The push to 'go green' has intensified among businesses. Big corporations have set aside huge budgets to finance sustainable projects to have net zero emissions and reconfigure their product production and packaging.
Sustainability refers to fulfilling our current needs without tampering with the needs of future generations. We must ensure the future generation will enjoy the same benefits we have at our disposal by maintaining and protecting our natural resources and social structures.
The most critical question to any business owner is, apart from environmental and social benefits, are there financial benefits of sustainability to your business? In this article, we look in-depth at incorporating sustainability into your business strategy and how it will boost your business.
Sustainability in Business: What Does It Mean?
Sustainability in business refers to the practice of conducting business in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible, while also being economically viable. This means that the business takes into consideration the impact of its activities on the environment, its employees, the local community, and other stakeholders, and seeks to minimize negative impacts while maximizing positive ones.
It can involve a range of activities, including reducing waste, conserving natural resources, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, supporting local communities, and promoting fair labor practices.
The goal of sustainability in business is to create a balance between economic growth, social responsibility, and environmental protection so that the business can continue to operate in a responsible and ethical manner for the long term.
Sustainable Business Statistics
To show you the importance of sustainability in the current marketplace, here are a few interesting statistics:
- According to a Business of Sustainability Index survey by GreenPrint, 66% of US consumers and 80% of young US adults (18-34) are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
- The Global Sustainability Study 2021 survey by Simon-Kusher & Partners showed that 50% of consumers consider sustainability an essential purchase criterion, with 63-85% making significant changes to their consumption behaviors over time to live sustainably.
- An IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) study in February 2022 found that 49% of consumers willingly paid an average of 59% more for sustainable or socially responsible products in the last 12 months.
From these statistics, we can conclusively agree that sustainability is one of the keys to the growth of any modern-day business. Sustainable business products are becoming more of an expectation from consumers rather than a unique selling point. Adopting sustainable practices as early as now will enable your business to appeal to millennials, who make up the bulk of online shoppers.
How Sustainability Can Boost Your Business
Breaking even is the primary objective of any enterprise and often overshadows its social responsibility. However, you can attain profitability while engaging in environment-friendly practices. Let’s look at how sustainability can improve your business operations:
1. It Can Reduce Business Costs
Want to boost your business's bottom line while also making a positive impact on the world? Sustainability could be the key.
By incorporating environmentally and socially responsible practices into your operations, you can not only reduce your environmental footprint but also attract and retain customers and investors who care about the impact of their purchases.
From conserving natural resources to supporting local communities, there are many ways to make your business more sustainable and still turn a profit.
2. It Creates A Competitive Advantage
Sustainable businesses are gradually replacing traditional industry leaders in an increasingly eco-friendly society.
It gives you a competitive advantage in the market with customer preferences focused on buying from shops with a strong social and environmental commitment.
Capitalize on this to build brand loyalty over time and control market supply and prices. You can also benefit from tax incentives which will put you ahead of the curve.
3. It Improves Business Reputation
A commitment to sustainability establishes your business as a progressive brand amongst consumers. A positive reputation will attract new customers, maintain previous buyers, and increase your presence in the eCommerce platform.
Going ‘green’ might also attract eco-friendly employees to join your ranks. We all want to be part of a successful, renowned franchise, don’t we?
4. It Appeals To New Customers
As more customers become environmentally conscious, their buying habits have changed. While the willingness to pay ranges between age groups, the younger populace, which makes the bulk of new customers, is more inclined to sustainability.
As a small business, their willingness to pay a premium for eco-friendly products and services is a clear niche to exploit to boost your business.
5. It Reduces Environmental Footprint
Green business solutions seek to reduce your physical waste and operation inefficiencies. For instance, avoiding using single-use packaging ensures that less waste ends in landfills and our oceans.
Plastic Oceans estimates that 380 million tons of single-use packaging are produced annually. While it is cheap and versatile, less than a 3rd of plastic waste gets recycled, forming the bulk of plastic pollution.
6. It Improves Workforce Morale
A paycheck is not enough for the new generation of employees. Besides the pay, they want to feel part of a worthy course.
Having them engage in activities that seek to make the world a better place for everyone gives a sense of fulfillment which may be a vital motivation factor.
