How important is sustainability and how can businesses attempt to become more sustainable?


Across the globe, environmental impact, sustainability and ESG are huge topics which are becoming increasingly more important for businesses to take into consideration as part of their business objectives and activities. More and more organisations are reviewing their processes, committing to change and taking action to support a greener future.

Industries such as retail, fashion and FMCG businesses are reviewing their processes of packaging and logistics to establish if they can be more sustainable, looking at alternative materials to single use plastic and reducing the impact of logistics and transportation with greener distribution processes. Manufacturers across all industries are evaluating their production lines to utilise automated processes which are more efficient, and many businesses across varying industries are looking to create and strive towards more sustainable business activity.

90% of business leaders think sustainability is important, only 60% of companies have a sustainability strategy - Forbes

Sustainability and Environmental Social Governance go hand in hand, ESG is a model in which businesses can establish their performance, business activity and processes regarding how sustainable and ethical they are. Clare Gillibrand, a member of our senior research team, recently published an article to highlight the important role Environmental, Social and Governance Managers play in the mining industry, one of our specialist markets. To read more on this topic, click here.

Steve Bullen, Director of Greenleaf, an organisation that provides software and solutions to businesses so they can successfully measure and reduce their environmental impact. 

“The growth in demand around sustainability has surged since COVID, with it now being pushed further up the agenda of stakeholders, shareholders, customers and partners. That’ll be in part due legislation beginning to roll in that is making disclosing emissions mandatory for all businesses in the UK by 2025.

Unfortunately, we’ve largely missed milestones required to hit Paris Agreement targets in the last few years and now, with items like the ‘ratchet clause’ coming in at recent COPs, engaging with environmental sustainability is going to be a key part of keeping businesses afloat and profitable.

The best way I’ve advised senior management to think about this is to change their view of sustainability. Often sustainability is described as having three pillars, social, environmental and economic sustainability. The true picture is that there are two pillars (social and economic) built on a foundation (environmental). Without environmental sustainability, the social and economic pillars won't remain standing long term and this reality is beginning to dawn on governments and businesses as we reach the precipice with the climate.”

Sustainability focuses across the globe

1. Renewable energy

In recent years, we’ve seen a huge increase in renewable energy, with solar and wind energy continuing to grow and hydrogen set to accelerate before 2030, there is a huge demand for green energy and clean technology.

Later this year, the international conference COP28 will take place in Dubai and this will be an opportunity for the UN Framework convention on climate change to come together and measure progress and steps made since COP27 and set targets and initiatives to take further steps towards a greener, more sustainable future to combat climate change, in this there will be a focus on renewable energy.

2. Circular economy

What is a circular economy? According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, a circular economy is an economy that reduces material use, redesigns materials, products and services to be less resource intensive, and recaptures ‘waste’ as a resource to manufacture new materials and products. Throughout this year, it is expected that more businesses will strive to implement more re-use and recycling initiatives within their business to work towards a circular economy approach.

3. Social sustainability

Social sustainability is focused on the impact on people, not the environment. It’s where businesses can establish what effect and impact their business and processes have on people in both a negative and positive way, internal and external to the organisation. Some of the areas of focus within social sustainability include; quality of life, fair labour practices, social cohesion, equality, diversity and democracy.

With social sustainability becoming a bigger focus, regulations to protect people will continue to increase and become tougher on organisations with unfair and unsafe working practices and environments. These regulations will penalise businesses with legal action and financial consequences which will also negatively impact their brand in situations where guidance and regulations around social sustainability are not adhered to.

4. Focus on scope 3 emissions

A number of countries are now making it a requirement for businesses to report on their scope 1 and 2 emissions, however, in a bid to achieve net-zero targets in the coming years, businesses now need to focus on scope 3 emissions. With global legislation on scope 3 emissions reporting increasing, it is likely we will see scope 3 emissions reporting become mandatory in the near future.

For businesses to understand more on their scope 3 emissions, it’s important to understand ways to measure indirect emissions from their supply chain and consumer usage which all contribute to scope 3 emissions.

Changing landscape of job roles and career paths within sustainability

As a result of the pressing need for businesses to create more sustainable processes and make conscious efforts to reduce or offset their carbon footprint, we continue to see an increase in roles within sustainability. As we look to a greener future, sustainability roles and careers with become more prevalent to support business attempts to drive sustainability.

Alex Wilkinson, Director within Mining Recruitment at CSG Talent specialises shared his thoughts on the increase in sustainability roles. "Over the past couple of years, we have seen significant investment globally in talent in the Environmental, Social Governance and Sustainability space within Mining.

