Paradigm shift: Embracing sustainability as a core business strategy 

  • 14 Jun 2024
  • 2 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Abigael Ndanu

Large-scale businesses and small start-ups alike are transforming the landscape of business operations by prioritising sustainability. As global awareness of ecological footprints grows, companies are adopting sustainability as a core guiding principle. Moving deep into 2024, this new wave of sustainability initiatives, while answering pressing environmental issues, changes the face of how businesses operate. Sustainability has become core to the point that proposed Finance Bills are being aligned with the environmental agenda in consideration.

Kenyas’ 2024 Finance Bill has put environmental, social and governance (ESG) and global initiatives on environmental protection at the heart of its proposition. This bill proposes to introduce an eco-levy on certain goods manufactured in or imported into Kenya to pay for the negative environmental impact posed by such goods.  As this bill pushes to raise revenue, businesses and corporates will have to focus on procuring environmentally friendly goods and services to avoid penalties. This means embracing a circular economy, aligning operations to biodiversity and natural ecosystem conservation and management of internal resources.

The circular economy is a prime area of focus in this sustainability. Conventionally, the linear model of production and consumption has resulted in enormous wastage and resource depletion. Now, businesses are reimaging this model with circularity, in which products are designed to live long, be reused, and be recycled. This not only reduces gigantic waste but also spurs innovation and triggers cost efficiencies all along the value chains.

One of the other issues gaining momentum is biodiversity conservation. Now, cities and corporations have realised that not only is it necessary to build or restore biodiversity, but it is not possible to do business sustainably while the ecosystems are threatened by human onslaught. Right from sourcing to restoration of areas, businesses have started incorporating biodiversity in company strategies for its inherent value and also for its role in the well-being of life forms on earth.

As water scarcity becomes a growing concern, water stewardship emerges as the area most sought for intervention by corporates. Increasing pollution, over-extraction, and climate change subject freshwater resources to enormous pressure; hence, businesses are increasingly adopting efficient water technologies, conserving watersheds, and engaging various stakeholders for responsible water management both within their operations and along their value chains or supply chains.

Climate change still leads the pack on the corporate agenda for sustainability. While mitigation in terms of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is still the main story, there is an increasing realisation that a lot of money has to be invested in adaptation, more so in developing countries where the impacts are already being felt. Businesses are building resilient infrastructures, developing climate-resilient products and integrating climate risk assessments, among others, to future-proof their operations against climate change-related disruptions.

Beyond such specific issues, a broader move toward corporate transparency and accountability is also underway. Stakeholders — consumers, investors, and regulators — are all asking for more light to be shed on environmental and social performance. Corporations are reacting by adopting strong reporting frameworks, disclosing environmental data, and engaging in meaningful stakeholder dialogue to build trust and credibility.

As companies navigate these emerging issues of sustainability, collaboration and partnerships are gaining increased importance. Given the interlinkages of environmental issues, businesses forge alliances with NGOs, governments, and academia, among others, to achieve collective action and accelerate progress towards common goals of sustainability.

Emerging sustainability trends indicate a paradigm shift in how corporations view compliance as a strategic imperative. Corporations have significant opportunities to minimise risks while enhancing business resilience and creating value for society, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable future for generations to come.