Sustainability is becoming an integral part of doing business. In recent times, both public expectations and the increasingly widespread regulatory requirements for economic activities have become apparent. They are intended to include respect for environmental and social issues. Concepts of how business should operate in the field of sustainability are numerous. For example, we have CSR – Corporate Social Responsibillity – which says that business alone is not enough and it is necessary to take responsibility for the environment in which the company operates. Also gaining prominence recently is the concept of ESG (Environmental Social, Governance), which refers to three dimensions that should be considered in a company’s strategy – environmental factors, social factors and corporate (management) governance.
The topic of sustainability, on the one hand, involves a change in the approach to doing business in response to various types of crises, whether environmental, climate or social, and on the other, it is a tool for gaining a competitive advantage in the market. We can talk about the benefits of, for example, obtaining certificates, improving energy efficiency and associated reductions in the cost of doing business. Implementing measures to support sustainable development is also a necessity to reduce the negative impact of changes in the world around us. Early identification of climatic (e.g., the growing problem with access to water or rising average air temperature) and social risks is an opportunity to be well prepared and limit their impact on operations. Sustainability can therefore take advantage of opportunities, but also mitigate risks.
In the thick of sustainability terms
For sustainable development, as for any rather broad thematic field, a specific set of concepts has been developed. Since ESG combines both environmental, climate, social and economic issues, the resulting conceptual apparatus is based on a number of specific formulations appropriate to all these fields. So we have a carbon footprint and greenhouse gases abbreviated as GHGs, we have physical risk, transition risk and reputational risk, we have a closed loop economy, the wage gap, and non-financial reporting, CSRD, ESRS or greenwashing. It is very easy to get lost in this maze of terms and topics. Especially if you run a small or medium-sized enterprise and it is not possible to set up organizational units dealing only with sustainability issues.
Training Sustainability in SMEs
With a view to companies in the SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) sector, an e-learning training course was created within the PARP Academy. It is titled Sustainable Development in SMEs, and the Bank of National Economy’s ESG risk staff is responsible for the substantive development of its content.
E-learning on the PARP website is available completely free of charge. All you have to do is log in beforehand on a publicly accessible platform. The training includes 6 hours of content material prepared in an interactive format. The content is illustrated by the story of entrepreneur Monica, who, like other business owners, is trying to find her way in running a sustainable business and not incur losses in the process.
Among other things, the following questions can be answered as you familiarize yourself with the “Sustainability in SMEs” course:
- What is sustainability and why is its business importance growing?
- What are the company’s areas of environmental and social impact?
- Which industries are high-risk sectors in terms of sustainability?
- How to conduct environmental and social benefit and risk analyses?
- What is sustainability reporting?
The training is designed for “entrepreneurs in the SME sector who would like to start implementing sustainability into their daily business management practice, and those who want to start their professional work in the area of sustainability and ESG.” The course is cross-cutting and systematizes knowledge related to environmental and social issues. The topics presented in the e-learning include 4 chapters divided into 22 lessons:
- Chapter 1. The concept of sustainable development.
- Chapter 2. Areas of environmental and social impact of the company.
- Chapter 3. Environmentally and socially high-risk sectors and sectors of the future.
- Chapter 4. Benefit and risk analysis in implementing sustainability solutions.
Each chapter ends with a knowledge test, and after completing the entire training and passing the final test, you can get a certificate.