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Sustainability is tough, but pays dividends if done right

May 14, 2013


By Jeff Clark

Practicing sustainability can be challenging, but if you stay true to your goals, employees and customers, success will be achieved and worth the effort.

But in order to attain sustainable success, you, first and foremost, have to be authentic. That is essential because in this day and age when social media is so in vogue — everyone from your customers to your employees are tweeting and posting photos, videos and messages online — you’ve got to be truthful. If you’re not, you’ll be found out and the repercussions will be costly to your reputation and your bottom line.

The message here is to ensure you DO NOT practice green washing. Ever.

If you say you are practicing sustainability, but you’re not being honest about your sustainable push, you eventually will be found out and that will be bad for business and your brand. It also will be bruising to the rest of the industry.

So maybe you’re thinking it is too complicated and you’ve bitten off a little more than you can chew. To those of you who are having second thoughts, don’t be afraid; move forward, but be smart about how you do it. Perhaps the first step is to embrace your story, tell it to your staff and customers and make it an integral part of your business plan.

If you state you will grow vegetables or herbs on top of your roof, or start a recycling program, or swap out your light bulbs for LEDs, they then will become your own sustainable business practices and you must commit to following them.

If you’ve told your story and implemented your sustainable practices into your business plan, remember to stay focused on what you’ve chosen to implement. It’s very important you don’t go too broad. Take on only what you are able to do.

As long as you stay focused, you will do well and grow your efforts and sustainability impact over time.


Jeff Clark is the program director of the National Restaurant Association’s Conserve sustainability program.


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