Sustainability is not just crucial for the environment. It's good for business.

Sustainability is no longer just a throwaway term that companies use in soundbites and press releases.

Sustainability is not just crucial for the environment. It's good for business.

It has become an essential element of prudent business practice. Organisations that fail to consider sustainability measures will lose a competitive edge.

When it comes to technology, sustainability is even more front of mind for customers and employees. Millennials, who are increasingly becoming business decision-makers and leaders of their own companies, care deeply about the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions – both within business and within their personal lives. And across all age bands, price is no longer the only aspect that guides people’s purchasing decisions – many people now consider a brand’s sustainable credentials as well.

We recently conducted research into attitudes towards sustainability, which has brought to light the extent to which environmental and social standing has become the new battleground for winning the hearts and minds of customers and employees alike. Our data suggests that environmental and social issues are important to 71% of people, whether they’re in consumer mode, making personal purchase decisions (31%) or when looking at the organisations they work for (32%).

COVID-19 has uprooted many concerns that, until now, have simmered just below the surface. The pandemic has shed a brighter light on the importance of social and environmental issues and made many people stock of the importance of them. Ecological concerns are very much in the social conscious now. So, it’s not surprising that 75% of people believe employers should focus more on social and environmental issues in the wake of COVID-19.

Green technology at home

Having spent so much of our time working at home, many of us have relied heavily on technology to enable us to carry out our work duties. According to the latest figures from the ONS, in April 2020, 46% of people in employment did some work at home. 86% of those who did work from home did so as a result of coronavirus.

Homeworking has pushed people to start assessing the sustainability of their home-working technology. Our research reflects this with 70% of respondents believing that home-working technology should be long-lasting, energy-efficient and reduce waste.

Businesses are still playing catch up

Despite the increased significance of sustainable and ethical business practices, many corporations are still playing catch up. With the announcement of the vaccination, we are now on the long road back to economic recovery and some form of normalcy, however, there are still doubts over businesses readiness in a post-COVID world. In our research, only 24% of decision-makers believe that environmental and social impact considerations are fully embedded in return-to-work and business recovery plans.

Likewise, many businesses are still on the fence regarding the importance of environmental and social issues post-COVID19. This is underlined by the fact that only 33% of business decision-makers believe that ecological and social impact will be significantly more important post-COVID, contrasting sharply with the 75% of consumers and employees who buy from and work for them.

For those businesses in our research that are prioritising sustainability, 86% expect to see business profit increase over the next year / five years. The impact of strong environmental and social credentials will be felt in less tangible business areas too and will drive positive sentiment towards brands. 44% believe that strong environmental and social actions have a positive influence on brand perception, 40% on employee loyalty and 38% on workforce productivity.

The Age factor

Interestingly, looking at business maturity, we see a noticeable shift in attitude. We found that 4 in 5 start-ups see meeting environmental and social impact targets as a priority. But only 2 in 3 businesses over ten years old feel the same way.

We also noticed a shift in opinion regarding sustainability consideration depending on respondent age. While only 63% of people aged over 54 believe environmental and social issues will become more critical post-Covid (compared to 85% of Gen Z), they are conversely the age group that ranks highest in demanding product build quality (51%), energy efficiency (48%) and reduced waste (45%).

Sustainability will drive business strategy

Our research has revealed how social and environmental issues will play a more prominent and - to an extent – divisive role for consumers, employers and employees.  While many understand that sustainability is no longer just an afterthought but will shape the direction of a business and how it appeals to customers and employees alike, those who fail to keep pace will likely lose out longer term.

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