Sustainability is an often-heard word these days. It is most likely to be associated with practices that help preserve the environment. In the corporate world, however, sustainability could additionally include economic and social sustainability. In this blog post, we outline the best sustainability practices that an enterprise can implement. We give you examples of how PlantaCorp has incorporated them into our daily operations.
According to the Oxford English dictionary, sustainability refers to “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level” (https://www.lexico.com/definition/sustainability). Thus sustainability could refer to a host of activities including financial, social, ethical, ecological and environmental practices that maintain these sectors at a certain acceptable level.
Corporate sustainability or responsibility is a set of prioritized strategic actions. These operations ensure that there are systems in place to ensure the accountability of the company to its employees, customers, investors, and the communities that they operate in and impact. They are used in investment considerations, risk assessment strategies, and risk management processes. In addition, a good corporate sustainability practice can help businesses contribute to meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (https://www.unglobalcompact.org/sdgs/17-global-goals).
Having a good corporate responsibility strategy helps a company meet the ESG criteria. ESG refers to the Environmental, Social, and Governance aspects of a company that encourages a positive impact in all of its operations and relationships. A good ESG practice ensures that every aspect of sustainability is interdependent on each other. It is considered that “Companies that use ESG standards are more conscientious, less risky and are more likely to succeed in the long run” (https://www.esg.adec-innovations.com/about-us/faqs/what-is-esg/).
Corporate environmental sustainability refers to the practices by which an individual firm can effectively manage and control the harm inflicted upon the natural environment by its processes, products, and business models (Pogutz S et al. 2011).
As a conscious effort towards contributing to the sustainability of the environment, energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gases emission rank high on the list of a company’s to-do list. PlantaCorp’s production processes are fully powered by wind energy bought from a local producer in Northern Germany. Our liposomal formulations are made of three simple ingredients- water, sunflower phospholipids and the active ingredient. We encourage the use of natural sea buckthorn extract in our products instead of chemical preservatives. We also encourage using glass bottles as a packaging option. In addition, by sorting our waste at the source, we ensure that we generate very little toxic waste. Finally, by encouraging its employees to use public transport, PlantaCorp reduces its collective carbon footprint.
PlantaCorp thus tries to encourage environmentally sustainable practices at its own operational, customer and employee levels.
Social sustainability refers to a set of formal and informal practices thatactively support the capacity of current and future generations to create healthy and livable communities (Western Australia Council of Social Services (WACOSS).
“Economic growth can and should occur without damaging the social fabric of a community or harming the environment.”
US President’s Council on Sustainable Development
At PlantaCorp, every one of our employees is given the opportunity for personal growth. German language courses are provided to its international employees, secondary employment is openly discussed and a good work-life balance is promoted. By regularly conducting employee feedback surveys, the employees also directly contribute to the company’s growth. This give-and-take between the employees and the corporation results in all employees being provided with a monetary bonus in times of success.
“When workers are paid fairly and work under safe working conditions, they are healthier and more productive. Healthier and more productive workers then translate to more profits for companies. Furthermore, socially sustainable companies enjoy greater consumer patronage, as consumers tend to support businesses that treat their workers fairly.” (https://www.esg.adec-innovations.com/about-us/faqs/what-is-social-sustainability/)
The health of its employees is also of utmost importance to PlantaCorp. Healthy food and lifestyle options that benefit both the employee and local institutions are provided. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company installed daily temperature monitoring systems, plexiglass separations between desks, personal protective equipment, and antigen testing kits for those employees who were unable to choose the home-office option. All of these corporate initiatives encourage employee satisfaction, trust, and loyalty- key indicators of a company’s social sustainability.
In addition, as part of its corporate social responsibility, PlantaCorp gives back to the Hamburg community through annual financial donations to social institutions and donations in kind such for day-care centres and schools. Finally, the basic premise of our existence – to promote a healthy society through our liposomal products – is itself a deep-rooted social responsibility.
Socially sustainable communities are equitable, diverse, connected and democratic and provide a good quality of life.” — Western Australia Council of Social Services (WACOSS)
Good governance starts with a good management team. PlantaCorp maintains a flat hierarchical structure so that upper management is always approachable to every single employee or vice-versa. Management also regularly shares its annual and long-term visions for the company so that every employee is completely engaged in this process. By providing constant feedback and encouragement for positive work, the management team of PlantaCorp shows the employees that they matter. In turn, employees are engaged in a democratic decision-making process that would benefit them and the enterprise. Finally, the management team of PlantaCorp makes important decisions such as moving its production facilities to its own, bigger space both for the safety of its employees as well as its vision for increasing production capacities.
