Are you a small business owner or entrepreneur? If you are, then you’re probably already aware that there’s increasing pressure on businesses to up their game when it comes to sustainable practices. Good, reliable service is still expected, but it’s no longer enough to attract and retain customers. As a small business owner, you’ll be expected to be transparent about your eco-friendly practices, because these days, that’s what is expected of you. You need ways in which your business can become more sustainable and eco-friendly.
It’s important because we’re at a crisis point when it comes to preserving our planet. But no doubt you’re already aware of that, which is why you’re reading articles like this.
From a business point of view,
you’ll find that a focus on sustainable practices will help you form long-lasting, personal relationships with your current and future customers
This is because consumers are changing: they are asking more questions before they part with their hard-earned cash. They don’t just want to know about your products and services, they want to know about your company.
By being aware and embracing eco-friendly practices you can also put your business ahead of your competitors. People are researching before they buy and are looking at your website, your social media and only then making a decision about whether to make a purchase. If a consumer knows that by buying your product or service they aren’t negatively impacting the environment, then they're going to come to you time and time again. They’re going to recommend you to others too.
So, you know you want your business to become more sustainable - but how can you get started? Here are 7 ways in which your business can become more sustainable and eco-friendly:
Is there a particular environmental cause you feel strongly about? Set up a partnership with them, and donate a portion of your earnings to their cause. Not in a position to be able to do that yet? Then consider setting up an optional donate button at checkout - customers can make a small donation to your chosen cause if they choose to.
There’s a course for just about everything these days. In fact, to prove my statement, I googled “courses for pulling up weeds”. And yes, there was one! Anyway, off-topic. Imperial College London has just launched an online course on sustainability for business professionals based around corporate sustainability, business ethics, and social innovation. So if you want to get a sound understanding of these areas and how you can apply them to your business then consider signing up to something similar.
Get to know the environmental impact of your supply chain. Ask yourself, how transparent is it? What’s the carbon footprint of my business? Do you know where everything comes from and how it has been sourced? Even small changes to your chain can make a huge difference by reducing waste or improving quality. Ensuring that you have an optimized supply chain will attract customers to your business, especially if you publish this information on your website. Again, transparency really is key here.
This is a fairly simple one, but even small actions make a difference. If possible, organize a Skype call rather than traveling to that business meeting, especially if that method of travel means driving or taking a flight. These days there are so many options for video calls, including Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts, so explore your options and find out what works for your business.
Running a business takes energy (not just your own, energy as in power!). So check out sustainable energy providers and see what they can offer you. Not sure where to start? Simply google “sustainable energy providers”. There are plenty to choose from and with just a small amount of effort you can switch over to a green provider. Whilst we’re on the subject of energy, think about where you can save it too. Turn things off if you aren’t using them, create habits that will be incorporated into your business as you grow.
Are you sending out items to customers? Investigate ways of using recycled, biodegradable bubble wrap and packaging, and consider using cardboard and paper instead of plastic. These are things that your customers will notice and will encourage them to do business with you in the future. Of course, it’s easier said than done: plastic packaging can often be the cheapest option, and you have your profit margins to consider. But there are many companies that have eradicated the use of plastic packaging, which is putting pressure on others to do the same. Considering we produce around 300 million tons of plastic every year (of which 50% is for single-purpose only), it has to be an option that businesses continue to explore.
Also be aware that if you’re not getting it right, but your competitors are, well, in the end, you may lose out to them.
Many of us are trying to accumulate less stuff these days. By stuff, I mean the physical things we fill our homes and offices with. The stuff we convince ourselves we need, but often don’t. In fact, if you’re looking for some inspiration, check out the Minimalists, who advocate a life of owning less stuff along with the benefits of living this way.
But what does this mean from a business point of view? Well, for starters, ensure you only print when essential. Need to sign a contract? There are some great tools out there these days, including DocuSign which allows you to sign off documents without having to print a thing. Other simple ideas: set up a comprehensive archiving system on your computer rather than having a physical one (be sure to back it up). Consider designing your promotional material online rather than creating physical leaflets. Don’t go and buy a tonne of stationery that you don’t need, because chances are those paperclips will do nothing but gather dust. And if you need business cards, there are plenty of companies that offer to print on recycled paper now.
So there you have it, 7 ways in which your business can become more sustainable and eco-friendly. Remember that not all changes need to be huge, it’s the smaller things that count too.
Once you do have some great practices in place, make sure you let your customers know about it.
“Share your sustainability practices via your social media channels”
Consider having a blog on your website that shows you know what you’re talking about. Let your customers and potential customers buy your products and services safe in the knowledge that they are supporting a sustainable business with sustainable practices.
Sam produces our regular #TRVSTLOVES where she seeks out inspiration, news, and ideas from across the globe that both highlight and celebrate how actions can make for social and environmental change.
Sam is passionate about seeking out small businesses that are implementing remarkable and exciting projects to tackle the climate crisis; she enjoys exploring how their innovation will help change the future of our world.
A degree in English Literature from the University of Southampton has given Sam the research expertise to share and contextualize stories around innovative projects, legislation, and changemakers.