These risks all come together under the banner of sustainability but, sometimes, it’s difficult to understand what this really means or how and why we should act. This should not, however, be a barrier. Zurich Municipal’s latest whitepaper, The Sustainability Shift: Places, shines a light on sustainability and offers guidance on what sustainability is, the opportunities it brings and actions you can take to build and maintain resilient communities. Alongside case studies across the public and voluntary sectors, the whitepaper provides links to tools and frameworks to help guide you and your organisation throughout your sustainability journey.
The dictionary definition of sustainability is “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level” and “the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”. While the focus tends to be on the second element of the definition, sustainability is not just about the environment. Sustainability is about being considerate of our impact on people, places and the planet, and leaving a positive mark across each of these pillars – not just today but also for the future.
The usual answer to the sustainability question is climate change. But there are many different aspects to sustainability, and climate change is only one of them.
The ambiguity around sustainability’s definition can however lead to varied thinking and action. While some organisations and individuals are comfortable embedding sustainability into their culture, others are unsure of where to start.
The inherent purpose of the public and voluntary sector is to build and uphold resilient communities. As conveners and custodians of their places, public and voluntary organisations are fundamentally concerned about economic, environmental and social sustainability. There are also pressing concerns around financial sustainability in the context of global instability, increased costs, rising inflation and funding systems.
Faced with a plethora of priorities, public and voluntary sector organisations may view sustainability as a business criterion with public promotion of principles and promises but sometimes only siloes of operational activity. Sustainable thinking and action therefore don’t always join up holistically, and acceptance of what sustainability means is often not communicated and embedded at all levels of organisation.
We are living in a time of great uncertainty and disruption, but innovation and opportunity emerge from such situations. From procurement to stakeholder engagement, the sustainability agenda can benefit all areas if we think differently.
By considering our roles and how we impact our operations and influence others, we can all act now whatever our context. There are a few key areas where we can take action, including:
- Understanding and communicating sustainability priorities and goals, with measurable actions and clear timescales
- Setting a governance framework and aligning across decision making, risk management, audit, procurement and project management processes
- Engaging with your workforce to ensure the sustainability commitment is understood at all levels of your organisation. Invest in training for your workforce if necessary.
- Being a sustainable consumer. There are often small things we can all do as consumers to make an impact.
- Working with partners and using your influence to demonstrate your priorities.
- Consulting with stakeholders to ensure what you’re doing is relevant to them and taking them with you on your sustainability projects. Share the vision with stakeholders and give them a say along the way.
- Learning from others, you may not have to reinvent the wheel.
The public and voluntary sector can transform communities by taking the right risks right now. With investment in solar and wind farms, electric charging networks and public transport, they can lead the way on infrastructure futureproofing.
Sustainability is a journey, and we are all on it together. At Zurich Municipal we believe in a brighter future for our communities. That’s why we make it our purpose to help make them more sustainable and more resilient. Zurich Municipal are here to engage with all customers to share our own sustainability journey, goals, targets, achievements and learnings and to support you by providing solutions to your sustainability issues.
Sustainability is about doing business today in a way that safeguards the future of our company and our society.
To discuss any aspect of this whitepaper further, or for more information email [email protected] or call us on 0800 232 1901.