A motivated workforce embraces the companies' decisions and strategies, making it easy to run the business and optimize production.
7. It Can Reduce Energy-Related Costs
Renewable energy sources might be a high initial investment, but they are energy efficient and have a long-term low cost.
This will save you from exploitative energy bills from finite fossil fuels. Use solar panels to power your business to save on your lighting and heating expenses. Purchase electronic products that are EPEAT registered for the best and most efficient sustainable items.
How To Incorporate Sustainability Into Your Business
Are you looking to make your business more sustainable, but not sure where to start? Incorporating sustainability into your business can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be.
By taking small, incremental steps and being proactive in your approach, you can successfully integrate sustainability into your operations and make a positive impact on the environment, your employees, and your community.
1. Eco-friendly packaging and shipping
Small changes to your packaging and shipping practices can have a big impact on the environment. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Use eco-friendly or biodegradable materials for packaging, such as recycled paper, cardboard, or recyclable mailers.
Choose packaging that is minimally sized and made from lightweight materials to reduce the carbon emissions from shipping.
Opt for reusable or returnable packaging to reduce waste.
Work with your shipping partners to find ways to reduce their environmental impact, such as using fuel-efficient vehicles or opting for carbon-neutral shipping options.
- Kraft and corrugated boxes are usually made from post-consumer waste and are 100% recyclable. Now widely available in the marketplace, they are cheap and easily customizable to suit your brand's needs.
By making these changes to your packaging and shipping practices, you can significantly reduce your business's environmental footprint while also saving money on materials and shipping costs.
2. Work with well-respected organizations
For a small business, embracing sustainability might be overwhelming without the requisite budget and facilities.
Luckily, organizations are willing to partner with like-minded startups to enhance their environmental responsibility. For instance, Cool Effect helps companies determine their carbon output and environmental impact using a Business Carbon Offset Calculator.
Consequently, they can implement measures to reduce their pollution and effectively fight against climate change.
3. Communicate your sustainable practices
Let the world know what you are doing to improve the world. Print newsletters, publications, and blogs about your sustainable projects and any policies you have developed.
It will sensitize and encourage more small businesses and consumers to join in the conservation efforts. Besides, as mentioned above, communicating your sustainable goals and practices creates a positive perception of your brand in the e-commerce marketplace.
4. Make energy-efficient upgrades
Purchase energy-efficient lighting and electrical appliances to reduce your reliance on fossil fuels and the national grid. Use clean and renewable energy sources such as solar lights or have an open office layout with large windows to maximize natural light.
You can also purchase energy-saving LED lights rather than fluorescents and laptops over desktops. Besides being sustainable, it effectively lowers your energy costs.
5. Offer remote work
In the wake of the COVID pandemic, working remotely has taken off over the past few years with the digitalization of business practices.
Working online means less greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles when commuting to the office or idling in traffic.
You spend less on heating and lighting expenses as compared to when employees have to report to work daily. Moreover, it reduces the use of plastic cups and plates in the workplace, effectively reducing plastic pollution.
6. Reduce, reuse, recycle
The 3Rs are the hallmarks of sustainability. Reduce is a preventive method that calls for you to consciously cut down on operations or usage of products to reduce your carbon footprint. For example, opting for less plastic and using packaging materials (fillers, peanuts) only when necessary.
Reusing means rather than disposing of an item, you repurpose it to use it again. It ensures less waste ends up in landfills while it's still helpful in its current state. For instance, take boxes for office supplies, remove the labels, and use them to ship products rather than throwing them away.
Recycling calls for you to find ways of transforming waste products into reusable products. Partner with local recycling facilities while educating your staff and customers on how to recycle their waste correctly. For instance, items going for recycling should be dry and clean to avoid contaminating the batch. More so, separate them according to the local recycling guide (plastic bags never go in the same bin as plastic and glass bottles).
The Bottom Line
From reducing operation costs and appealing to new customers to promoting workforce morale, you can boost your small business’s reputation while reducing your environmental impact. It all starts with incorporating and implementing a sustainability plan into your operations. The result is a healthier environment for generations to come while running an efficient and profitable business.
To learn more about sustainable business practices, check out our blog.