How Your Company Can Outsource Sustainability

Taking environmental steps can be a challenge to businesses. This guide explores the reasons why, and the methods involved, so that businesses small and large can take steps to outsource sustainability.

Written by Rene Mallari

Sustainability is becoming a critical subject not only among the environmentally-aware sectors of society but also in the corporate world. Experts attribute this increasing realization to the constant changes in temperature and weather conditions across the globe called climate change.

The United Nations (U.N.) explains that these meteorological changes were mainly a natural phenomenon until the 1800s when human endeavors have been identified as the primary source. In particular, the continued burning of oil, gas, coal, and other fossil fuels on a massive scale is mostly the cause of climate change. Burning fossil energies produce greenhouse gas emissions that cover the Earth and confine the sun’s heat, increasing temperatures as a result. 

Greenhouse gas emissions, the U.N. adds, come primarily from methane and carbon dioxide. Examples of fuel and chemical discharges are garbage landfills, man-made forest burning, using coals to heat buildings, and driving ground vehicles. Experts view that human industries significantly contribute to climate change due to the unceasing use of fossil fuels for economic production and consumption. 

What is outsourcing in sustainability?

Sustainable business practices are nowadays considered an indispensable part of the overall strategy for corporate leaders, administrators, and executives. The reason is that such a system is not only favorable for the environment and society. It benefits business owners as well. 

Studies show that sustainability in business lowers long-term operating costs as companies innovatively reuse current materials. Firms can also avail of tax incentives and privileges for adopting ecologically-friendly products. Going green also enhances the firms’ public image as social and environmental responsibility is prioritized and gives them the competitive edge as they can manage resources more efficiently. All of these benefits translate to better productivity and higher earnings over the long haul. 

Sustainability was previously an in-house effort, in which organizations developed their own ways to address social and environmental challenges. Lately, companies have adopted outsourcing sustainability as a strategic approach, which is steadily becoming common according to experts. 

To know the meaning of outsourcing sustainability, one has to properly define each term. According to Investopedia, a New York-based online business media company, outsourcing is a business strategy that a company employs by recruiting an outside group to manage tasks or generate goods that were otherwise done internally. The primary aim is to save costs in several areas, including back office, manufacturing, and customer service.  

The website also describes sustainability in general as the organization’s ability to keep up or sustain itself after a time period. In a business setting, sustainability refers to things related to natural and physical sources, social resources, and environmental decline. The concept rests on the idea that unless significant ecological, economic, and public reforms are carried out to keep the planet in the pink, Earth will experience damage beyond repair. 

The CEO Magazine Global, a business publication headquartered in Sydney, explains that when outsourcing sustainability, an organization adopts a retainer model when hiring third-party sustainability professionals. This means that outside experts are enlisted for the long term, enabling them to gain deep insight into the company’s culture, system, operations, workplace, and requirements. This model type is different from getting the services of consultants who provide certain tasks for a fixed fee in a short timeframe. 

Sydeny harbour, home of businesses that  outsource sustainability

How do companies outsource services and jobs? 

Companies typically outsource their services and functions to business process outsourcing (BPO) firms. An article on the Forbes website says BPOs do essential operations for organizations instead of hiring internal employees. Acquiring their services has become more common than those of freelancers, independent contractors, retainers, and other similar external service providers. 

Experts note that there are over a thousand BPOs operating worldwide, many of which are located in India and the Philippines. The services they provide are mainly for customer support, data recording, human resources, telemarketing, accounting, social media marketing, to name some. For instance, Unity Communications is a BPO company based in Arizona with offices in Costa Rica and the Philippines. Established in 2009, it offers its clients various services such as eCommerce order processing and fulfillment, outbound/inbound sales, lead generation, and virtual assistant. 

Forbes points out that BPOs are steadily evolving. From entry-level projects or tasks that are affordable for most clients, external providers are seen to expand their market reach to include higher value-added and sustainability-related services, such as cybersecurity, manufacturing, supply chain, and artificial intelligence. These larger-scale operations emphasize the high volume of document and data digitization, a process that will save natural resources and make enterprises more environment-friendly. 

How to put the planet above your competitors

The article titled “The Importance of Environmental Awareness When Running a Business” on the Missouri-based educational institution Maryville University website says an environmentally aware organization is not just focused on profits. The company is not only concerned about the business competition it is facing but also regards its influence on the environment and the public

It adds that a sustainable business follows the triple bottom line (TBL). This concept is conceived in 1994 by a British sustainability consultant John Elkington. TBL’s three elements are profits (financial), people (social), and the planet (environmental). An organization is considered sustainable when it produces profits while optimally using the planet’s resources and being socially responsible.

Experts say organizations should always incorporate sustainability into their business strategies and objectives. They deem that including the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors as an essential part of the strategy is no longer optional but mandatory. ESG pertains to the three vital components when evaluating the sustainability and ethical effect of a business venture in an enterprise. Environment-conscious investors investigate prospective companies with their non-financial data disclosure called ESG reports. 

How outsourced teams can help you start green efforts from scratch 

A sustainability outsourcing team can help organize, plan and implement effective ways to achieve sustainable business. This group will also be responsible for taking different measures so that all your employees and stakeholders become environmentally aware. One of its main goals is to minimize the damage your business does and can do to the environment. The team can likewise assist you in reducing your carbon print, which is the amount of carbon dioxide and other compounds being discharged because of fossil fuel consumption. 

How to make sustainable goals and keep them 

An organization must make sustainable goals that are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an agenda that calls for a worldwide partnership to promote peace and progress for the planet and the human population. Also known as Global Goals, the plan lists 17 actions and is expected to be achieved by 2030. 

The goals that the UN sees will transform the world are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequality
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life On Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

Experts note that clearly defining your goals as well as developing detailed plans and objectives are among the steps that you should take to achieve sustainability. Hiring external sustainability specialists is another recommended means to lead your business toward this final outcome. 

Choosing a team of volunteers who will take on your sustainability activities in the workplace will also help reach your sustainability goals. For one, this initiative leads to accountability and establishes a culture of sustainability in your organization. The team will be responsible for communicating with co-workers about the policy and related to it such as issues, challenges, and new ideas. 

How outsourcing can reduce strain on natural resources for your company 

One of the tasks that BPOs and other external providers can perform for you is to manage and store your large amount of data and information in the digital platform. Document digitization not only makes records more accessible and storage more convenient than the traditional means but also conserves natural resources. This process contributes to your organization’s efforts of having a sustainable business or going green. 

Going paperless due to digitized data means savings trees where paper comes from. Your business will be able to help reduce deforestation, air pollution, waste problem, and the use of energy and water.

Conclusion: How to Outsource Sustainability

Enlisting outside experts to manage your company’s sustainability projects is considered a must-have to enable you to focus on what you do best – generating sales and profits for your employees and stakeholders. At the same time, they help you by allowing your organization to make a significant contribution to the preservation and conservation of the planet’s natural resources. 

Outsourcing sustainability to external providers will benefit you in the end. Their deep knowledge and broad experience in this subject will be passed on to you and your workforce in the long run. From that point, you can form your internal sustainable team to continue, if not improve the efforts.