This is evident in a few ways: 

  • Sustainability being elevated to the executive leadership team, reporting into the CEO when previously they wouldn’t get a seat at that table.
  • A large increase in mining companies creating new environmental & sustainability related roles in an effort to meet ESG related targets
  • Mining companies struggling to meet the demands in those areas so have been willing to take people out of industry to fill talent demands.
  • Candidates in this space experiencing rapid career development opportunities due to ESG being front and centre of their company’s strategy, these roles are often visual and the individuals within them become influential in their reach across an entire organisation

Candidates are passionate about climate change and sustainability, whether on a personal or professional level and this is driving interest for career paths within sustainability. This, combined with business sustainability goals will boost the number of sustainability job opportunities across the market.

Some of the more common sustainability roles include:

  • Head of Sustainability
  • Sustainability Expert
  • Sustainability Consultant
  • Renewable Energy Analyst
  • Social Compliance Analyst
  • Sustainability Manager
  • Social Compliance Manager
  • Environmental Expert
  • ESG Managers
  • Head of ESG

Head of Sustainability/Sustainability Director

In a senior level sustainability role such as Head of Sustainability or Sustainability Director, an individual has the responsibility to oversee and manage ESG and sustainable objectives and strategies that will allow a business to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce material and product usage. They will also be an advocate for driving change in the business, raising awareness of the benefits of creating more sustainable business processes and encouraging others to play their part.

Those with strong experience in sustainability, environmental and social governance roles or related business, environmental and sustainability degrees are in demand for businesses across a wealth of industry sectors. `

Jordan Roberts, Senior Business Consultant in the Testing, Inspection and Certification Recruitment team at CSG Talent has seen an increase in roles within sustainability: “The diverse roles within sustainability we’ve been sourcing talent for demonstrate the continued requirement for comprehensive support across all areas of sustainability. We’re helping businesses grow divisions whose sole purpose is supporting some of the largest brands and manufacturers across the world to work toward their sustainability goals.

This suggests a very healthy state for the global focus on sustainability, as companies consciously develop their future operations with these goals in mind. It opens the door for a whole sector of experts to emerge, providing consultancy and guidance into the continuously changing certification and legislation areas of sustainability.”

What can businesses do to be more sustainable?

1. Source from local or green suppliers – By sourcing from local suppliers, businesses can reduce the carbon footprint of materials and delivery methods.

2. Strike the balance with hybrid working – Encouraging hybrid working will reduce commute times to the office for a number of employees, therefore impacting the emissions created through travelling to the office.

3. Recycle – Encourage recycling in office spaces, provide appropriate waste management and recycling products to enable employees to play their part in recycling.

4. Review processes and improve energy efficiency – Simple changes to processes such as equipment usage and efficiency, more efficient heating and cooling systems and switching off machines and equipment when not in use will help reduce energy consumption.

5. Source the right people - Hire talent that will drive change and sustainability to set in place objectives and take action and accountability in striving to be more sustainable as a business.

Steve Bullen, Director of Greenleaf, shared his thoughts on how businesses can become more sustainable:

"Whatever the contents of a sustainability strategy, there are two key steps that should always be taken to ensure whatever follows is maximised; and one that should always be taken last to bookend your plans.

To start, think of the journey to becoming environmentally sustainable as a weight loss/gain journey. The first thing to do is jump on the scales and weigh yourself so the first thing a business should do is to start measuring their footprint thoroughly and accurately - and embed that as a key metric through which performance is evaluated regularly. There are tools out there now, like Dashe, that provide real-time reports on your organisational footprint. 

Next it's a diet and exercise plan to start shifting the numbers. Get a carbon reduction plan in place and upskill the team. Basic teamwide training on climate change will help bring everyone onto the same page with the same baseline knowledge. Such training will turn your sustainability strategy from something that most of the team just repost to being something that the team are actively engaged in and are a part of. Whatever a business needs to do after that will become a lot easier to implement and a lot more effective with those two steps.

The last step, and virtually never any sooner, should be offsetting."

At CSG Talent, we recognise we have a long way to go to achieve our sustainability objectives as a business, however we continue to take steps to work towards greener and more sustainable business activity. We make a conscious effort to source local suppliers for office supplies, marketing collateral and food and drink for the offices and try to do this wherever possible. As part of our benefit’s re-launch in 2022, we offer our employees both a cycle to work scheme and an EV car scheme. We know so many of our employees are keen to support the fight against climate change and to play their part in a greener and more sustainable future, so it was important for us to factor this into our employee benefits package. In further attempts to become more sustainable as a business, we are working in partnership with Make it Wild UK to plant trees in order to offset our carbon footprint. We have also started the journey to utilising renewable energy sources where possible and have installed solar panels at our UK headquarters.