What SMEs need to know

Do you have an individual or team in charge of sustainability? More and more companies today do. In fact, the sustainability job market is booming as forward-thinking organizations of all sizes make sustainability a top priority. The world is undergoing a historic business transformation in response to the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, changing customer and employee expectations, and the urgent need to build a more sustainable society. As more companies start and expand their sustainability efforts, the need to effectively manage them is crucial for success.


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What is sustainability management?

Sustainability management (or governance) is the activity of managing a company’s strategies and performance related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. It’s about taking a comprehensive, structured approach to consider and integrate ESG goals, programs and practices into your business.  

Responsibility for sustainability management can be assigned to an individual or a core team such as a committee, depending on the size of the business. Larger organizations may have boards and multiple teams involved in managing sustainability, while smaller companies may task one individual with leading sustainability initiatives on top of other job duties. The key is to ensure primary ownership and accountability are in place for making your business more sustainable. 



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What are the key functions?

A dedicated sustainability manager or team performs a variety of functions. These can include:  

  • Developing and leading a sustainability strategy or program, including setting performance targets 
  • Overseeing sustainability performance, ensuring goals are met and finding opportunities for improvement 
  • Serving as an in-house expert to identify and prioritize sustainability issues, risks and opportunities 
  • Collaborating and co-ordinating with colleagues to implement sustainable business practices 
  • Communicating and engaging with employees and external stakeholders  
  • Monitoring industry trends and regulatory developments to stay on top of evolving ESG issues 




The business case > Benefits and opportunities for your company

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Optimizes focus, time and implementation

Having a dedicated resource for managing sustainability is paramount to getting the most out of your sustainability strategy and initiatives. With this in place, your company’s ESG program will receive the proper attention and support to maximize its likelihood of success the first time—minimizing wasted resources, capital and time. Also, having assigned sustainability roles and responsibilities can increase the number of initiatives implemented at your company and help ensure they’re integrated across the business.

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Improves your workplace culture

A workplace guided by strong sustainability management can help you inspire and retain employees, while making your business more attractive to job seekers. Evidence shows that younger generations choose jobs because of a company’s good sustainability performance.

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Meets evolving stakeholder expectations

Sustainability has become a licence to operate in many sectors. Customers, suppliers, investors and regulators are increasingly interested in a company’s sustainability program, and expect businesses to make socially- and environmentally-responsible decisions. A company with a good sustainability strategy and management will be better at meeting these expectations.

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Reduces risks and costs

By dedicating time to understand and search for new ESG risks and opportunities, you can better evaluate impact and make business decisions accordingly. For example, you may find ways to reduce operating costs associated with energy and resource consumption—a huge benefit especially in these economic times.

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Boosts your competitive advantage

Effective sustainability management can positively differentiate your company in both local and global markets—and give you a competitive edge going forward. A growing body of research shows that companies with sustainability practices outperform competitors. Today’s consumers are increasingly driven to buy from companies with a strong commitment to sustainability. And more partners and suppliers want to do business with sustainability-focused companies. As such, sustainability shouldn’t be viewed as an obligation—it’s a way to access exciting opportunities to generate new business and enhance the bottom line.


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What you can do

With sustainability accelerating as a priority for small and large businesses, it’s something that no reputable company can afford to ignore. Effective sustainability management is crucial for SMEs to navigate an ever-evolving business landscape—and thrive over the long term.

If you want to operate your company more sustainably, but aren’t sure where to begin, creating a dedicated sustainability function is a good place to start. It’s an investment in your business and will go a long way to making ESG an integral part of your operations and growth strategy, and  give you a competitive advantage in the new economy.

Questions to consider

  • Who’s leading and overseeing your sustainability efforts?  
  • Does your company have a sustainability strategy and corresponding goals?  
  • Do you monitor and measure performance regarding sustainability issues?     



Take action

Use EDC’s Sustainability management checklist to help you get started or take the next step on your sustainability journey.

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Date modified: 2024-01-23