What is sustainable business?

Find out what sustainability in business means and how it benefits a company.

45% of large companies intend to change their suppliers or subcontractors in the near future, due to sustainability targets. (Source: OP's Survey of Large Corporations 2023)

Sustainability requirements for companies will increase significantly in the future. Large companies, in particular, must comply with regulatory requirements, but such regulations have an indirect impact on the entire value chain – including small subcontractors. 

Sustainable business means that a company operates in a sustainable way. A sustainable company integrates ESG aspects with its business. ESG means environmental and climate-related (E), social (S) and governance (G) factors.  


E – Responsibility for climate and the environment 

Improving the state of the climate and environment is a cornerstone of sustainability actions. A good goal for companies would be slowing down climate change and causing the smallest possible environmental burden. This means a company reducing its emissions and preventing their creation. 

To achieve this goal, a company may need to change its energy sources, raw materials or production methods, or develop them into an environmentally friendlier form. While a company may face investment needs and costs, it may also create savings thanks to higher energy efficiency. 

If a company aims to be net zero carbon, but cannot achieve this itself, one option is offsetting or compensating for the emissions it still causes. To do this, the company can purchase carbon offsets or credits from a carbon offset provider. The provider uses the income from these purchases to finance projects that reduce emissions elsewhere. 

For companies' sustainable investments, OP offers green loans. A green loan can be used to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, switch to renewable energy sources or promote the sustainable use of natural resources. For sustainable investments, your company can also get a risk sharing guarantee from the European Investment Fund (EIF), which makes access to financing easier. 

Read more about our sustainable finance solutions 

S – Social responsibility 

Social responsibility means taking responsibility for the company's employees, their competencies and occupational health and safety. It also means that the company appreciates its employees and treats them equally. Gender, age or ethnic background do not affect the employee's pay or remuneration. 

Social responsibility can also be understood as a wider concept, with impacts on the company's customers and partners, and on local people through the employment effect. A company that excels in social responsibility is highly likely to be an attractive employer and partner. 

G – Governance 

Governance in ESG means that the company commits to acting carefully and systematically, complies with the law and regulations and uses best practices. The company also uses responsible tax practices, fights corruption and does business with related parties only on business grounds. 

Governance also includes control and internal auditing, to ensure that potential business risks do not materialise. A company with good governance is one that has protected itself against business and legal risks. 

An example of business risk could be a sharp rise in the prices of raw materials used by the company, because this would weaken the company's performance. A legal risk can materialise if the company fails to comply with the law or industry-related regulation, or an occupational accident happens due to insufficient maintenance of work equipment. Good corporate governance is also excellent risk management.

Read more about corporate risk management 

What are the benefits of sustainability for a company? 

By acting sustainably, a company has potential to benefit in many ways. 

  • Growth of sustainable business means new business opportunities. Seize them and you can strengthen your company's market position. 
  • By investing in a project promoting the green transition, your company may need less collateral when applying for financing and get a loan at lower cost. In the future, the degree of sustainability achieved by a company will have even more impacts on its access to, and terms of, financing. 
  • Sustainability actions can improve a company's reputation and provide a competitive edge that can feature in communications and marketing. A company that acts sustainably is attractive as an employer, investment or subcontractor for large companies. 
  • Customers value sustainability when making purchase or consumption decisions. 
  • Sustainable solutions, such as increasing energy efficiency, can bring cost savings. 
Sustainable finance solutions for SMEs

We will finance your company’s sustainable investments. Read more about the options we provide.