PlantaCorp governance also covers the human rights of specific groups. It is imperative to the spirit of PlantaCorp to have a young, diverse and international team. We have employees from 18 different nationalities (speaking 31 languages), an average employee age of 31.5 years and 43% of female employees. Almost half the leading positions are occupied by women. We also employ individuals with disabilities and provide appropriate facilities to enable their integration into the workforce. PlantaCorp thus takes a people-centred approach to its business.
Since the customers are equally important to PlantaCorp’s sustainability, PlantaCorp does everything it can to maintain trust in our products. Obtaining ISO 22000 and GMP certifications are not just a matter of pride but an assurance of quality as well. Most of our processes are also transparent and traceable to the source. Since we operate out of Germany, customers can be sure that our operations are ethical and our employees are treated fairly. We regularly publish blogs and information material so that our customers and end-users are constantly educated on liposomal technologies in the food supplement industry. By encouraging customer feedback, our governance also ensures that the customers influence our growth and development.
“Businesses that are transparent build trust and contribute to a strong and fair market.” UNGC
Although the ESG criteria do not specifically include economical sustainability, it goes without saying that following a good ESG practice will also lead to the economic sustainability of a company.
The financial sustainability of an enterprise refers to the practices that a company puts in place so that the net financial status is maintained. At the very least, the company should be able to maintain its net turnover and stay in business.
“Maintaining high and stable levels of economic growth is one of the key objectives of sustainable development. Abandoning economic growth is not an option. But sustainable development is more than just economic growth. The quality of growth matters as well as the quantity.” UK Government Annual Report 2000, January 2001
At PlantaCorp, several measures that we take have added to the growth of our net turnover. Where possible, we offer more cost-effective but quality ingredient alternatives to our customers. This ensures that the cost of our production and their products is not prohibitive to the end-consumer.
Our R&D team also conducts studies to develop only those products that have an adequate shelf-life. This ensures that we do not impose an additional economic burden on our customers that require them to have to replace their products regularly. Our internal quality control practices also ensure that our products meet food safety standards before they are stored on the shelves. Wastage is, therefore, minimized both for our customers and our production and storage facilities.
We heavily reinvest in the company’s operations, especially in engineering and R&D. A constant update and improvisation of our technology are essential to stay ahead of the competition and maintain a successful business.
All these practices ensure that we have continued to register an increase in our annual turnover every year that we have been in operation. From 2019 to 2020 alone, we more than doubled our annual turnover.
“The inside view looks at the issues of corporate turnover and brand reputation and considers these to be at the heart of economic sustainability. It does not necessarily tell the whole story — but it does tell an important part of it” D Doane, A MacGillivray. New Economics Foundation, 2001
Financial sustainability alone is not an indicator of economic sustainability. Brand reputation is another important aspect of economic sustainability. The PlantaCorp brand aims to use our unique liposomal encapsulation technology to make the power of vital substances available to everyone. Through our scientific knowledge, we wish to make a difference by bringing meaningful products and services into the market. This has helped us to build a positive global brand reputation. In the six short years of our existence, we are now conducting business with customers in over 30 countries. Our brand strategy ensures that this upward trend will continue for the foreseeable future.
How will having a corporate sustainability strategy benefit your business?
Now that we have given examples of the various sustainability practices that an enterprise can implement, the next thing to be discussed is the non-evaluable advantages.
According to the UN Global Compact (https://www.unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/our-work/social ), aiming for corporate sustainability can help businesses in a number of ways:
- Unlocking new markets
- Helping retain and attract business partners
- Becoming the source of innovation for new product or service lines
- Raising internal morale and employee engagement
- Improving risk management
- Improving company-community conflicts
Those companies that can effectively manage their ESG strategy, will, therefore, also be able to make themselves economically sustainable. Hence, investing in a good corporate sustainability strategy is a worthy business investment in the long run.
“Companies that proactively manage ESG risks and opportunities are more likely to have stronger long-term financial performance. This makes them better investments. They also can enjoy strategic opportunities for growth” UN Global Compact.
1. D Doane, A MacGillivray. New Economics Foundation, 2001. https://dphu.org/uploads/attachements/books/books_5735_0.pdf
2. Pogutz S, Micale V and Winn M. Corporate Environmental Sustainability Beyond Organizational Boundaries: Market Growth, Ecosystems Complexity and Supply Chain Structure as Co-Determinants of Environmental Impact. Journal of Environmental Sustainability (2011); 1: (1).