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What does a sustainable business look like?

Words by Smiley Team

The latest IPCC report highlighted the growing need for businesses to take action against climate change. This requires companies of all sizes to look at their environmental impact and think about how they can become more sustainable.

But what does a sustainable business actually look like?

Corporate network Business Declares has been working on this topic for about three years. As a progressive alliance of over 100 companies, it drives some of the most ambitious climate action in the corporate world. Its members include major players such as Triodos Bank UK, Riverford Organics and The Body Shop.

Formed by senior leaders from the SME, B Corp and FTSE100 sectors, the not-for-profit is a significant voice in climate discussions, involving members in the UN Race to Zero team for the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26). 

“We believe that business has a major part to play in tackling the climate, ecological and social emergency,” its director, Ben Tolhurst tells Smiley News.

Steps towards sustainability

Drawing on climate science and business expertise, the organisation has drawn up a detailed roadmap with supportive resources for businesses to become sustainable. And the initial step, says Ben, is simply to allow space for knowledge and discussion.

“Firstly it's important for businesses to grasp the scale and urgency of the impact of this crisis on their staff, families and sustainability of their business,” he explains, “therefore the first responsibility is to raise awareness and engender a culture where this topic can be discussed.”

“Secondly, it's important that businesses take action,” he continues. Business Declares encourages companies to take small steps that tick off the “low hanging fruit”, says Ben. This might include switching to green energy providers, getting rid of singe use plastic, or increasing non-meat and dairy options in the canteen.

In combination with these relatively easier actions, Ben says: “Businesses must take far more difficult steps as well such as transforming their finances. This involves moving current accounts, savings and pensions away from the big fossil fuel investors such as Barclays and HSBC to ethical banks like Triodos.”

“Also in the difficult category are actions such as the rapid decarbonisation of their supply chain and considerations of where the business will actively turn down work from prospective clients (like Barclays and HSBC) because of their non-environmental credentials,” he adds.

So really, businesses must work hard to transform every aspect of their operations if they are to operate in a way that supports the continuation of life on Earth. But once that’s achieved, there’s still more they can do.

“Businesses have a responsibility to influence government and be part of campaigns for changes of legislation which will help tackle the climate, ecological and social crisis,” he says.

Business Declares hopes to inspire, encourage and accelerate action within businesses to address the climate, ecological and social emergencies. The network is free to join as and offers free access to support for businesses wanting to tackle the climate and ecological crisis.

Inspired to act?

Support organisations helping businesses become more sustainable.

Business Declares

Business Declares is a network of sustainable businesses offering free resources and support to transform any business into one aligned with planetary limits, functioning in the interests of people, nature and wildlife.

Get involved. Volunteer. Donate.


The WWF collaborates with communities, finance and businesses to raise awareness and campaign for changes in lifestyles, business strategies and more.

Get involved. Volunteer. Donate.

The Climate Group

This environmental group is committed to driving transformation by lobbying organisations to improve their behaviour. 

Get involved. Volunteer. Donate.

Rainforest Trust

Through conservation work and collaborations with companies, the Rainforest Trust hopes to preserve and restore one of the world’s most important natural carbon sinks.

Get involved. Partner. Donate.


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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