Reading Time: 5 minutes

Simplify sustainability and lead your business to a more practical future

Let’s face it, the Covid-19 pandemic presented us all with anxieties and stresses about business survival and adaptability. That said, businesses with sustainable strategies were more easily adaptable to course-correct accordingly and make changes.  

Mindful Chef, a certified B Corp which brings quality fresh recipe boxes to your door, quickly identified how they could help our key workers with discounts and priority access.

In contrast, businesses with unsustainable strategies struggled to sustain themselves in these unpredictably changing and unfavourable conditions.

Wirecard recently filed for insolvency after an eye-watering €1.9 billion went missing from the company's balance sheet. The fintech firm, once one of Germany’s rising stars, later admitted the money may never have existed. The financial impact of weak governance has wiped 95% off the share price.

And then there was much ado about Boohoo, whose stock price plummeted 43% after reports that suppliers manufacturing some of their product lines were paying staff less than half of the national minimum wage. The share price partially rallied after the company pledged serious reform within its supply chain management. The reputational damage may take far longer to recover.

I’d say it’s far less costly to learn from others’ mistakes. It’s more important than ever to review how you approach sustainability.

To navigate clients through unpredictable changes, I swear by five sustainability pillars:

· Finance and governance

· Employees

· Suppliers and communities

· Environmental

· Customers

Finance and governance

· Look carefully at your cash reserves, and assess if it can weather a second prolonged period of disruption?

· Can you take advantage of any preferential loans for sustainable businesses?

· Are you satisfied with the robustness of your planning and forecasting?

· Do you feel under pressure from stakeholders to deliver against a plan which you believe is genuinely unachievable?

· Would a shortfall delivery to this plan further risk your cash flow?

· Are you planning for stricter cost control and limiting your fixed cost commitments?

· Do you need to diversify your revenue streams to spread your risk against future bad weather but have no spare capital?

Now may be the perfect time to do a deep dive review of the financial sustainability of your business model.

I can support you as an independent finance professional who will offer a fresh pair of eyes and constructively challenge assumptions. Possible solutions may include investigating sustainable innovation grants or impact investing to help revenue diversification.


· Do you feel drained and exhausted after battling through the last few months, but as the leader of the business you feel you must carry on regardless?

· How have your teams fared while on furlough? Can you offer extra support to help them adjust back to work? Perhaps you’re concerned that some employees have been hit harder than others.

· Can you do something to give them a break now or offer a benefit which will help them further down the line?

· Will employee management and retention present problems in the long term?

It’s vital that you can sustain yourself through this next period of recovery. You yourself may need some support. I help clients take a more contemporary view of what makes a strong and sustainable employee pillar.

Suppliers and communities

· Are you confident you have considered the impact of this storm across all your communities?

· How have your suppliers been impacted by recent events?

· What can you do to help?

· Have you paid the smaller suppliers quickly to help their cash flow?

· Are you supporting your local suppliers as much as you can?

· Can you offer small local suppliers access to benefits that cost you nothing but would be invaluable to them?

I can provide you with metrics and measures to consolidate how to help your suppliers and your communities help you.


· Look at the impact your business has on the environment. Has it changed during the first half of 2020?

· Is this change a benefit or a disadvantage? Can you adjust your operating model to continue these benefits or counter the disadvantages?

· Do any of the following phrases confuse you: the circular economy, carbon offsets, net zero?

· Are you conscious that you have a plan for improving your impact on the environment, but you don’t measure or manage any specifics?

I can provide you with a platform to measure success against all your environmental goals. And if you have any specialist requirements, I can direct you to the right environmental consultants for you.


· Have you sought feedback from your customers? Are they remaining loyal?

· Do you worry that it will be increasingly difficult to attract new customers?

· Do you offer services or products which are sustainable and if so, are you promoting them?

62% of young consumers in the UK say they would reconsider purchasing decisions if retailers communicated better about the environmental impact. 63% said they would stop using a brand if it was damaging to the environment.

I can help you answer these questions and communicate your sustainability credentials more clearly to present and prospective customers.

My technology platform allows you to measure your sustainability and share progress with your customers – they’ll be impressed with your efforts!

If you know you are operating sustainably, shout about it. It will win you brand loyalty.

Survival with sustainability

One thing’s for sure, navigation is more of a challenge than ever. That said, a strong sustainable business will allow you to brave future storms with greater confidence. 

And navigation comes down to interconnectedness and teamwork, not going it alone and guesswork. With the wind in your sails, it’s amazing what you and your team can achieve.

There’s never been a better moment to embark on your journey towards sustainability and inspire others to join you on that journey.

As the Mindful Chefs of this world illustrate, there is overwhelming evidence that businesses who operate sustainably have a far stronger financial outlook.

What do we offer?

I have established Profit Impact with a clear mission – to strengthen businesses financial health through sustainability, whilst having a positive impact on society and the environment.

If you’re keen to learn more about sustainability, get in touch.  I’m here to help you better understand how to protect people, profits and the planet. They’re not mutually exclusive.

If you want better weather to shine on your business, you are in the right place. I have the sunscreen, shades, and parasol ready for you.

(Thanks for weathering the nautical analogies. They come easily to us Whales!)

Photo credit: Richard Sagredo @sagredophotography

Written by:
Sarah Whale, FCCA
Sarah is the founder of Profit Impact, which guides businesses to measure and grwo long-term positive social, environmental and financial impacts. Sarah has over 20 years experience as a senior financial professional as well as a qualified in Cambridge Institute Sustainability Leadership and B Corp Leader.