Five Sustainability Challenges Facing Multi-Site Businesses Today

sustainable business challenge

As climate change makes it ever clearer how important it is to take an ecological approach to work and life, people have grabbed the helm to ensure this happens. Because of this, multi-sites are under increasing pressure to implement sustainability practices by any means possible.

Research shows that main street Amercia is more willing to buy from businesses that can demonstrate significant investments in sustainability. This isn’t just anecdotal, either.

Take a December 2019 First Insight report, for example. It made clear that leaders in the retail industry vastly underestimated how much consumers value the environmentally responsible approach. Moreover, with each passing generation – from Boomers to Gen X to Millennials and Gen Z – the emphasis on solving sustainability issues in business grows.

Sustainability Challenges Facing Multi-site Businesses

“In the two years since First Insight’s first report on Gen Z and sustainability was published, Gen X consumers’ preference to shop sustainable brands increased by nearly 25 percent, and their willingness to pay more for sustainable products increased by 42 percent,” Forbes points out. “Consumers across all generations—from Baby Boomers to Gen Z—are now willing to spend more for sustainable products.”

These figures continue to rise too: “Just two years ago, only 58 percent of consumers across all generations were willing to spend more for sustainable options.” Today, a full 90 percent of Gen X will drop extra cash for green products – paying an additional 10 percent or greater – compared to only 34 percent two years ago.

That’s an impressive leap. And despite one’s political affiliation, it extends across the aisle by a healthy margin.

It’s not only consumers that want greener products, though. Investors increasingly make financially significant decisions using the functional screen of ESG – environmental, social, and governance – which only ratchets up the demand to do right by Mother Earth. However, several headaches are preventing businesses from meeting sustainability challenges throughout operations.

In this blog, we will detail the same sustainable business challenge facing us today, as well as five hurdles standing between businesses and achieving their sustainability goals and objectives. We will also consider how an leveraging an established and proven partner can help your business develop sustainable solutions to today’s most pressing challenges.

What is Sustainability in Business?

So what exactly is sustainability in business? That is a good question we must answer before moving on to solutions. While you can find a thousand definitions online, we like IBM’s short, sweet version: “Sustainability in business refers to a company’s strategy and actions to eliminate the adverse environmental and social impacts caused by business operations.”

In other words, sustainability in business consists of companies’ attempts to limit the adverse environmental effects of their operations, as well as negative effects on the people who help make them go.

Their success is generally weighted against ESG metrics. Environmental, social, and governance standards provide a valuable lens for investors to decide whether or not a business is worth funding. These efforts can manifest in many ways, including:

  • Identifying potential opportunities for improvement
  • Deploying resources to meet them in the least disruptive way for the customer
  • Collecting and crunching data to determine how well such strategies work
  • Creating continuity with such efforts throughout multiple sites simultaneously

Sounds pretty good, right? The bad news is, it’s not as easy as snapping one’s fingers and manifesting greener biz … it will take time and effort to meet sustainability challenges in business.

The much happier news is as soon as you understand what those challenges are, you can begin to mitigate them. Accordingly, here are five of the most pressing to address today.

5 Sustainability Challenges Facing Businesses Today

When most businesses consider an ecological overhaul, they get pretty stressed out. Sustainability challenges in business can feel too big, while the magnitude of the global problem seems to minimize even the biggest success.

Instead of reaching for the bottle of Pepto, though, it’s time to educate yourself and your team. Once you see how beneficial certain changes in facilities and energy management can be, your worldview is likely to get much sunnier.

1. Lack of “Actionable” Data Leads to Lack of Insight

Without a scale, you can’t measure how much you weigh, nor the success of your New Year’s resolutions.

Likewise, without “actionable” data, you can’t gain insight into your organization’s inner workings. What you need is a scale … but one that measures your entire business, from how much it costs to keep the lights on to how well your policies protect the people who work for it.

That’s where energy audits come in, helping you understand your actual energy use and make changes that better the Earth and your bottom line. Without an understanding of current energy use, you will continue to struggle to build sustainability goals and choose which areas to retrofit.

