We are living in a time of significant upheaval. In just a few short months, the COVID-19 pandemic has utterly changed the way we live our lives, and has had a huge impact on the way we do business. The economy has suffered while the very way we work has been transformed, with remote working becoming more prevalent, and unnecessary face-to-face meetings being sharply reduced.
Indeed, as more and more people stay at home rather than venture out to get essential supplies, the importance of the supply-chain sector has never been so obvious.
COVID-19 has emphasized what many smart business owners already knew before the virus emerged: that businesses need to be sustainable on a number of different levels if they are to survive and thrive. Now more than ever, executives appreciate how crucial it is to safeguard a business for the worst-case scenario.
Many business owners will hear this and think it means extra costs that they can ill afford at such a traumatic time for the economy. But the old way of doing business has gone, and it’s possible for businesses to both act sustainably and look after their bottom line.
A sustainable business needs a resilient workforce. Employers should be facilitating remote working wherever possible, while staff working onsite need the right safeguards in place in order to do their jobs efficiently and safely.
That means upholding strict hygiene standards and cough and sneeze etiquette, using hand sanitizers, and undertaking regular deep cleans of the workplace. There is an initial cost to this, but the alternative could spell disaster for your business.
Technology can help keep your business sustainable. Consider an energy evaluation of one or multiple sites. It’s a long, labor-intensive process that generally takes months to finish. However, physical interactions will now need to be minimized for at least the next three to six months.
Thankfully, industry apps exist that eliminate the need for surveyors to physically be onsite to assess the buildings in question. By inputting key metrics — size, ceiling height, current electricity costs, and operating hours — business owners can immediately access potential savings through the use of alternative energy sources. In the process, they can save a significant amount of work hours, and make decisions with a demonstrable environmental, financial and real-life impact.
In addition, because surveyors no longer need to be onsite and calculations are made remotely, you are instantly lessening your staff’s exposure to the virus.
Gone are the days of simple transactions, with technology vendors looking to offload a product and look elsewhere for the next sale.
After the COVID-19 crisis, it’s clear that partnerships need to be built to last, and your vendors need to be invested in your success. If a partner is interested in benefiting from your success, rather than simply selling, this will have a hugely positive impact on your business as well as the economy at large.
In this environment, corporate relationships must become more than simply transactional. Businesses that have survived the pandemic, regardless of whether they’re global multinationals or small enterprises, will understand that their vendor portfolio has to offer more than merely products.
Those that are invested in the success of their clients through finding savings instead of just product sales are the ones that will establish true partnerships that will last. It’s crucial that vendors are on the same side of the table as your business.
Your Business Model
COVID-19 has been devastating, but it will pass. Climate change, on the other hand, is an ongoing problem that needs our urgent and sustained attention. It has an enormous potential impact on economic activity and business across all sectors, not just the supply chain.
In years gone by, the unfortunate reality was that business leaders could afford to turn a blind eye to the climate crisis, prioritizing profits over any semblance of sustainability. Yet the last five years have been be the hottest on record. People around the world understand that something needs to be done, and that we can’t afford to wait any longer. Customers are demanding that businesses be sustainable, and employees are demanding that their employers operate in an ethical and sustainable manner.
What has that meant for businesses that are concerned about the cost of sustainability? The answer lies in a new offering: sustainability as a service. In practice, this means working with a vendor that will provide, maintain and replace an essential product such as lighting.
The equipment itself isn’t owned or even leased by the business, meaning a depreciating asset isn’t on the balance sheet, and the business’s borrowing capacity is not affected. In certain cases, the third party doesn’t charge interest fees and receives payment from the energy savings realized in the first place. A business model like that is the basis of a lasting partnership.
COVID-19 has come as a shock to the entire industry, and its ramifications will be felt long after it disappears. But life and business will go on, and it’s crucial that supply-chain owners are ready for the new reality that awaits.
Graham Deane is Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of sustainability provider UrbanVolt.
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