Recent studies have shown that demand from consumers and clients for sustainable businesses is on the rise. The benefits from investing in sustainable development projects can increase your brand value while improving the health, environmental condition and economic standing of some of the more disadvantaged social groups in the world.
These days, carbon offset projects go beyond simply reducing a company's carbon footprint. Projects located in developing countries offer job and education opportunities and better access to health services. Projects specifically targeting the environment, such as forest rehabilitation projects, also protect animal diversity and endangered species.
These added benefits are key to engaging a business's major stakeholders. Below are some questions to ask when trying to decide which project is best aligned with your business values.
What social benefits will resonate most with my customers?
By choosing projects that will resonate with your target clientele, you can attract and retain customers through appealing to their values and building trust. Whether you want to improve the livelihood of remote communities, increase their access to job opportunities or protect native forests, the diversity of projects available means you can be specific about what social benefits you want to incorporate.
An example of a company that invests strategically in projects is The Body Shop. Its values of defending human rights and protecting the planet are at the core of the brand and the Australian branch has invested in various initiatives, including the Cambodian Cook Stove Project. This project not only reduces carbon emissions by providing energy-efficient cook stoves, it also reduces deforestation in the area, improves the health of stove users and saves money on fuel expenses, which can then be used for basic needs.
How easy will it be to talk about the project with key stakeholders?
Projects that are closely aligned with your business objectives are easier to communicate to clients, staff and other stakeholders. For small, entrepeneurial businesses, projects such as the Kariba REDD+ community-based project would be easy to identify with. This project works with the locals in Zimbabwe to improve their livelihood, educating them in conservation agriculture, honey production and fire management.
Projects involved in certain industries will resonate with businesses of that sector. Microsoft and Intel, for example, support computer-education programs around the world and donate software to nonprofit organisations.
Why invest in sustainable development projects?
For businesses where the supply chain is located in areas with little environmental regulation, projects located in that region help offset the environmental impact. Other reasons to invest could be to give back to the local community, to increase transparency, and, in anticipation of future resource depletion, be forward-thinking.
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), in managing its environmental impact, offsets its flight carbon emissions through projects such as the Alize Camseki wind farm in Turkey and the Armenis Farm Biogas Project in Cyprus. Another initiative is its sale of eco-tickets, which also offer free public transport to football matches.
What kind of sustainable development project makes sense for your business?