What is Business Sustainability?

Learn what business sustainability is, why it’s important, and why it’s good for society and business.

October 24, 2019

Harvard Business School (HBS) classifies business sustainability into two categories:

  • The effect business has on the environment
  • The effect business has on society

The goal of a business sustainability strategy, then, “is to make a positive impact on either one of those areas.”

The World Economic Forum adds specifics on what sustainable practices can encompass: “In today’s context, business sustainability encompasses attention to such issues as climate change, corruption, rule of law, the empowerment of women, human rights, consumption and supply chain practices.”

What Sustainability Means for Business 

When businesses ignore this social and environmental responsibility, according to HBS, it leads to issues like “environmental degradation, inequality and social injustice.” 

“To address these challenges, CEOs are recognizing that they need to incorporate broader principles of sustainability in their everyday business decisions,” reports the World Economic Forum article linked above. “This is not simply a matter of doing the right thing, it’s smart business.”

Why Now?

“Sustainability is at a tipping point,” according to McKinsey and Company.

This information is important to business because “[t]ackling the challenge will present new opportunities for growth, innovation, and resilience investment.”

How Businesses Across Industries are Building Sustainable Strategies

Circular Economy

An overarching strategy businesses in many industries consider is working toward a circular economy. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:

Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital. It is based on three principles:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

Sustainable Fashion

The circular economy is of particular interest to the fashion industry. At the 2019 WEAR Conference in Toronto, PwC reported that 5% of global emissions come from the textile industry, and that 2700 liters of water are required to produce one cotton shirt.

“For circular economy — the model for sustainable growth based on the reuse of materials and zero waste — to gain adoption in fashion, systems must exist to maximize each product’s use, retain their highest value and continuously reuse their composite materials,” reports the Connect Fashion Global Initiative.

To implement an effective and efficient circular economy, products and materials must be identified throughout their lifecycle. This is something not done now and can be applicable to industries far beyond the fashion industry.

“Without product identification, it is impossible to operationalize circular economy,” continues Connect Fashion. “Circular economy business models (e.g. resale, rental, reuse, sharing, reverse logistics) require products to be systematically identified to function effectively and scale globally.”

Blue Bite contributes to brands being able to identify and analyze products post-sale. See more on how brands promote sustainability with Blue Bite.

Fashion Secondary Markets

Many aspects of the circular economy for the Fashion industry revolve around secondary markets, where products can be resold, rented or reused in other ways. The following stats are from the online thrift store ThredUp:

  • Secondhand is expected to grow 2x in the next 10 years
  • Secondhand, subscription and rental are the top three fastest growing Fashion categories

Secondary markets create a powerful and efficient place for brands to extend the life of garments. But brands must educate consumers on these markets and provide reassurance to both consumers and secondhand markets that the products are authentic. 

See how Sneaker Con leveraged Blue Bite to do just that by adding unique identifiers to verified shoes with attached NFC tags.

Sustainable Packaging

Innovative brands today are turning toward sustainable packaging as an integral part of their sustainability efforts. While this certainly encompasses using sustainable materials for packaging, many brands are going beyond this to transform their packaging into smart packaging that contributes even more to their sustainability strategies.

For example, incorporating a QR code onto your packaging can activate a digital experience that, when scanned by a phone, instructs consumers not only how the product they just scanned has been created using sustainably sourced ingredients, but also instructions on how they can get involved to continue the sustainability lifecycle.

Check out six real world examples of how packaging gets smart.

Sustainable Luxury

Global counterfeiting is currently worth $1.2 trillion and growing.

The Luxury industry also employs the secondhand market to extend the life of products. And as that market grows, the luxury industry is under immense pressure to reassure secondhand buyers that the products they are purchasing are authentic.

Global counterfeiting is currently worth $1.2 trillion dollars, and it’s not getting better. Online secondhand markets make it easy for brands to ensure their products are reused by consumers; these markets also make it easy for counterfeiting to grow.

Blue Bite Authentication protects against this, and is used by consumers and the owners of secondhand markets, themselves. See more on how Blue Bite protects luxury brands and their consumers.

How Blue Bite Promotes Sustainability

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