Sustainability has been a buzzword for so long that books and articles are constantly updated. Sustainability in small businesses, however, is only becoming more popular in recent years.
Whether creating products or providing a service, there is a more sustainable way to approach it. As a result, small sustainable companies can be pioneers in their industry, share best practices, and reap cost savings.
Read on to learn why you should care about sustainability and small businesses.
What is Sustainability in Business
Sustainability in business means considering the impact of your business on the environment. The list is endless, from energy costs to shipping, transportation, and materials. Those that want to learn how to make their business environmentally sustainable can look at competitors or the general market.
For example, palm oil is known for its lack of sustainability in farming practices and human rights. So now we see products with “sustainably sourced” or “made without palm oil” as a badge to show consumers that the company is aware and not involved.
Sustainability in small businesses is as much about being sustainable as it is about not participating in practices that are not sustainable. Think of this in terms of profits and promotions. For example, it might not be sustainable for you to reduce costs to Black Friday savings all year, but it might be sustainable for you to do a small discount every other month. Imagine this effect on the products that come through the supply chain to create your goods.
Sustainability and Small Business
Business sustainability involves operating a business without negatively impacting the environment. More than profits, an environmentally aware company considers its impact on society in addition to the environment.
John Elkington, the founder of SustainAbility, coined the phrase “triple bottom line” in 1994, where a sustainable business considers the profit, people, and the planet. You cannot operate a sustainable business if profits are the only benchmark to success—regardless of the size of your business.
Sustainability Tips for Small Businesses
Becoming a fully green business isn’t necessary. Instead, it’s about creating incremental moves toward sustainability in your small businesses that may achieve the three P’s.
If cost is a limiting factor as you grow, put it on the 5-year horizon and continually look for ways to increase sustainability as technology changes. For example, consider companies that use synthetic meat to replace unsustainable farming practices or remove palm oil from chocolate products and replace it with cream.
Here are a few sustainability and small business tips:
- Reducing energy use – Reduce flights and increase rideshares.
- Lead the pack – Become the industry standard if there isn’t one.
- Production costs – Determine if you’re compliant and if improvements can be found.
Looking at leadership is essential, too. You cannot operate in a vacuum or a “do as I say, not as I do” environment. CEOs who embody their current and long-term goals and live by example will help inspire their teams to rise to the challenge — including sustainability.
How Can a Small Business Incorporate Sustainability?
According to Forbes, small businesses are taking the lead and playing a more significant role in creating a sustainable future through their actions. Clients and customers respond well to those who choose to value the planet and its people instead of putting profit first. Millennials — one of the most socially conscious buying groups — are increasingly driving the market and this trend.
Choosing to be reflective, lead by example, and potentially lead the way can create the catalyst your small business needs to make the most impact for the best.
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