How Stewardship Can Accelerate Sustainable Change in Business

By Bronagh Loughlin 

We’re currently watching our world struggle for survival. Sea levels are rising, temperatures are increasing, extreme weather disasters are occurring and we are yet to tackle the plastic pandemic among many other things. 

Among this, although far from most of us, people are losing their livelihoods as a direct result of climate change. They do not have access to their basic needs such as food and because the warming climate is drying up their crops and they are unable to farm for food.  

Climate change is more than an environmental crisis, it is a health crisis too as we see carbon be pumped into our air and air pollution rise as a result. Climate change is also a people crisis with people being displaced by its impacts and living in poverty.  

In order to save our beautiful world from destruction and restore people’s livelihoods, we need to tackle climate change by achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Businesses have a vital role to play in helping us to achieve a more sustainable world.  

In particular, through stewardship. For those who do not know, stewardship refers to the responsibility that companies have to understand and manage their impacts on the environment in any number of ways.  

Practicing stewardship can help a business find sustainable practices, improve its reputation among consumers and even save money. All kinds of businesses engage in activities that have environmental consequences as we know.  

Although, not all businesses engage in active stewardship. Some perform activities that have a minimal impact on the environment, while others focus on different areas relating to corporate responsibility.  

When a business does engage in stewardship, it must typically state its commitment to bear responsibility for the effects its operations have on the environment. Most businesses work with environmental agencies to improve their practices.  

Stewardship can involve one or more of a long list of specific elements and practices. For businesses engaged in Manufacturing, this could include sourcing raw materials that are renewable and using chemicals and processes that are safe for the planet.  

Stewardship can involve a reduction of automobile use, whether it comes from the likes of a hybrid vehicle fleet or ordering items in bulk to cut down on the need for shipping. For all kinds of businesses, using mobile devices and email to cut down on paper consumption is a form of stewardship.  

The barrier for many businesses engaging in stewardship business is that it comes at a cost. For example, employing renewable energy alternatives, such as solar-powered factories or hybrid vehicles, are on the cutting edge of stewardship but also require large initial investments.  

However, tax credits can help to offset these costs, as can the savings that come from reduced reliance on environmentally harmful energy sources with rising prices, for example, petroleum. Managing stewardship as part of a budget is a challenge for every business that wants to improve its environmental status.  

Stewardship in business has numerous potential benefits. For one thing, collectively, it reduces energy usage, improves public health and protects natural resources. For individual businesses that commit themselves to stewardship, the decision can be incredibly good for business.  

Some companies earn certificates from environmental agencies that serve a marketing function, making consumers aware of their actions. For example, Apple holds a Gold rating from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool since 2011. These certificates play a crucial role in purchasing decisions for environmentally conscious consumers. 

There are many companies engaging in environmental stewardship, a well-known company example being Ben N Jerrys. They already source their ingredients from certified B Corp suppliers.  

As a true environmental and social leader, they are interested in doing more and have launched a pilot project that uses the B Impact Assessment to measure the performance of its supply chain.  

They are now able to use this B Impact Assessment and its metrics to pinpoint positive or concerning areas of supply chain performance by individual suppliers and to identify impact areas that appear to affect suppliers as a group. 

There are numerous ways your business can engage in stewardship. To name a few, you can aim to reduce your carbon footprint, buy from local suppliers, cut down on single-use plastics and paper and beyond these things, consider the environment in all stages of your business operations.

Although solving our environmental issues is down to all of us, businesses can make a major impact. Engaging in stewardship is a must for businesses to help us in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals that will save our planet and restore people’s livelihoods.  

I cannot stress enough that we are running out of time. The clock is ticking and our planet can only take so much before it is destroyed before our eyes. It’s time for systemic change. Engage in stewardship and find ways that your business can get involved in this business model that drives sustainable change. 


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