How do I improve my business’ social and environmental impact?

6 min read

For those taking their first steps towards creating a more sustainable business, the path forward can appear vague and challenging, but a few small actions can have a significant impact for your sustainability ambitions.

How do I improve my business’ social and environmental impact?

You can hear more about improving your impact in the final webinar of our business and sustainability series. Here we examine the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with Fran van Dijk from One Stone Advisors and explore the B Corp certification process with Peter Beeby from B Corp Prospectus.

The primary consideration for these leaders should be to map their stakeholders, to understand who those groups are that can be affected by or can affect the company’s operations. Once this is established, the aim should then be to engage with these groups to understand how the relationship between them and the business can be improved. If these stakeholders have the capacity to affect the operations of the business, their experience with the business should be a critical concern.

To start this process, we have created an Impact Measurement Matrix in which a number of key policies and practices that can positively impact your business’ stakeholders have been outlined. Use the graph provided on this matrix to plot how easy or difficult these practices would be to embed into your business against how impactful they would be. This will then help you to identify your top sustainability improvement goals moving forwards.


Aligning your business with the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a shared blueprint for the peace and prosperity of all people and the planet. These 17 objectives range from ending poverty to protecting our oceans, sustainable cities to clean energy and are the result of a multi-stakeholder engagement process including our key institutions such as governments and businesses. They were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 and outline the targets we must achieve to create a more equal and stable world by 2030.

The SDGs, therefore, can provide a useful framework for businesses aiming to manage their impacts in a sustainable manner. While a company’s operations may not affect all 17 of the global goals, they may negatively impact one or two of these goals and may have the potential to positively impact one or two more. Engaging with these SDGs and the targets that sit beneath them can be helpful for business leaders seeking to minimise the negative effects their company has on people and planet and maximise the positive.

B Lab and the UN Global Compact have created a useful tool called the SDG Action Manager to help such leaders get a clear view of how their operations, supply chain and business model create positive impact, and identify risk areas for each SDG.


Measuring and managing your impact as a B Corp

Certified B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are a growing community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Companies such as Patagonia, The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry’s and The Guardian have all committed to considering all their stakeholders and not just their shareholders when running their business.

B Corps meet high standards of social and environmental performance and manage this through the B Impact Assessment, a free and confidential online tool for companies to measure their impact on their workers, community, environment and customers. They also legally commit to considering the impact of their decisions on all of these stakeholders at Board level.

People want to work for, buy from, and invest in businesses they believe in and so working towards B Corp certification can be an important goal for companies aiming to engage with their stakeholders in a more meaningful way. But even if certification is not your goal, the B Impact Assessment can be a useful tool to start measuring and managing your impact in a more comprehensive manner.

James Ghaffari is a Director at B Lab UK. B Lab UK is home to the B Corp movement, a global community of people using business as a force for good.

For more information, view our Sustainability & Business - Improving your impact webinar

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