Sustainability Has Become a Key Decision Maker for Businesses’ Success

Increasingly, companies are starting to reflect environmentally conscious decisions in their operations, affecting much of how the business operates for consumers. Because of this, these businesses are hiring more people who have knowledge in both environmental and business backgrounds to help them make these decisions. For example, Wegmans, a major Central New York-based grocery chain, has begun an initiative to eliminate all plastic bags company-wide by the end of 2022. Although New York State regulations required stores to make this change in March of 2020, Wegmans was ahead of the ban and implemented it sooner than required. 

From supply chain to budgeting, calling for a change such as removing plastic bags in all stores can come with a lot of decisions for a company. For example, a store must decide things like whether or not to provide paper bags, the design of the bags, the manufacturer, offering reusable bags as an alternative and what kind of costs will be associated with the change. 

Todd Moss, chair of the Department of Entrepreneurship & Emerging Enterprises and associate professor at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, says that companies such as Wegmans have people designated within the organization to help with these changes. 

“Something that’s becoming more prominent are the presence of chief sustainability officers an advisory role to other groups in the company about how to be more environmentally conscious,” Moss says. 

Although many consumers may be upset with the switch from plastic to paper, Moss has seen the environmental impact that something like this has on our environment. 

“Through a Whitman grant in 2018, I took a group of students to Mexico to learn more about the impact of plastic waste. They were trying to reduce plastic waste in the restaurants, particularly single-use plastics and similar items. To show us the magnitude of the problem, they took us to the largest open dump in Mexico City, which is the fourth largest in Latin America. Imagine a place the size of Syracuse that was just mountains of trash!” he says. 

Large companies such as Wegmans and Walmart are starting to report on their environmentally conscious efforts in order to be more transparent to customers. A study by Greenpoint in 2021 found that 78% of customers are more willing to buy a product when it is labeled environmentally friendly.  

“Walmart has what it calls a sustainability ‘playbook.’ So, companies that supply to Walmart have to report on the use of certain things, such as virgin versus manufactured materials, packaging, etc.,” says Moss.

Companies decide to become more environmentally conscious because of a multitude of factors, not just for consumers. Businesses benefit from these changes as they can save money, deal with less waste and have a better relationship with employees.

“A sustainable workplace also attracts and retains top talent because more people coming into the workforce, particularly Generation Z, value sustainability and they want to work for companies that share that value,” Moss says. 

According to Moss, sustainability is the future of business. Businesses cannot move forward without adopting sustainable options in their operations.

“Massachusetts Institute of Technology did a study awhile back that said 91% of executives believe that sustainable strategies are or soon will be required to be competitive in business,” Moss says. “That is the future.”

Learn more about trending topics in business.

Rylee Pohancsek