How COVID-19 has emphasised the importance of sustainability for business owners

COVID-19 has stressed the need for hygienic workplaces to help businesses become sustainable and resilient.

As Britain prepares to host the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, the issue of climate change and sustainability should be at the forefront of every business owner’s mind.

Companies that demonstrate their green credentials and their efforts to be sustainable are more likely to succeed in the years to come. Stakeholders are becoming increasingly reluctant to be associated with organisations that continue to guzzle fossil fuels, pump out gazillions of tonnes of CO2 or produce mountains of plastic waste. Many are keeping a close watch on firms’ Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) policies to inform their investment decisions.

Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur behind electric car maker Tesla recently shunned the use of Bitcoin for the purchase of its vehicles because of the environmental cost of producing the digital currency.

Hand holding a light bulb with icons representing sustainability

There are countless other examples of companies seeking to improve their ESG commitments to attract investors.

You may be wondering how this links with COVID-19, the spread of germs and hand sanitiser. But the connection is stark. COVID-19 is the most significant public health crisis in living memory. No business has been unaffected. And the government’s guidelines for the future, as we emerge from lockdown, are very clear: you must take every step you can to ensure your operations are COVID-secure for staff, visitors and customers. The establishment of a culture of hand hygiene in your workplace is a central feature of the regulations.

Those failing to adhere to the rules put everyone at greater risk of contracting coronavirus. Also, those in breach of the guidance face being closed down, putting people’s livelihoods at risk. This is why hand hygiene is at the heart of sustainability.

By ensuring your staff follow the five moments of hand hygiene in the workplace you can be sure that you are doing your bit to improve society. Any business seen as doing good things will be rewarded with loyalty from external and internal stakeholders, from investors to employees, customers and the public.

What is a sustainable business?

COVID-19 has made three aspects very clear:

  • Sustainability is essential for business resilience. Companies that integrated sustainability strategies and were transparent about what they were doing, and why, were more able to adapt to the changes that COVID-10 wrought upon them. It is these businesses that are best placed to emerge from the crisis in good shape.
  • Health, safety and wellbeing became central to resilience and sustainability in the corporate world during the pandemic in a way that has not happened before.
  • To achieve sustainability, businesses and organisations should share insights and even form partnerships in some areas of their operations.

When asked to define a sustainable business now, you’d likely describe a company with a solid, actionable ESG, one that puts sustainability at the heart of its business by pledging to reduce the use of plastic, slash fossil fuel energy use, offset carbon emissions and much, much more.

To put it simply, a genuinely sustainable business will embrace a business model that creates, delivers and captures value for all its stakeholders – internal and external and the public – without depleting the natural, economic and social capital that it relies on.

How can hand hygiene help?

Since the Health & Safety at Work Act came into force in 1974, the onus is on companies to protect the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees, visitors, clients and the general public.

In the wake of the pandemic, the importance of hand hygiene has come back into sharp focus. Businesses across all sectors are required to provide adequate handwashing facilities, hand sanitiser stations, and they are advised to post notices around their premises, as well as in the bathrooms themselves, to reinforce the importance of hand hygiene and give guidance on the most effective techniques. It remains true that hand sanitiser is one of the most effective tools in killing COVID-19 and all other germs that can be passed when people touch contaminated surfaces, or shake hands.

Delivery driver wearing Orbel hand sanitiser

Hand hygiene has a direct impact on the sustainability of a business. It is part of a wide-ranging set of duties on employers to protect everyone who works at or visits your premises. Therefore, it is vital that business owners take this seriously as they seek to build their organisation’s resilience. Indeed, it is critical to business success that every company understands how to adapt to the new normal in the workplace.

Every business must consider what is most healthy for them, as each will likely have unique requirements.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) came up with a great definition in 1946 which holds true today:

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Taking this a step further and applying it to hand hygiene and sustainability, which in turn leads to business resilience, you can see how this statement emphasises how health must be viewed as a positive concept. Ensuring you, your staff and visitors are entering a positively healthy environment is an enabling factor, and a prerequisite for sustainable development. And, of course, business resilience.

While health and safety at work has, for decades, been seen as central to corporate responsibility – and enshrined in law – COVID-19 has taken the discussion in a new direction. This is because it is no longer a matter for the HR and legal departments to ensure compliance. Protecting staff now crosses every department you can think of, from facilities, to the office or factory environment, to cleaners, designers, machinery operators, to management and business owners.

Absolutely everyone has to be on board and compliant with your hand hygiene regime to protect the sustainability of your business.

There’s an added problem in the wake of COVID-19. Many employees are now working from home, so you will need to find new ways to protect and support them. What started off as a response to an emergency has led to a more profound change to the operating models, with remote working and flexible structures becoming more prevalent. Responsible employers must carry out risk assessments for staff working from home and ensure that they have access to the guidance that everyone else does.

Will I see a ROI for my efforts?

By ensuring that your workplace is Covid-secure, and that you communicate this to all stakeholders in a clear and informative way, then you are more likely to convince workers that it is safe to return to your premises. It follows that visitors and customers will also feel safe to return.

Here are four key messages that can influence resilience and sustainability:

  • Awareness: consistently implement hygiene steps based on credible and reliable information.
  • Behaviour: communicate with and educate your people in a visible manner.
  • Culture: ensure you have a culture of hand hygiene as part of your health & safety measures and be ready to adapt these quickly to changing circumstances.
  • Demonstrate: show what you are doing to protect employees, supply chains, customers, and the public.

It may be necessary to provide PPE to your staff and visitors and some companies have been very clear that they are passing on these additional costs to customers.

While it may be necessary for the short term to pass on costs, you may damage any goodwill that you’ve built up over the years. If, however, you can maintain prices, as far as is reasonably possible, you will rebuild the sustainability of your business much more quickly as your loyal customer base will be happy to return, safe in the knowledge that you are taking every precaution you can to protect their health and safety.

The gold standard in hand hygiene is to issue everyone – staff and visitors – with a wearable hand sanitiser such as Orbel. This is the most explicit demonstration you could give to show your commitment to having hygiene and the safety of all who come into contact with your business, its premises, staff and other visitors. Orbel is now available for the first time in the UK, which is a major step forward for business owners wanting to gain first-mover advantage over rivals in the race to ensure their premises are covid-secure.

Get in touch with us today to purchase your Orbel sanitiser.