Sustainability in business: The low-down for students
Clouds massing over wind turbines during a thunderstorm between Chateaudun and Blois, near Heauville, central France, as a heatwave flows across northern Europe with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in some areas. Source: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP

What makes an ethical brand? Long story short, an ethical brand makes sure it practises sustainability in business and has a positive impact on living creatures and the planet.  An ethical brand ensures its workers receive fair treatment across the supply chain and the environment is protected — from policies and practices on child labour,  worker safety, and payment of a living wage to its use of resources and energy, reducing its carbon emissions, impact on our waterways, as well as using and disposing of chemicals safely.  

Outdoor structure in Copenhagen. Source: Olivier MORIN / AFP

More companies are now doing the most to place priority on and embrace sustainability in business — and we’re here for it.  According to Forbes, the top five most sustainable brands of 2020 are Orsted A/S (Denmark), Chr. Hansen Holding A/S (Denmark), Neste Oyj (Finland), Cisco Systems Inc, (United States), Autodesk Inc (United States). Moving up sixty nine spots since 2018 and now first on the list, Ørsted has reinvented themselves by divesting in fossil fuels and investing in offshore wind power, which helped the organisation reduce carbon emissions by 83%. “The transformation has now come to a point where the vast majority of our energy production comes from renewable sources,” says Henrik Poulsen, CEO and president of Ørsted. 

Toby Heaps, co-founder and CEO of Corporate Knights said, “They completely revamped their core business from being a pretty coal-intensive utility to being almost a pure-play renewable power provider.” Nearly half the companies on Corporate Knights’ list are based in Europe, 29 in North America, and 18 in Asia. For over 40 years, Europe has put in place some of the world’s highest environmental standards and ambitious climate policies. 

Part of the European Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is the transition to a circular economy, including to a circular bioeconomy. It is a huge opportunity to create competitive advantages on sustainability. Applying circular economy principles in all sectors and industries will benefit Europe environmentally and socially. 

In addition to having the potential to generate a net economic benefit of EUR 1.8 trillion by 2030, resulting in over one million new jobs across the EU by 2030, and be central to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Given that EU products rely heavily on the resources of other parts of the world, the transition to a circular economy would also help the EU decrease environmental, social and economic pressures globally, and increase the EU’s strategic autonomy. 

Education, training and life-long learning are indispensable to create a sustainability culture. The reformation and modernisation of education systems from building green schools and green campuses to developing new skills for the digital economy has seen an increase along the years. 

More British universities are challenging mainstream approaches and focusing on strategic pathways to address socio-environmental injustices to help shape future sustainability development agendas — The University of Bath (UoB), University of Leeds and University College London are no different. 

Offering MSc in Sustainability and Management, Sustainability and Consultancy, and Environment and Sustainable Consultancy respectively, these universities are among the others that cover a broad range of sustainability topics beyond just environmental issues — from project development to corporate sustainability strategy.