SMEs need to start a conversation about sustainability

Sustainability in business is as easy as starting a conversation, according to speakers at the seminar Creating Value From Sustainability, held this morning in Melbourne.

The seminar was hosted by Crowe Horwath and the keynote speakers, Marc De Sousa Shields, managing partner at ES Global, and Luis Piacenza, partner at Crowe Horwath Argentina, discussed how businesses can gain a competitive advantage by adapting to increasing sustainability pressures.

De Sousa Shields told SmartCompany there is an economic case for small-to-medium sized businesses addressing issues such as resource scarcity.

“Global economies are changing,” he said. “Sustainability is becoming less and less of something that is optional in business.”

Luis Piacenza, who co-authored the presentation, agrees.

“Sustainability is a great opportunity for markets that have previously been limited to large companies,” he said. “Innovation is appealing not only to customer but investors. It can add value to the business when you put it together with the corporate strategy.”

De Sousa Shields says a key example is organic and fair trade markets.

“In the United States and Europe 75% of consumers will consider buying something that has an environmental or social aspect. Only 25-30% actually do, but the market is interested in these products. Consumer demand is a very big driver.”

He also stresses SMEs are in a prime position to make innovations when it comes to sustainability because smaller companies are often more closely embedded into the community. Businesses just have to believe what they’re planning to do isn’t a case of “too little, too late”.

“Small companies can do this so well, because they’re person-to-person companies in the first place. Have the dialogue. Once you’ve done that in an internal sense, you can do it externally. Nothing is more powerful than saying, ‘What’s going to benefit all of us?’”

De Sousa Shields also believes having a discussion about how a business can be more sustainable will boost employees’ motivation. This is because people like to draw meaning from the workplace and have an open dialogue.

“It’s worth every cent on muffins and coffee you’re going to spend.”

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