It is fundamentally distressing to think we cannot stop being consumers.  We need to eat, to use energy to heat our homes, and even passively use wires to communicate with friends around the globe.  We produce everything in some way, whether farming food, generating energy by massive steam turbines, or extruding metal into wires. All of this has an impact on the environment and people.  Whether it is through farm labour, the fuel used to power the turbine, or the chemicals used in the extrusion processes.

Sustainable production is one of the options to reduce our impact, environmental and human, as individuals and as society.  Can the famer hire fair seasonal labour?  Can we use wind to power the turbine instead of fossil fuels?  Can we find a more environmentally friendly to refine metals?

Consumers most often hear about sustainable products with respect to farming practices and food production.  Sustainable production is more than farming without pesticides and chemical fertilizers.  Sustainability crosses all industrial sectors.  It affects all consumer goods and services.

The Basics

The basics of sustainable production are simple, according to The University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, “sustainable production is the creation of goods and services using processes and systems that are non-polluting, conserving of energy and natural resources, economically viable, safe and healthful for workers, communities, and consumers, and socially and creatively rewarding for all working people.”

The Lowell Center states one of the conditions for sustainable production is valuing “longer-term consequences and benefits over short-term profits.”  This means placing higher value on healthy workers, communities, and ecosystems far into the future over immediate growth strategies.

For larger, established organizations this means changing long-standing processes and suppliers.  The Lowell Center suggests “investing in well-designed safer products, resource efficient technologies and processes, and trained and empowered employees.” The advice is applicable for new ventures and start-ups. New companies have the advantage of being able to create sustainable processes, policies, and practices from the very beginning.

The Benefits of Sustainable Practices  

Large- and small-scale producers benefit from adopting new and sustainable operating procedures.  The World Economic Forum states “sustainability drives purpose and passion for employees.”

People “want to feel great about what they do every day,” according to the World Economic Forum. This means consumers and producers. Whether it is eating apples or farming them, we all want to feel good about ourselves, our jobs, and our impact. This borne out by research into employee engagement within the Human Resources sector.  Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, states employees need to be connected to the purpose of an organization.  They need to feel part of more than posted profits, financial growth, and revenue streams. Corporate social responsibility programs, sustainable production practices, and collective impact projects all help to bolster employee engagement.

The World Economic Forumreports many companies who post high revenues while adopting more sustainable business practices, “take Whole Foods, for example.  This is one of nine companies in the sustainability space with revenues worth more than $1 billion, alongside eco-friendly innovators such as Tesla, Chipotle and Natura.”

“Not only are companies making money, but they are growing their market share by being sustainable,” according to the World Economic Forum. Unilever has an impressive track record, its “16 ‘Sustainable Living’ brands are becoming increasingly important to the company, growing more than 50% faster than the rest of the business and accounting for 60% of growth in 2016,” according  to the same report.

The employee engagement, increased profit, and increased market share are impressive lures for any company looking to convert to more sustainable options.

For consumers, the benefits are numerous.  Often one-time expenditures mean less money spent over time, an example is disposable diapers versus cloth diapers.  While the upfront cost for several sets of disposable diapers is more than a box of disposable diapers, consumers spend the money a few times throughout the infant and toddler years.

Repairs often cost less than purchasing a new item.  Sometimes, they free and consumers learn new skills in the process by accessing local repair cafes.  Which means more money saved in the pocket of the consumers.

Market Trends

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership published their report on trends which will affect the industry over the next several years.  The report lists eight key trends, “volatility is the new normal, sustainability to shape the face of business, extreme loss and damage from extreme weather, human versus machine, China and the global shift to the East, the end of an era for plastic, a watershed year for transparency, life after coal.”

Our Ventures are Leading the Charge

At Impact Hub Vienna our ventures are at the forefront of the sustainability movement.

Iss Mich is a sustainable caterer offering you a wide variety of event options made with food which would otherwise be thrown out. Food which simply does not meet the narrow definition of consumable.  Which means it has to meet a specific standard, like carrots have to be perfectly straight.  However, Iss Mich takes this produce and makes delicious food for your events.

Erdbeerwoche’s mission is twofold; provide girls and women with education about their periods and to provide consumers with sustainable options for their periods.  Products made from organic cotton or reusable goods can be purchased.  Their products are good for the environment and consumers’ pocket books.

Other Resources

Looking for sustainable products and services in Vienna, we can help.  We have articles on how to havewaste free holidaysthanks to LUNZERS Maß-Greißlerei. Need help finding sustainable options in your district?  We have a guide for thatWe have an article on how to eat sustainably.  We have written about Fairphone in the pastAnd we have helped people find ways to sustainably travel.

Stay connected to our blog, we post features on sustainable businesses and products on a regular basis. Ventures from within our community and the world at large are operating with sustainable process, practices, and policies across all industries and we are committed to keeping you up to date.

Jennifer Cornick

Jennifer Cornick

Freelance journalist and blogger for various publications in Vienna. When I am not writing, I can generally be found with a book (or anything with words on it - even cereal boxes). Photo Credit: Aneta Pawlik