not a regulatory issue so why bother
- The word “sustainability” seems to be over flogged and there seems to be conflicting regarding what it truly means
It could be confusing sometimes because before the spotlight started shining on environmental and social responsibility, most companies become sustainable through conscious effort and deliberate actions to build long term shared value for shareholders. This value had mostly been financial and still is for a lot of businesses. So long the numbers and increasing, they are fine. This unfortunately cannot be the case anymore because businesses thrive not only with finance but also people and environmental resources.
Sustainable development, to be achievable needs businesses of all sizes to be actively involved with all round sustainability – people, planet and profit. This has been articulated and can been seen with the sustainable development goals. All the goals have something to do with either people, planet or profit.
Some reasons why start-ups and micro-enterprises need to be involved in sustainable development vis a vis sustainability are;
- Sustainable development and sustainability are relevant for all companies in every industry of every economy.
- Sustainable development and sustainability will never be achieved if the smallest companies do not get involved.
- Small companies are important stakeholders in the operations of larger companies as they feed many products and services into these companies as suppliers and service vendors.
- In comparison with larger companies, their footprints might be insignificant but their collective impact cannot be ignored.
- Start-ups have the potential to grow which means that their social and environmental demands would increase. They need to inculcate the habit of being socially and environmentally accountable so as to avoid the cost and time associated with “catching up” when they become big. 20 years from now, publicly reporting sustainability activities might become a requirement by corporate law. What happens to that small business of now that has grown its numbers and has become big but did not take social and environmental issues very seriously? The early starters would most likely not have a problem and would have an edge over those who continued to run business as usual.
In essence, smart owner-managers of small enterprises should seek to screw business as usual and start growing genuine concerns for their non-financial support systems.