Brands and companies who actively pursue more sustainable business practices grow faster and are more profitable than their peers. Aside from making your brand more attractive to customers concerned about the environment, practices which reduce waste and improve efficiency ultimately save you money. Your employees also benefit, feeling that they’re contributing to something worthwhile, which boosts morale and productivity. Considering all these benefits, investing in making your business model more sustainable is a no-brainer – but how do you go about it?
Look to sustainability leaders in your industry around the globe
How a company which produces clothing, a small family-run restaurant, or a largely digital recruitment agency can best address sustainability concerns are probably going to be quite different! If there are international brands in your industry who’ve made big strides already, don’t reinvent the wheel. Implement the measures they’ve taken, and then try to do it even better.
Look to your local community
Ideally, efforts to ‘green’ your business should go hand in hand with community outreach and development – and that means starting the conversation and getting involved. If you’re unable to entirely eliminate waste, you may find a local small business or non-profit that can use or recycle your excess materials. Choosing local suppliers over ones further afield could help you reduce the carbon emissions associated with deliveries, while helping to create jobs in your area. You won’t know unless you reach out and look for them.
Evaluate your suppliers and keep your eyes open for more sustainable options
As a business, where you spend your money and which companies you choose to support can have a big impact on your overall sustainability. Evaluate each of your existing suppliers and try to send more business to the ones whose values align with your own.
If you’re in the food industry, for example, you could try to support local organic farmers as much as possible. If your business is mostly digital and office-based, partnering with a managed IT services company that can help you implement greener cloud-based technologies may be an option. If you’re in the construction industry, keep tabs on the latest developments in green building and new more eco-friendly building materials. If you’re the first business in your region to test and offer these products to market, you may well enjoy a big head start on the competition!
If you’re ‘breaking up’ with one supplier in favor of a more sustainability-minded company, explain to them politely why you’ve made the decision to move your business elsewhere. It may inspire them to make changes.
Focus on the big picture
What area of your business causes the most detrimental impact on the environment? Are you a big consumer of electricity – in which case investing in your own solar installation might be a good option? Do you have a large number of employees who commute via private car each day – in which case you could encourage and embrace telecommuting, or organize a shuttle from the nearest train or bus station? Doing business better means first understanding what you’re doing wrong and where your weaknesses lie.
Get your employees involved
Your younger employees in particular are probably bursting with ideas for making your company greener. Get them involved and make them part of the process andallow them to take ownership. This could be achieved by electing ‘champions’ for different causes – such as reducing your electricity and water consumption, creating lift clubs and encouraging ride sharing, or investigating options for and implementing a recycling program. This also takes some of the responsibility off you, helps your employees feel heard, and encourages further progress and brainstorming.
Offer a better product – even if it might cost your customers more
Unfortunately, consumers have become accustomed to cheap products that are easy to discard and replace – single-use plastics and disposable everything are prime examples. However, most Millennials – and Gen Z even more so – want this to change – and they’re willing to pay more for it. If there’s any way you can make your product more durable, long-lasting or reusable – or alternatively easily recyclable or biodegradable – the time to start researching and implementing (and capturing market share) is yesterday. You only need to look at the bamboo toothbrushes, glass drinking straws, reusable shopping bags and biodegradable takeout containers flooding the market to see the shift is already well underway.
And with easier access to information than ever before, every business and industry can expect to find themselves under the microscope eventually. Acting now, and acting transparently rather than trying to cover up your less sustainable business practices, is the best way to get consumers on your side. And giving your customers what they want will always be the cornerstone of a successful business, after all.