- When you make sustainability a core part of your mission, you encourage lasting, meaningful change.
- The current business landscape does not prioritize sustainability, so you will need to think outside the box to make your company more eco-friendly.
- You should use social media to reach consumers who are looking for environmentally sustainable products.
- This article is for small and medium-sized business owners who want to reduce their environmental impact.
At this point, the effects of climate change are very much an everyday conversation. As a small business owner, you can play a part in that conversation: Certain business practices can harm the environment. You may feel obligated to respond with sustainable business measures, and that’s a good move because sustainable practices can become a selling point.
The thing is, implementing sustainability measures while keeping your business profitable can be challenging, but that doesn’t make it impossible. That’s why we’ve gathered expert advice from several businesses to get on the sustainable path without breaking the bank.
What is sustainability?
Sustainability is the ability to continue over time without negative environmental consequences. In the business world, sustainability is a goal: minimizing or completely eliminating your company’s negative impact on the environment.
Sustainable business practices prioritize people, the planet and everything in between. As concerns about man-made climate change continue to rise, more organizations are becoming environmentally conscious. They often do so by ensuring they use enough resources to meet their needs, minimizing the use of environmentally harmful materials, and establishing environmentally friendly processes and supply chains.
How to make sustainability a part of your business model
Sustainable practices can positively impact the environment and thus your entire customer base. In fact, some consumers actively seek out sustainable products. Of course, being eco-friendly is easier said than done. A comprehensive change in company policies to implement sustainability practices takes serious time and effort. This adjustment period can go more smoothly with the right strategy. Some of the most effective tips for transitioning to sustainability include:
1. Make sustainability part of your mission.
Making sustainability part of your business model can be difficult and often more expensive or complicated to implement. To do so authentically and effectively, sustainability must be a core part of your business mission, not just a marketing ploy or public relations talking point.
“When dreaming up our own grown-up shades, we wanted to create a value proposition that felt authentic to us, something that would hopefully make a positive difference in the world,” said Molly Finning, founder of ethically made sunglasses brand Notra, who is single. – Use plastic as a personal step towards sustainability and eat less meat. “Sustainability increasingly inspires our own home lives.
We wanted to start making environmentally conscious actions and business decisions today and every day, even if it costs a little more in the short term.”
Finning and its partners’ eco-friendly commitment is reflected at every level of their business, whether it’s the compostable frames of their sunglasses, their packing and shipping materials, or the manufacturing facility they partner with in Italy. For your business, you may have similar considerations, or you may be thinking about corporate partners, investors, worker conditions, or waste management and recycling. Any of these elements may include sustainable and ethical principles.
Vestive CEO, Mick Breiterman-Loder said, “Sustainability is a core value for us. “It affects our business internally and externally, [from our branding], to our investment model, to what we have for breakfast in the office.”
Regardless of what makes up your business, if you define sustainability as an important part of your business values, it will naturally inform the decisions you make and create a more sustainable business model at every level.
2. Think outside the box.
Finding partners that are both ethical and affordable can be difficult for small businesses. Most established supply chains, for example, are not set up to meet sustainable and ethical principles.
“A truly sustainable business model or supply chain is a step change, where you have to think about disrupting the current business structure to make big changes to address the market more,” said William Crane, founder and CEO of IndustryStar Solutions. “Your company and your suppliers need to think more like strategists to create new industry structures.”
When building the supply chain for Notra’s sunglasses, Finning and his partners spent a long time researching their options. Less expensive suppliers did not meet their requirements for an ethical manufacturing process, while the industry-standard plastics used to make most sunglasses were not environmentally friendly. His search eventually led him to a facility in Italy that produced plant-based, plastic-like materials, where he could also manufacture his sunglasses to his standards for treating workers.
Whether you’re trying to build an ethical supply chain, find eco-friendly packing materials, develop a marketing plan, or solve any other challenge that arises in your business model, thinking outside of industry norms often leads to a more sustainable solution. Going. . Don’t be afraid to look overseas, emulate businesses outside of your industry, or see what previously unknown resources are available to you.
3. Accept imperfection.
Finning and its partners work hard to incorporate sustainability at every level of their business. Their packing materials, for example, avoid plastic, and packaging Notra sunglasses is compostable. But they admit on the company’s website that nothing is perfect.
Although the frames of the sunglasses are biodegradable, the lenses have to be thrown away in the trash. Although Finning must change that eventually, she doesn’t let it discourage her.
“Perfection is not possible,” she said. “But all those small steps in the right direction will add up to a significant distance over time.”
Greenbar Distillery in Los Angeles has made imperfect, sustainable practices part of its style by rejecting the heavy, “luxurious” bottles favored by many competitors and using more environmentally friendly lightweight glass, saving the company about 30%.
Although your business model should strive to incorporate your sustainable and ethical principles at every level, this may not be possible due to your budget, industry or other limitations. That shouldn’t stop you from doing what you can from scratch.
As more sustainable businesses enter the market, you may find that other supply chains, materials or partnerships become both available and affordable. Then, as your company grows and expands, you’ll be better positioned to affect change in your industry or take advantage of solutions outside of your budget.
4. Adopt social marketing.
The movement toward sustainable business has a strong online presence, with dedicated followers of #zerowastelife, #minimalistliving, #organic and other sustainability practices on social media and blogs. Leveraging these social communities can help you reach a large and engaged audience even with a limited marketing budget.
“Our marketing efforts at Notra are really focused on creating beautiful outdoor photography,” Finning said. These images are popular online, she explains, which has naturally helped spark interest in the brand in social media communities.
Consumers interested in sustainability are also active in seeking out and sharing products made by ethical brands, which Fiennes says has also benefited Notra.
“I’ve had a lot of women contact me, saying they discovered Notra because their friend was wearing our shades and it looked great … This natural desire of consumers to buy green has helped us,” she said. said “People already want to buy and support a brand without additional marketing.”
5. Build a community.
In addition to leveraging an already existing online community, you can expand your brand presence and marketing influence by making a conscious effort to build your own community. Find popular bloggers who fit your brand’s ethos and image, create your own hashtag for social sharing, and spend time connecting with your followers and customers online.
Don’t forget to reach out to other sustainable brands. These businesses often invest deeply in promoting the work and products of other sustainable businesses to their own customers.
“There are other really interesting green products from other cool companies, and we’d love to promote those brands and their efforts,” Finning said. “I’m thrilled when I see any company making a real effort to be more eco-conscious, because we’re all starting a wave that will see more and more people join the effort.”
This type of community sharing and support is essential to the development of sustainable businesses. Interacting with other ethical brands can help you access new resources and markets. If you ever find yourself doubting or struggling it can reinforce the value of building a business that aligns with your personal principles. You can also encourage others in your industry to start incorporating sustainable principles into their own business models.