Integrating sustainability

SMEs can no longer afford to ignore environmental, social and governance considerations. For businesses to succeed, Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) must be at the heart of your business model.


ESG matters have become a 21st-century issue that all businesses whatever size will need to address. The topic is broad and is likely to impact all aspects of your business in the coming years from meeting legal obligations and controlling costs to attracting and retaining, clients, staff, and capital.

Sustainability-related issues offer your business opportunities, that over time will, improve corporate resilience, create economic value and contribute to a healthy ecosystem and strong community.

Embracing ESG to gain a competitive advantage through a more sustainable business proposition can be achieved by all companies, irrespective of size. Some SMEs, however, are still daunted by the challenges, known and unknown, of building a sustainable business. And the perceived burdens on resources of new commitments such as measuring and managing the impact of ESG over time.

Below, you’ll find examples of how capacity concerns in relation to sustainability can be readily overcome. You can take advantage of a more comprehensive set of solutions in our joint publication with ecoDa “A practical guide for boards and leadership teams on sustainability”.


1. Taking your people with you

Critical to embedding sustainability into your business will be the engagement of employees and wider stakeholders with your vision, strategy, and how it will benefit them over time.

Key also will be the involvement of employees (of all levels) in working parties that contribute meaningfully to your sustainable goals. These groups can, in turn, own responsibilities ranging from the measurement of tasks (such as employee CO2 reductions) to creating new parameters for the recruitment of a more diverse workforce.


2. Embedding sustainability into everyone’s role

Sustainability-related tasks can also be added (within reason) to employees’ existing functions, job descriptions, and personal development objectives. This will often be an extension of their existing responsibilities, rather than increasing workload. Yet, by definition, this will often increase the purpose and value of individuals’ roles. According to a recent global survey1, published by Hewlett Packard1, employees are more productive, motivated, and engaged when working for an employer who is a leader on social responsibility.


3. Use your business size to evolve faster

With traditionally fewer rigid hierarchies and processes, SMEs have the proven ability to adapt faster to a more sustainable business model. Change can be implemented more quickly, with SMEs needing fewer resources and capital than larger ones.

To better understand how advanced your business is on its ‘sustainability journey’, why not access our online ESG Diagnostic and Health Check tool? Easy-to-use, it will guide you by highlighting the risks - and opportunities - specific to your business in relation to sustainability.

The sustainable living call is to all humanity, with business being an instrumental leaver to launch this worthy cause. Can we reassess our daily choices, for the greater good?

Bongiwe Mbunge Partner - Business Sustainability

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