19 March 2024

In 2024, sustainability is big business, no matter the size of your company. Despite the economic pressures facing companies and consumers, sustainability remains high on the agenda, with 82% of shoppers wanting brands to embrace sustainable and people-first practices. This is especially pronounced among younger consumers, with three-quarters of Gen-Z shoppers seeing sustainability as more important than brand names.

The truth today is that sustainability can directly benefit your bottom line. Energy-efficient operations and waste reduction initiatives often lead to significant cost savings, there is a growing market for green products and services and lenders are widening their lens when it comes to investment. Here we examine some of the key approaches business owners should consider.


Sustainability & Efficiency

The first point to emphasise is that sustainability is a practical goal, not just a vague term to be waved around for cultural kudos. Every step you take on your sustainability journey should start and end with measurable information – what you’re doing, why you’re doing and what the impact would be. So if you’re not currently doing anything on the sustainability front, just start by looking around you.

  • Begin by conducting an environmental impact assessment to identify areas where your business can improve.
  • Set achievable sustainability goals and implement step-by-step changes.
  • There are numerous resources available to support small businesses in this journey, from government grants to sustainability workshops.


The Consumer View on Sustainability

The consumer landscape is shifting. A 2022 survey by NielsenIQ indicated that 73% of consumers would change their consumption habits to reduce environmental impact, while 72% of respondents reported actively buying more environmentally friendly products. This is a wake-up call for businesses to adapt their product lines and marketing strategies to meet this demand.

This is also an opportunity for businesses to set themselves apart – half-hearted ‘greenwashing’ attempts have become culturally infamous and consumers can see through them quickly. With 78% of consumers saying companies should be mandated to give full transparency into their supply chain so shoppers can make informed choices, companies that communicate proactively and honestly about their sustainability choices have the chance to stand out.


Compliance and emissions

With supply chains in mind, this is also a key area for companies to consider when examining carbon output. The 2025 UK Sustainable Disclosure Standards (SDS) are a set of measures and modifications aligned to standards issued by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). UK SDS is expected to institutionalise and unify SECR, TCFD, and ESOS reporting into an overall, annual set of sustainability reporting requirements. SDS will include:

  • ISSB S1 and S2 (which has incorporated TCFD) reporting, including Scope 3 emissions
  • Additional non-climate sustainability and ESG reporting disclosure
  • A detailed transition plan outlining the submitter’s path to net zero emissions

Under UK regulation, emissions fall into three categories:

  • Scope 1 emissions: Emissions that a company makes directly, such as vehicles or heating.
  • Scope 2 emissions: Indirect emissions such as electricity or energy purchased.
  • Scope 3 emissions: All the emissions associated up and down its value chain

From an operational perspective, many businesses find that Scope 3 emissions, those generated by their supply chains, account for more than 70% of their carbon footprint. This emphasises the need for companies to work closely with their suppliers to obtain sustainability data and to create less waste, especially electronic waste, which is the fastest-growing waste stream in the UK​​.

This impacts sourcing, raw materials and transport – companies have the chance to consider where they produce and manufacture goods, how they move them and ordering strategies to minimise emissions.


Green is key for hiring

As we recently discussed in our Gen Z hiring article, values-driven roles are becoming increasingly important in the modern hiring market. A recent survey found that over 40% of Gen Z and Millennials are willing to switch jobs over climate concerns. The impact of your roles on the climate goes beyond simply having a recycling policy in the office – it includes transport benefits, raw materials, the scope you provide for employees to give back and more.

In the future, these are likely to be the questions that come up in your hiring interviews, with younger joiners expecting you to have answers.


ESG and investment

Integrating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) is no longer just a concern for international giants. No matter the size of your company, these practices can be a strategic asset for attracting future investment. Sustainable policies resonate with modern investors who consider ESG factors crucial when evaluating investment opportunities​​​​ – while banks are under increasing pressure to account for emissions financed from their balance sheets.

Having a documented, long-term policy is therefore a real asset when it comes to sourcing capital. Investors are increasingly drawn to businesses with strong ESG frameworks, often seeing them as lower risk and more adaptable to regulatory changes​​.


Making sustainability work for you.

Integrating sustainability into your business is not just about corporate social responsibility; it's a strategic move that can lead to cost savings, new market opportunities, and a stronger brand and employer reputation.

As we move forward, sustainability will increasingly become a defining factor in the success and resilience of businesses and the sooner you invest, the sooner you can reap the rewards. At Haines Watts, we work with businesses of all sizes to help them adapt to the fast-changing commercial demands of the moment, from carbon measurement to policy management.


To find out more, get in touch with one of our advisors today.