With eight provinces across the country having already been declared drought disaster areas, the Water and Sanitation Department recently reported that South Africa will take two to three years to recover from the harsh conditions that it is currently experiencing. While farmers are hit the hardest as they struggle to maintain crops and their livestock to meet consumer demands, businesses across other sectors are also feeling the pinch which has the potential to create ripple effects to the end-consumer.
Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), says that how a business manages its waste usage and the use of water and energy has a real impact on the environment, as well as their bottom line, and encourages business owners to re-evaluate their business processes and the extent to which they are environmentally sustainable.
“This is an area that can no longer be ignored by local businesses – regardless of their size. Not only is the environment suffering as a result of unsustainable practices, but other businesses are being impacted as water restrictions are enforced by municipalities across the country. This can be a real risk to a business that may use water as a resource in their daily operations, such as manufacturing. Such tighter rules around water usage can thereby add pressures on cash flow if not managed correctly.”
Business owners are faced with daily challenges ranging from supply issues to an unstable currency and fluctuating market conditions. However, Lang says that unlike traditional challenges, environmental risks tend to be outside of a business’ control. He points to the CDP’s 2015-2016 supply chain report, From Agreement to Action: Mobilizing Suppliers Toward a Climate-Resilient World, which showed that 72% of respondents believed that climate change presents risks that could significantly impact the business’ operations, revenue, or expenditure.
To avoid a business’ operational challenges being compounded by environmental risks, Lang says that careful consideration to a business’ commitment to sustainability needs to be addressed. “This requires investment into sustainable practices today that both safeguard the environment and prepare the business for the future. A large misconception is that a business may be too small to implement initiatives, or that the cost may outweigh the benefits. However, if implemented correctly, sustainable practices can have a real impact on a business’ bottom line.”
For instance, a 2016 U.S. Sustainability Consumer Trends report showed that 58% of consumers are more likely to buy products and services from a business that has sustainable habits and considers their impact on the environment.
Apart from improving a business’ brand image, and in turn increasing customer numbers, Lang says that implementing practical actions within the office and amongst employees can drive sustainable change. “This can range from changing to energy-efficient lighting, to motivating staff to switch off the lights and tighten leaking taps. Businesses can also reduce their waste by introducing recycling methods within the office, and depending on the volume, could receive an income for this practice.”
Lang concludes: “As with any change in a business, it won’t necessarily be easy and requires commitment, dedication and follow-through from an executive level, but the rewards can far out-weigh the initial input.
“By responding to the need to implement and practice sustainable measures, businesses are offered the opportunity to reduce costs and increase profitability, all while minimising their impact on the environment they operate within.”