Twenty years ago, the word ‘sustainability’ was rarely heard but today it forms a key part of business strategy for all forward-thinking organisations – including ourselves.
One problem we face is that defining sustainability succinctly is challenging! It is a multi-faceted concept that can have very different meanings depending on application and context. Its official dictionary meaning refers to ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs’. But what does this mean in practical terms for businesses?
In simple terms sustainability can be as straight forward as ensuring a business is able to survive and thrive for the long-haul, reinventing itself to meet new challenges.
A perfect example of this is the finance sector which is undergoing significant changes driven in part by the digital transformation of the industry and the impact that this has had on the transactional habits of its customers; the so-called ‘digital first’ agenda is making its mark.
The result raises serious question marks over the purpose of, and even the need for, a traditional high street bank branch network as customers increasingly choose to pay their bills, move money and access services online without having any need to visit a branch. Newcomer ‘challenger banks’ are providing simple fast and efficient digital platforms with limited or no need for physical bricks and mortar.
As a result, the sustainability focus for the financial sector demands the creation of more agile and flexible footprints; changing the way they operate to achieve a better balance of digital and physical presence whilst meeting the needs of all their customers.
In fact, for many financial organisations this has created a fantastic opportunity to reinvent and transform their locations, trialling new destination concepts that reflect the dynamics of the individual communities they serve and delivering what matters to them. These destination spaces with networking, education and relationship space will play an increasingly important role in supporting the future of the High Street.
This is turn plays into the ability to attract and retain customers who, whilst not expecting the industry to ‘save the world’, are likely to be influenced in part by sustainability credentials. Banks have traditionally been tarnished by perceived poor service and complex processes. But technological advances have changed this creating ‘digital first’ transacting with the move towards mobile or online transacting that is increasingly designed for ease of use and convenience for all. Of course, sustainability has its wider commercial benefits; the introduction of cheque image clearing is delivering significant sustainable benefits whilst dramatically reducing cost!
It is important that all organisations clearly articulate their sustainable initiatives to their customers and stakeholders and highlight the great work they are doing which is benefiting the economy, the community and the environment. We are proud to be working closely with our customers to support this change for the better. And doing our part to deliver a ‘digital first’ sustainable future.