CHENNAI: As a small or medium business owner, have you started thinking about your carbon footprint? Are questions around how planet-friendly practices, part of your discussions for current and future plans? Are you trying to figure out what to do and where to start? If this is the case, don’t worry. You are not alone. And also be assured, there are easy ways to get started without feeling overwhelmed.
For most businesses, sustainability is relatively new and the actual steps to follow to develop and grow a sustainability programme are still unclear. The usual first step is to conduct a Sustainability Audit — this will serve as a tool that is used to compare your company’s practices with the best practices for sustainability. The audit helps identify areas for improvement and can help craft an inclusive plan for growth. But before we even start with all of this, very often, there is a lot of convincing that is required, which going through the effort for implementing sustainable practises will make business sense and not be a costly affair.
Here, it’s useful to introduce the concept of a triple bottom line. The triple bottom line shifts the focus of a business so that it’s not just on profits, but on generating profits in a way that is better for both people and the planet. To further understand the triple bottom line, you need to remember that the ‘bottom line’ refers to the last line on an income statement — it shows the profits made by a business. Traditionally, the purpose of business has only been to increase profit, regardless of how it earned those profits.
However, as we’ve seen in recent years, the focus on profits above all else has led to the destruction of natural resources and had devastating effects across the world on vulnerable populations and wildlife. Climate change is the single largest demonstration of how much can go wrong when the pursuit of profits takes precedence over all else. In most cases, businesses professionals are not willingly causing harm to people or the planet. While most of them generally care for the people and the planet, they seem stuck within a broken system. They are only trying within their constraints to minimise their negative environmental impacts and optimise their positive social impacts. The focus on a triple bottom line instead of the conventional bottom line can help reshape this thinking.
While many professionals are drawn to the triple bottom line and sustainability because it aligns with their values, there is also a strong business case to be made. If there wasn’t, business sustainability, as we know it would not be gaining the widespread adoption that it has been getting. Businesses that work to implement the triple bottom line are recognising that a business model focused solely on financial profit is inherently unsustainable if it ignores two critical elements necessary to its success — human capital and natural capital. This approach helps identify both risks and opportunities that might not be readily apparent when taking a more traditional, one-dimensional perspective of the business. So go ahead, get started on a sustainability audit for your business and improve not just your bottom line, but the state of the planet as well.
Pavitra Sriprakash @pavisriprakash
The writer is an architect, urban designer, dancer and chief designer at Shilpa Architects