Sustainability has become a crucial business value. It doesn’t matter the size of your organization. Small businesses, just like large corporations, can make a significant impact by adopting sustainable practices and embracing environmentally conscious values.
According to the Capgemini Research Institute, 79% of consumers select products and services based on their environmental impact. Likewise, 73% of global consumers are willing to change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment. Both of these statistics indicate the growth of sustainability — it’s not a trend anymore. It’s a consumer need that should be integrated into your business model.
Companies can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through various green initiatives. By making these commitments public, you can also improve your reputation, increase customer loyalty, and gain a competitive edge. Although discussing sustainable initiatives is all well and good, the trick is to dedicate yourself to them. So let’s take a look at what steps you need to take to ensure you fully commit to sustainability.
1. Set specific goals
The first step towards implementing sustainable practices is setting short- and long-term goals for your efforts. Short-term goals help track progress on more immediate initiatives, such as reducing plastic usage or switching to renewable energy sources. Long-term goals focus on larger milestones like carbon neutrality or becoming a zero-waste company.
One of the best ways to set goals — whether long or short-term — is to follow the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework:
Setting realistic goals and tracking progress is critical to making sure you follow through with your sustainable promises.
2. Understand what greenwashing is
Companies that make false promises regarding sustainability are unknowingly greenwashing — a practice that’s becoming all too common. This strategy deceives consumers by using unsubstantiated or misleading advertisements and claims about the environmental benefits of a product or service.
Even if you unknowingly commit a greenwashing act, it could harm your company’s reputation. It could also lead to a decrease in potential customers and investors, resulting in financial losses.
3. Consult an expert
With many environmental concerns, it can be hard to pick an initiative that resonates with your business. If you find yourself in this situation, you should consult with an expert to determine which steps to take. An expert can provide insight on:
- Reducing energy consumption.
- Finding suppliers that adhere to ethical standards.
- Developing strategies for long-term sustainability.
- Identifying areas for improvement in your operations.
With an objective view of your company, an expert can help set you on a path toward success.
4. Review your supply chain
It’s not enough to focus on your environmental impact. You have to evaluate the sustainability of your suppliers and business partners. Without their commitment, it’ll be difficult for your business to succeed in its own green goals.
Review and evaluate their practices by:
- Assessing the materials they use and their origin.
- Ensuring they adhere to ethical standards, such as labor rights and waste management measures.
- Checking for certifications from green organizations or governments to prove their commitment to sustainability.
Doing this ensures that your supply chain is doing its part to foster a sustainable future.
5. Minimize waste
No matter how much waste you produce, do your best at minimizing it. Here are some potential options for waste minimization at every stage of production, development, and service:
- Production: Optimize processes and equipment.
- Packaging: Use reusable, recyclable, or compostable materials whenever possible.
- Distribution and transportation: Rethink supply chains; consider electric vehicles, bulk shipping, and other eco-friendly modes of transport.
- Service: Research ways to provide services with minimal environmental impact, such as offering digital options instead of paper.
- Consumption: Encourage customers to use reusable containers and return packaging materials for reuse or recycling.
- End of life: Identify ways to extend your products’ life span and ensure they’re recycled or disposed of responsibly at the end of their life.
You’ll never be able to completely remove waste from your business processes. But any effort is better than no effort when it comes to sustainability.
6. Reduce, reuse, recycle
You have more options than just the landfill when disposing of your materials. Adopt the old adage: reduce, reuse, recycle. This principle encourages individuals and businesses to minimize waste production. Reducing the consumption of resources and reusing or recycling materials is vital to improving your commitment to sustainable practices.
Here are examples of each principle in a business context:
- Reduce: Install energy-efficient lighting and reduce paper consumption by going paperless.
- Reuse: Use used boxes from packaging to store files or equipment or donate used office equipment and supplies to local charities or schools.
- Recycle: Partner with local recycling centers or use recycling programs that collect and recycle plastic or metal.
Follow these steps to ensure you’re making the most of natural resources.
7. Digitize work processes
Digitizing your work processes can make your operations more efficient while significantly decreasing paper and energy consumption. Great examples include:
- 24/7 live answering services for customer inquiries.
- Live Chat Support on websites and social media.
- Online ordering, delivery, and payment systems.
- Automated data entry processes to reduce manual labor and time-consuming tasks.
- Cloud computing services or remote desktop tools to access documents and files remotely.
Streamlining your operations with digital solutions allows you to use fewer resources while providing a better customer experience. Additionally, you can track and monitor your progress to ensure your company stays on the path.
8. Communicate well with business partners and clients
Your business processes will inevitably change when committing to sustainability. Communicate these changes with your partners, clients, and other stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page. Explain your green policy and what you’re doing to reduce your environmental impact so they understand why it’s important.
Use technology solutions to help streamline the communication process. Consider using video conferencing platforms or small business answering services for remote meetings and customer service needs. Likewise, a 24-hour live answering service or a 24/7 call center for small businesses will ensure customers and clients have around-the-clock access to your business — even if they have questions about your sustainable changes.
9. Work with your community
By collaborating with community stakeholders, you can contribute to economic growth while promoting practices that benefit the environment and society. Here are some steps to take:
- Engage with community members to identify their sustainability needs and priorities. This will help you develop programs and initiatives that are meaningful and impactful.
- Research potential organizations, programs, and projects that align with your business’s mission. Consider joining forces with local nonprofits or government initiatives to ensure maximum impact.
- Invest in green infrastructure and environmental protection projects to help reduce emissions, such as installing solar panels or investing in tree planting efforts.
Don’t forget to recognize and celebrate the progress you make as a collective.
10. Choose sustainable materials
Sustainable materials are becoming increasingly important for businesses to use as the world moves towards more sustainable and eco-friendly practices. Look for suppliers that specialize in eco-friendly materials or seek out materials made from renewable sources.
Opt for long-lasting materials constructed from recycled or repurposed materials when possible. You can find sustainable materials by researching suppliers who specialize in green products. But you can go even further. You can also look for local vendors who use sustainable practices.
11. Offset your emissions
Further your environmental efforts by offsetting your emissions. Carbon offsets are a way of compensating for carbon dioxide emissions your business operations create. The most common type of offset is purchasing credits from verified carbon reduction projects. This includes reforestation, renewable energy generation, or energy efficiency improvements.
You can even start your own carbon offset program. For example, you can install solar panels on the roof of your building or invest in renewable energy sources such as wind and geothermal power.
12. Upgrade to energy-efficient tools and appliances
Save energy by upgrading to energy-efficient tools and appliances in your office. These include:
- LED lighting;
- ENERGY STAR-rated computers and printers;
- Energy Star-certified air conditioners;
- Energy-efficient water heaters.
All these items and more help reduce the energy used by your business operations, helping you reach your sustainability goals.
Want to take the first step to embracing corporate sustainability in your business? Get in touch with our team today and book a free consultation.