What does it mean to be a sustainable business? And how can you easily adopt sustainable business practices into your day-to-day operations? Read on for 10 meaningful ways you can adopt environmentally friendly and sustainable practices for your business.
It’s easy to get caught up in the buzzwords of sustainability. Whether you’re wondering how to build a more sustainable business or how to start a sustainable business, you need to fully understand why they’re important. It goes well beyond recycling programs! Once you’ve grasped its meaning, you can better determine how sustainability relates to your business. You’ll want to focus specifically on finding balance between caring for the planet, creating value for your team and consumers, and ultimately turning a profit. (Hey, at the end of the day, you’re still running a business.)
What Are the Three Principles of Sustainability?
There’s no universal definition for a sustainable company. It’s viewed as one that’s committed to upholding a company’s environmental, economic, and social performance. A sustainable business will also consider the long-term impacts of its practices on those three pillars. It’s in essence the campfire rule: aim to leave the world in a better condition than you found it.
What Is the Business Case for Sustainability?
It’s critical for businesses to run sustainably for several reasons. First and foremost, because of their scale, businesses have large carbon footprints to begin with, so they have the opportunity to make a dramatic impact. Sustainability is also looked at as one of the greatest investments business owners can make in their future success. As consumers become more mindful of where their purchases come from, owners can expect to see sustainable businesses favoured. Operating with an environmental conscience and a focus on sustainability will also help create a resilient spirit. And resiliency will be more important than ever over the next few years.
Why are sustainable business practices important
There has never been a more challenging time to be operating a business. No industry has been untouched by the current COVID-19 pandemic, but sustainable practices can greatly help during turbulent times. Businesses that have been able to adapt to a work-from-home environment, or implement greater safety precautions to allow on-site work are all demonstrating sustainability. It’s an ability to accept a changing climate, and evolve your business for the better, and always with an eye to the future.
The choices sustainable business owners make should be grounded in good ethics, and with a long-term focus. That means building a team of educated and engaged staff, establishing a diverse and resilient supply chain, and finding opportunities for your business to better the world. Maybe that’s building your factory in an underserved community to create jobs, or becoming an advocate for better workers’ compensation. You must recognize that as a business owner, you have a great responsibility to the people you employ, your partners, and your community. It’s not enough to simply run your business and recycle, you need to continually be thinking about what more your business can do to better the world.
There’s no set path or model to become a sustainable business. It simply comes down to the choices you make. Below you’ll find 10 meaningful sustainable business ideas. Know that these changes are not created overnight. Establishing a sustainable business model is an ongoing process.
Sustainable Business Practices Your Business Can Implement
Build a Sustainable Business Model
Introducing sustainable business practices requires forethought and planning to ensure they’re aligned with your business goals. You can set out lofty long-term goals, but you need to know the stepping stones to make them a reality. Many companies are now releasing annual sustainability reports which are a great method for sharing a company’s efforts and achievements. They also help to keep companies accountable in the public eye. If this process overwhelms you, reach out to a sustainable business consulting firm. These firms can help you map out your goals, assist in overseeing sustainability reports, and ensure you’re creating a truly sustainable and scalable business.
Run Your Business Transparently
Transparency has proven to be one of the single greatest components for businesses wishing to succeed as sustainable companies. Companies need clear policies and practices, buy-in and oversight across all levels, and accountability measures. With all three, companies have shown stronger results with everything from reducing environmental impacts to maintaining employee morale.
Engage Employees With Sustainability
Running a business devoted to sustainability requires investment from everyone involved. Creating a sustainable business alliance will ensure buy in at every level of your business. When hiring staff, ensure they carry the same values of sustainability as your company. Don’t be afraid to walk interviewees through your business practices and standards, and ask candidates candidly what the sustainability means to them.
When it comes to current staff, empower those who are already committed to the cause. Encourage them to bring forward new sustainable business ideas, and give those individuals roles to oversee new goals. Allow them to expand your own knowledge of industry standards, too. There are so many opportunities to gain further knowledge of this space. Look into sustainable business councils or forums, or even further education. These options will only prove to help your company as your employees become more engaged with the company’s mission.
