In a recent independent, national survey that we published - Sustainable Businesses: Navigating towards a more sustainable future - we examined the extent to which issues of sustainability are integrated into the DNA of more than 200 mid-tier public and private sector organisations.
We considered sustainability in relation to the organisation’s strategy, governance, operations and reporting to see whether sustainability is core to its business model.
- The tone from the top: We found that sustainability is an integral part of the strategic fabric of local authorities and many external forces are compelling authorities to recalibrate their operations in a more sustainable manner.
Sustainability is either important or very important to the overall performance of the authority in almost 90% of bodies surveyed.
Authorities need to embed their sustainability strategy into their operations to ensure compliance with legislation, raise awareness of key risks and to plan for the future where many scarce resources including energy, water and people need to be managed effectively.
- The functional level: We found that embedding sustainability into the business model, making it ‘business as usual’, remains a work in progress. In many departments, sustainability has still to be embedded into performance management processes and is often overlooked in investment appraisal where budgetary issues are prioritised over environmental and social issues.
Sustainability looks set to become a core element of the business model. As waste management and climate change legislation increase and so too do budgetary pressures, organisations that are able to innovate and adopt sustainable business practices stand to be the leading performers.
- A sustainable future: We have found that those local authorities that can innovate and adopt sustainable business practices to manage cost are the ones that generate revenues while meeting social and environmental objectives.
One such example is Wychavon DC, which has developed an Intelligently Green Plan that sets out practical actions to 2020 to cut energy use, tackle fuel poverty and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
The plan promotes examples of sustainable construction, working with farmers and making it easier for business parks to install green technologies.
As the council points out: “Being intelligently green is about things that not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also bring financial or community benefits.”
Mike Reid, associate director, Grant Thornton
Special feature supplied by Grant Thornton
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