From a business perspective, sustainability isn’t just a word used in the eco-friendly revolution – it’s also a very clever financial strategy.
“Reducing your carbon footprint is something to focus on as businesses get to grips with the New Zealand Government’s new emissions trading scheme,” says Julian Smith, general manager of MYOB New Zealand Limited, provider of business management and accounting systems.
“But it’s also a drop in the ‘sustainability’ bucket. In my mind, there is a much bigger conversation to have. As we move out of the economic downturn, businesses need to take a good hard look at how they are running their operation at ‘a day-to-day’ level. Now really is the vital time for businesses to make sure they’re running everything as efficiently and sustainably as possible.”
Smith says having a sustainable business is about making sure you’re running everything in the best way possible, saving you time and money. “A good way to start is to draw up a sustainability plan that will help you plan long-term for keeping your business sustainable and give you a clear idea of where you’re heading.”
A sustainability plan might include strategies for staffing, integrating services, production goals and increasing cashflow. Smith says while businesses may be put off coming up with a sustainability plan, the effort is rewarded in the long term.
“A lot of business owners can be daunted by the idea of having to work out how they can run a sustainable business because of the time required. But by sitting down and asking yourself what it is your business needs, you can come up with the most sustainable way to reach your goals.
“Have a look at where you can save money: is there anywhere you can integrate two services into one? Often, when business owners really look at their spending they will see one or two areas where they are paying twice for a similar service. If you can blend these two things into one, then you are making your business more sustainable in terms of money and resources.
“Making sure your staffing, production and cashflow are solid, with all the fatty extras on the side chopped off, is the key to running a sustainable business. A lot of businesses trimmed down during the global financial crisis, restructuring and retrenching to become as lean as possible to get through, but now is the time to slowly bring back the good stuff in order to move forward.
“Businesses need to look at how this year is progressing and focus on where they want to be. We are seeing a pickup in the market now, so it is the right time to add new staff into the team and increase production, therefore increasing cashflow.
“The trick is to only hire the best staff in the most relevant areas. Businesses don’t want to risk employing workers who are nothing more than deadweight. When businesses decide they want to grow again, it needs to be with a team who are going to take you forward not slow you down.
“This approach should be applied across the board. Business owners have to make sure they are only paying for the expense of services they actually need. Just because something has been done a certain way for years, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. By taking a moment to review whether a supplier is giving you the best deal, or looking at the long-term cost-value benefits of investing in better technology, is how successful business owners run their business sustainably.”
Julian Smith says the path to sustainability works best when everyone in the team knows what the plan is and what is expected of them. This makes everyone focus on the same goals and strive to achieve what is being asked of them.
“Check out websites like businesscare.org.nz and sustainable.org.nz to get some expert tips on how to make your business more sustainable. The concept of sustainability is so much broader than carbon trading alone, and owners will benefit by applying a sustainable approach across all areas of their business.”