Green society – a shifting paradigm

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When it comes to their environmental credentials, Australian businesses are now more subject to scrutiny than they ever have been previously.

Whether it is a small local retailer that needs to ensure its products are viable or a large corporation that needs to account for the entire supply chain of its business – sustainability is now something which simply cannot be ignored.

Consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the impacts that their purchasing behaviour is having on the wider environment. Sustainability has grown so much in significance in recent years that it is now affecting where customers shop and the products they buy, and there is a growing awareness throughout the community about where goods come from. Indeed shoppers have shown they are prepared to boycott suppliers and stores which do not live up to their expectations.

While many organisations fear this change in paradigm, especially small businesses that rely heavily on customer relationships, it should instead be seen as an opportunity. Whether it is a rise in responsible farming techniques or an increase in wages for employees in developing countries, the lean toward more sustainable practices has led to a change for the better, not only in organisations and industry, but in society generally.

How does this shift affect small business?

Large corporations often come under fire for their poor environmental practices, ensuring these issues are always top of mind with consumers. While small businesses are at less risk of being made a target, having sound environmental practices is still of great importance because this is what customers want.

As trust plays a major role in how you interact with your customers – the core of your business – you need to ensure that you’re offering products which they can have confidence in. Ensuring the sustainability of all your products is therefore not only a way of giving back to the community, but a necessary process to protect your bottom line. When assessing the sustainability merits of any products which you are selling or purchasing, the best place to start is to ensure they come from traceable sources.

How can organisations ensure their products are sustainable?

Perhaps the best way to ensure your products come from viable sources is to trace them back to where they originated from. Chain of Custody is a process which guarantees that a purchaser, whether a buyer of finished product, manufacturer or end consumer, knows that a product can be traced back every step – to the country of origin, to the plant in which it was made and even how the raw materials were sourced.

By way of example, as an importer of pulp and paper goods, our company, Solaris Paper, must ensure that our products are sourced from sustainable forests that adhere to international environmental standards. There are two globally recognised forestry schemes – PEFC or FSC – which aim to guarantee that a country has sound management practices in place to support environmentally responsible businesses.

Most products today have some kind of certification scheme such as this behind them, guaranteeing they come from a viable source. However as companies try to capitalise on this shift toward environmental sustainability, the increasing number of green logos and schemes has made it difficult for consumers to differentiate between worthy and dishonest products. As a business, the best thing you can do is ensure you adhere to accredited schemes.

When assessing your product range, don’t overlook the important role sustainability now plays in customers’ decision making. Stocking the products consumers want is the heartbeat of any business, and for small businesses especially sustainability is forming a larger part of customer requirements.

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