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What Are the Different Types of Sustainability Strategies?

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  • Written By: Osmand Vitez
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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Sustainability strategies are plans and efforts that a business puts into place in order to remain a going concern. These strategies include corporate governance, employee development, innovation, and systematic improvements. Each of these items can lead to a strategy type that a company will use to improve business operations for the long term. Implementing sustainability strategies are different for each business as their operations and operating industries may have different influences that alter these plans. Selecting the right strategy also depends on these items and each company’s internal operations.

Corporate governance is the overarching guidelines and directions that a company uses to control people and operations. Sustainability strategies may be in corporate governance, so it becomes a mantra that a company always keeps at the front of its operations. Rather than just covering standard business issues, corporate governance may include environmental and social issues. This ensures a company has enough physical resources to continue business operations. Social issues may require the company to spend capital on items that improve their surrounding environment, helping not only internal stakeholders but also those not directly invested in the business.

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Employee development is another common type of strategy. Companies often rely on wetware, which are the attributes and benefits brought to the business by an employee’s intangible skills. Employee sustainability strategies involve developing employees, compensating them at above-market levels, and preventing these individuals from leaving the company and working for a competitor. Open communication channels and allowing employees' input into decisions can also strengthen this strategy. A company with a strong employee base looks to retain individuals far into the future, past current executives and management.

Innovation — primarily through technology — is another group of sustainability strategies. Companies look toward the future and develop technology or processes that leverage technology into their operations. In many cases, sustainability strategies involve transforming standard manual processes into ones supported and completed by technology. Technology innovation allows a company to improve its business processes and continue operations longer because employees are not necessary to run operations. Reducing waste is another benefit from innovation, saving capital resources.

Systematic improvements may represent incremental improvements a company uses for its sustainability strategies. Improvements can be reducing debt a certain percent each month, adding new products at specific intervals, or improving the company’s value chain. Companies identify areas to improve that will affect sustainability. Changing operations to make improvements may take a long time. Therefore, the company may need a sustainability plan that provides systematic improvement during future periods.

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