Net Positive: a new way of doing business

20 May 2014

‘Net positive’ means putting more back into the environment or community than a company takes out. With a new report providing a road map to help businesses engage with the concept, we’ve identified 5 steps you can take to get there.

A Net Positive approach – where businesses demonstrate an overall positive societal or environmental impact in key areas of business operations – goes much beyond corporate social responsibility. It focuses on business benefits, including competitive advantage and supply chain security, to allow a business to move into a leadership space by creating innovative products and services.  The concept resonates with one of SBN’s transformation areas – Restorative – which looks at how businesses can add value rather than simply neutralising environmental impacts.

A new report, “Net Positive: a new way of doing business”, by our partner Forum for the Future, the Climate Group and WWF-UK, provides a framework to guide the development of a Net Positive strategy.

Based on the report, here are five things we’ve identified that you can do to start moving your business to a net positive one:

1. As a starting point, a business needs to look at the most significant aspects of its supply chain.

To be net positive, a business must understand where the biggest impacts can be made and where crucial areas for success are; and what needs to be prioritised.

2. You need to measure it to manage it: metrics must be set in place to measure positive impacts.

Your business can measure positive impacts such as the amount of waste generated/diverted or energy saved, by using a tool like the Get Sust Challenge, SBN’s sustainability benchmarking tool, to find out where you can improve across 11 key areas. To report on progress, your business must first establish a benchmark, and then show your stakeholders and customers where you have improved. A commitment to Net Positive principles moves your business into a leadership space, sending a clear message that you take sustainability seriously.

3. Make a big shift: look beyond your operations to the ‘bigger picture’.

Take a whole systems approach and work with supply chains, customers, private, public and not for profit sectors to create reductions in negative impact, while increasing positive impacts. By adopting an inclusive approach, you are ensuring affected communities are involved in the process of creating positive social and/or environmental impacts.

Get involved in SBN’s work on helping organisations to understand how to embed social value into their business model and operations if you’d like to start on this journey.

4. Look at your value chain to identify new opportunities, while discovering which investments, products and markets are not fit for the future.

A Net Positive business takes a holistic view, looking to the future to create innovative new products, services, business opportunities and sectors, thus creating competitive advantage and increased commercial returns.

5. These dramatic shifts cannot be delivered by a Sustainability Manager alone.

To have a net positive business, net positive principles must be integrated throughout core business functions.

Adopting a Net Positive approach helps to create organisational resilience and success in the long term, while delivering business benefits in the short term. If you’d like some advice on how to advance your business to net positive, get in touch.

To read “Net Positive: a new way of doing business”, click here.