Moreover, you’ll find it very difficult to prove any progress you make toward sustainability goals. If you can set the right KPIs (key performance indicators) from the outset, though, your job becomes much simpler. Within years or even months, you could be meeting the E in ESG.

2. High-Stakes Holistic Efficiency Is Elusive

Just because you meet some energy goals doesn’t mean you’re necessarily meeting them all. Integrating energy efficiency into all operations and utilities, water and energy included, is a tall order.

Again, it’s easy to get stuck at this stage. Without on-staff expertise, decision paralysis can result in efficiency inaction. When you’re not sure you’ll do it “right” and are afraid of wasting time and money to no end, it can be easier to do nothing. It’s certainly not more productive, though.

You need an established and proven partner on your side. That way, you have the help you need making the right adjustments, without having to pay full-time salaries for in-house savvy. You can then focus on your own core competencies, meeting client and customer demands while knowing you’re doing right by ESG.

3. Employees Face High Demands From Sustainability Issues in Business

Another area where businesses get stuck with sustainability challenges? How much a facility professional’s time is dedicate to such efforts.

Facility Professionals who oversee large distributed portfolios already face mountains of work and high levels of stress. Adding more to their plate, even for the purpose of meeting energy goals, often seems to decision-makers like a detriment to team members and the business overall. They are therefore reluctant to allocate hours to sustainability improvements rather than revenue-increasing endeavors.

That’s the wrong approach, though. By taking a small fraction of that time and using it to make big pivots, you will see myriad benefits, such as:

  • Energy and overall cost savings
  • Retrofits that minimize disruption to your customers
  • More impressive ESG metrics that bring investors in
  • More dedicated and loyal audience
  • More significant word-of-mouth marketing results

Yes, team members  might face higher demands for a little while, or you might have to spend out to bring more people on board to support them. On the other hand, many organizations find that, with the help of an outside consultant that is established and  proven track record, they can spend much less and gain much more insight and performance.

4. Intensive Incentive Programs

Complex rebate and incentive programs are alarming to facility professionals, who must learn a new system to meet business goals. Without a clear understanding of these programs and how to benefit from them, it’s difficult for businesses to make a cost-based case for sustainability. Here again, they get stuck.

For instance, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 made lots of new tax credits available to businesses willing to source materials domestically, meet certain labor and apprenticeship guidelines, and follow best environmental practices.

The bill outlines a lot of savings and benefits, but it doesn’t outline how to implement them at your organization. Figuring this out is another stumbling block for leaders and their employees, which is why you’ll benefit from a consultant in your pocket.

5. Difficulty Building a Cohesive Strategy

With so many layers in the sustainable business challenge onion, it can be difficult to build a cohesive sustainability strategy. And without a single source of visibility, businesses struggle to gain visibility and identify opportunities to improve sustainability.

Any strategy that isn’t top-down will miss opportunities. It will also fail to bring unity to various sites within your organization, which is frustrating to clients, customers, service providers, partners, investors, workers, and leadership alike.

We can agree that failing to met the expectations of your stakeholders and customers is a bad thing, right? Which is where a knowledgeable, qualified, and affordable sustainability partner comes in.

A Cohesive Sustainability Strategy Starts with SMG

Meeting the expectations of consumers and investors alike – not to mention the steep challenges of our changing climate – is a possibility. However, you need a cohesive strategy that can provide a bird’s eye view of this otherwise overwhelming prospect.

That’s where a partner like SMG Energy comes in. Through exquisitely tailored plans and goals, we can help you work with the right service providers, take best practices approaches to facilities management, and overhaul your energy performance. With hard data, machine learning, and a fully vetted vendor ecosystem at your fingertips, you can find your way out of the weeds for good.

Together, this energy and facilities management facelift will bring consumers flocking to your door and protect your bottom line. Plus, it will help you sleep at night, so you can put away that bottle of Pepto for good.Ready to get started? SMB Energy is ready to help. Get a free energy assessment from SMG Energy today or reach out with questions, and we’ll get put you on the road to success today.