What is sustainable business?

The page was last modified:

A sustainable business is one where profitability, concern for the environment and social commitment are in harmony. Running a sustainable business involves, for example, using own resources economically and reducing any negative environmental impact.

Doing more with less

The concept of sustainable business can be explained as “doing more with less”. Besides sustainable production and consumption, it also entails being more efficient, maximising positive effects and minimising negative impact for the environment, society and mankind. Managing and developing businesses sustainably involves doing more than is demanded by laws and regulations. It requires you to take responsibility for developing sustainably. Sustainable development meets today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their own.
Your management of sustainability can be split into three dimensions that together contribute to sustainable development:

  • economic,
  • environmental,
  • social.

All three dimensions affect each other. For example, reduced resource consumption often reduces costs and increases profitability.

Economic issues

Profitability is vital for businesses. It ensures their survival. As an entrepreneur, living up to all the ideals of sustainable development can feel overpowering. However, it is important to begin somewhere. This is a question of, for example, ensuring that your business can grow, recruit employees and operate profitably long into the future.
Thus, what you do environmentally and socially must seek to go hand in hand with the profitability of your business.

Environmental issues

From an environmental perspective, running a business sustainably requires that its activities do not damage the environment, the climate or nature’s resources. For example, as an entrepreneur, you can ensure that you use renewable energy.

Can you also minimise negative environmental impact by reducing emissions, streamlining travel, having more digital meetings and automatically shutting down electronics at night? How do you handle waste? Can you reduce water consumption? These are examples of issues that are important for the environment. Dealing with them may also reduce business costs and thus increase profitability.

Social issues

As regards the social aspects of sustainability management, your business should be run as a “good citizen”. This means that your business has to take both “internal” and “external” responsibility. One main rule could be that no one should be exploited in the production of what you sell.

Externally, taking responsibility may be a question of paying taxes in the countries where you operate and reviewing production conditions in those where you manufacture. You could also ensure that your suppliers have accreditation in the areas that are important to you.

Internal social aspects revolve around issues such as the work environment, safety, diversity, equal opportunities, etc. Overall, it can be said that internal social responsibility requires a business to ensure balance, satisfaction and equality of and for its employees.

Sustainability management gives you a competitive edge

As an entrepreneur, you have much to gain from sustainability management. Your stakeholders may impose sustainability requirements. By showing how you work with the relevant elements, you can gain a competitive edge. One aspect of this might be increased ability to attract personnel, customers and suppliers.

Did you find this information helpful?

Responsible: Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth

Back to top