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No business is an island: you don’t have to go it alone on sustainability

Sharing information, networks and expertise could have immense benefits in driving sustainability in your business

3 min read


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Sustainability credentials are no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, they are a commercial imperative. Businesses are coming under increased scrutiny to balance profit, people and planet.


This pressure is coming from all quarters: governments, regulators, stakeholders and consumers – especially the younger generation. 

“The data clearly shows the direction of travel for the UK,” said Peter Flavel, Coutts CEO. “It’s encouraging that, for younger people, a business’ integrity and the impact it has on society and the environment is so important. Transparency and accountability should be at the cornerstone of good business, and our research has shown how important it is for companies around the world to ensure they operate in a socially and environmentally sound way.”


Our 440 app - support from Coutts and your peers

At Coutts, we help our clients share ideas and discuss key issues around sustainability. As a B Corp certified company, we are part of a community of changemakers committed to balancing profit and purpose. As such, we bring those clients together to support each other on sustainability through platforms such as our 440 app, which hosts Coutts’ own social network.

The app provides a secure platform for clients to network and exchange ideas on any topics that interest them. Lively debates around key issues such as environmental best practice, are a regular feature of the Entrepreneur and Climate Change groups.

One discussion around climate change on the app opened with an exploration of worst-case scenarios, supported by findings from an Australian think tank. Other clients responded with how they believe climate change would create great opportunities for entrepreneurs to build new businesses, new technologies and, ultimately, a stronger and smarter society. 

In addition to the lively client activity on the app, a group of Coutts colleagues regularly use it to share articles, reports and polls on sustainability issues, ranging from cleantech and renewable energy to reducing fast fashion’s carbon footprint. The app also allowed us to extend an exclusive invitation to a talk by climate scientist Johan Rockstrom on his Netflix film ‘Breaking Boundaries: The Science Of Our Planet’.


Partnering up to protect the planet

Making sustainability a priority is the first step on the transformation journey for any business. But while companies can do much on their own to improve their sustainability performance, the way they engage and involve the businesses they work in partnership with, is crucial. 

According to the Carbon Trust, up to 90% of an organisation’s environmental impact lies with the supplies it buys and the products it sells. This is why forward-thinking companies are working with suppliers and partners to create sustainability goals and programmes from the ground up. They are tapping into their partners’ knowledge and expertise and gaining their buy-in.

Danone, for example, acknowledges in its 2020-2021 UK Modern Slavery Statement that “global and complex agri-food supply chains carry the risk of human rights and environmental violations”. To mitigate this risk, the company requires its suppliers to follow the company’s Sustainability Principles for Business Partners. It also invites them to co-create sustainability solutions and uses frameworks such as B Corp, the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) to engage its suppliers.

Collaborating within your sector

The huge challenge to achieve net-zero emissions has encouraged businesses that might be in competition with one another to collaborate – often with a third party. This allows transformation at a scale that is not possible for individual businesses. 

For example, the UK retail sector has a carbon footprint that’s over the equivalent of 200 million tonnes of CO2 per year – all generated by retail operations, supply chains and consumers using its products.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is tackling this huge environmental challenge with a Climate Action Roadmap supported by 170 BRC members, including M&S, Boots and Burberry. Its goal is to reach net-zero emissions from the sector by 2040.

Companies are also collaborating on a local basis to boost their sustainability efforts. Sharing assets and materials, such as warehouse space or machinery, can reduce costs and also carbon footprints.

Food waste is one area where one company’s sustainability efforts can dovetail effectively with another’s. In Manchester, the Kellogg’s factory partnered with the Salford brewery Seven Bro7hers to turn its reject Corn Flakes into beer, creating ‘Throwaway IPA’.

Likewise, Suffolk brewer Adnams has brewed three beers for UK retailer Marks & Spencer using surplus bread leftover from the store’s sandwich production.

The scale of the sustainability journey can be daunting, but through knowledge-sharing and collaboration, businesses can find efficient and profitable solutions. The metaphor of the ‘business ecology’ is apt and, at Coutts, we believe that is something all our clients should have access to.

Find out more about sustainability at Coutts.