For staff who are wary of adjusting their current practices, find opportunities to educate all employees as to why sustainability is a value of the company. Find ways to show your staff how their personal changes will make a big difference, and how easy these new practices are to adopt.
Implement Daily Sustainable Business Practices
While big choices matter, day-to-day behaviours make the biggest impact overall. Try to find ways to (gently) enforce best practices. Encourage staff to shut down computers each day, maintain friendly relationships with partners, and watch water use in the communal kitchen. These little adjustments will form the foundation of a sustainable business. Help your staff see the greater value of these tasks by outlining the waste versus savings, and the ways the company has been able to help others. Use it as a chance to encourage good social practices (the time it takes for computers to boot up in the morning is the perfect amount of time to catch up over coffee).
Sustainability Across Your Supply Chain
Create a Sustainable Business Network
Once you’ve set certain standards for your business to follow, a common next step is looking for partners and vendors who share similar views. If you’re just starting out, this is an easy practice to adopt, but for established businesses, this change might take more time due to contracts and history. Don’t hold back from sharing your new mandate with old partners. You might just inspire them to reevaluate their own practices. When you create a sustainable business network, you’re not only connecting businesses through contracts, you’re connecting them through shared values.
Your sustainable business network should also strive for diversity and favour local businesses whenever possible. This will not only help to develop your community, but it makes for a supply chain that’s readily adaptable to change, and stronger in the long run.
Reduce Waste Throughout Your Business
A main focus for a sustainable business is reducing waste across all levels. You can look at the waste generated within your company’s HQ, or look more broadly at the waste your business generates out in the world. Whether it’s adopting sustainable packaging for your online retail store, discovering and reducing waste across your supply chain or even cutting down on rubbish in your own office kitchen, reducing waste is one of the most valuable initiatives you can oversee.
Green Business Practices
Introduce a Recycling and Composting Program
A recycling and composting program is a great place to start introducing green business practices. Make simple adjustments to encourage staff to follow suit, like placing recycling bins at every desk. In time, as your staff changes their own behaviour, your company will begin to see the benefits of becoming a sustainable business. You can even make a challenge out of it, to see how much waste you can reduce by recycling and composting instead!
Volunteer in Your Community
A large part of sustainability is focused on the community and environment surrounding your business. Making both a priority in everything your company does, right down to the fun stuff, should be a main focus. Team bonding activities are the perfect opportunity to engage employees to create a sustainable business and make an impact on the community. Whether it’s cleaning trash in a city park, planting trees or volunteering at local non-profits, these activities are an easy way to make your business a contributor to the community. A true sustainable business owner will never view their company as separate from the community, and they’ll always strive to better the world and those around them.
Reduce Water and Electricity Consumption
Being committed to a thoughtful business model means continually asking yourself what’s needed to operate efficiently and successfully. That mode of thinking begins with the big picture of sustainability and goes all the way down to the small, day-to-day actions.
Studies have found that by simply hanging signs encouraging people to use less water, you can drastically reduce your water consumption. This is one of those, “Why wouldn’t you?” sustainable business practices.
Purchase Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Products
Here’s a simple one: buy energy-efficient products! Committing to a sustainable business model means following standards big and small. While eliminating waste from a supply chain, and building a trusted network of vendors are meaningful, it’s the little actions that add up to create a bigger impact. When it comes to outfitting your office and investing in resources, look for options that support your sustainability goals.
Set Achievable Sustainable Business Goals
The 10 recommendations above can feel overwhelming when you’re just embarking on your new goal. It’s important to keep the very first step in mind: set short-term goals that you feel are very achievable. Over time you can increase your company’s capacity for adopting greater initiatives and reaching those lofty long-term goals. Ultimately, every small step towards establishing a truly sustainable business model makes a difference in the world. You should take great pride in making the commitment to run a sustainable business.
About the Author:
Newsworthy Co. is a woman-owned and operated content development agency, and the creators of The Bullet, a quick shot of daily news. The team brings 20+ years of digital business experience to the creation of branded editorial content (covering everything from fashion to finance). Learn more at wearenewsworthy.ca