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Proving that sustainability delivers a measurable return on investment

1st October 2020

Sustainability is increasingly important to businesses, but how can you be sure that the investment you make pays back?

Research recently carried out for Haven Power shows that sustainability is seen as more important to businesses than it was before the coronavirus pandemic began.

But in a business climate with increasing pressure on funds for new investment – and where every penny will need to be justified as ever before – how is it possible to measure the return on investment (ROI) that sustainability generates?

There’s been phenomenal growth in the number of corporate sustainability reporting tools over the last few years. This shows that sustainability is seen as an increasingly important part of the armoury of business.

In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, “the adoption of sustainability reporting among S&P 500 companies increased by 62% between 2011-16”.

But with so many different reporting tools, it can be difficult to find the right one for your organisation.

One simple way to measure the ROI of your efforts to become more sustainable is to split it into three constituent parts.

Finding out how much sustainability contributes to your company’s reputation

Establish the value of your company’s commitment to sustainability using surveys of your customers and by searching comments on social media. By making clear your commitment to sustainability – through creating content about sustainability and sharing it on your website and social media, for example – you can put your brand in front of an audience who shares your values.

Discovering what a difference sustainability matters to your brand

There‘s growing evidence of a connection between a company’s commitment to sustainability and the loyalty of its customers. This seems to be more significant the younger your customers, with Generation Z in particular looking to buy from sustainable businesses.

In a hugely competitive commercial world, where attracting and retaining customers is key, sustainability could be the difference that makes the difference for your business.

Global fast-moving consumer goods (FMGC) giant Unilever was one of the first major companies to embrace sustainability. They’ve seen a huge growth in sales of their Sustainable Living brands over the last ten years, when compared with the growth of those brands that were not already included.

Since the launch of the multinational’s Sustainable Living Plan, their 26 Sustainable Living brands have grown 46% faster than their other brands and are responsible for 70% of the company’s growth. Proof that sustainability definitely has a measurable return on investment for Unilever.

Establishing how much sustainability helps your search for the right talent

Recruiting and retaining the best employees is a major challenge for businesses everywhere. Unilever have found that their commitment to Sustainable Living has also proved attractive for talent.

Again, you can establish an ROI for your sustainability programme in terms of attracting the people you want to help take your business forward by measuring the effectiveness of your communications and content in recruiting and retaining talent.

Unilever explain that their commitment to sustainability has made a significant and measurable difference to their recruitment and retention.

Not every business has the capital available for investment that Unilever has at its disposal, but improving sustainability and getting it to pay back does not necessarily require huge amounts of money.

And if you are finding it difficult to convince your top leadership of the need for investment in sustainability, you may find that there are grants and other forms of support that can help you make the case.

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