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Sustainable business practices are better for your bottom line. Here’s why


It’s quite the buzzword these days, especially with businesses throwing it into their mission statements like bacon bits on a kale salad.

But in all seriousness, it’s something that every business, big or small, should be thinking about. Especially if you want your business to be around (and thriving!) in the next five to 10 years.

Now, the word sustainability might make you feel overwhelmed because you have no idea if there are even opportunities for your business to be environmentally sustainable. Or maybe you get a little excited at what the possibilities are. Maybe it’s even a bit of both. But you should know that having a business that’s profitable and does right by the planet is totally possible.

And, by the way, it’s also beneficial for your bottom line.

You see, businesses that have sustainable values at their core have higher employee engagement, lower employee turnover, and high customer loyalty. So yes, sustainable business practices are good for the planet, but they can also lead to more profitability. Not to mention the fact that they’re an incredible tool for helping your business stand out among your competitors.

Now, I know where your mind is already going, so let me just squash two myths real quickly. Having a sustainable business doesn’t have to involve spending a ton of money, and it doesn’t have to add to your already full plate. It’s really just about making a few intentions and taking action.

But how? And where should you start? And seriously though, how much will it cost? The last year and a half have been a lot to deal with, and adding more to your to-do list probably seems like too much.

These are concerns I hear from small businesses all the time.

The truth is, having a business that has sustainable values baked into its DNA is a lot simpler than you think. You don’t have to know your business’s carbon footprint or have a perfectly sustainable business model from the get-go. Those are things you can work toward.

Before we dive into the ways your business can start becoming more sustainable, you need to know that sustainability is nonnegotiable for every business.

You see, for the past century, businesses were expected to have some sort of giveback or corporate social responsibility pledge. That usually looked like writing a few charitable checks each year. But that’s no longer enough.

We all want to be thriving on this planet for decades to come, which means we all have to work toward that vision. And as a business, your role is even more important than you think. In fact, businesses have the biggest role to play because they’re the biggest contributors to things like climate change and plastic pollution. Which means they also have the most opportunity to be a part of the change.

Oh, and I want to make something very clear: You don’t have to be a big corporation to make a big impact. Small businesses have incredible power because they’re the most connected to their customers and their communities. And the reason your customers keep returning (and have supported you through these uncertain times) is that they believe in you and share your values. That is your secret sauce. And if you wanna keep those customers, sustainability plays a role.

You see, customers are increasingly demanding that the businesses they support have some sort of sustainable mission behind them. It’s important to note that they’re also willing to pay more for it. In fact, “66% of consumers would spend more on a product if it came from a sustainable brand. … [And] up to 73% of the surveyed millennials” feel the same (Source: Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report as quoted in Forbes).

This statistic, along with so many others, shows that sustainability, while being a good practice for the planet, also presents major opportunities for your business.

So what can you do about it?

The answer is simple: Start today, start small, and start with true intentions.

In the way that you are committed to your main mission as a small business, you have to carry that same commitment to being sustainable. And that obligation has to weave its way into as many aspects of your business as possible. Because here’s the thing: Sustainability can’t just be something you check off a list. Your heart has to be in it.

In supporting many small businesses over the years, I’ve seen one thing over and over. The ones who thrive the most are the ones that are truly committed to using their business for good. If you’re in this for the long haul, then having a sustainable business is one of the most underrated tools for long-term success. I can promise you that.

So, without further ado, here are a few easy ways that you can start today (Yes, literally right now!) to make your business more sustainable:

  1. If you have an e-commerce business, you can offer your customers carbon-neutral shipping without footing the bill. How? There are several website plug-ins that make this easier than ever, allowing your customers to opt in with the click of a button.
  2. Depending on which state your business is in, you can power your entire operation with renewable energy. All you need is a utility bill in your name, and the switch can take as little as five minutes. P.S. In some areas, there are even cost savings for doing this. And cost savings translate to greater profit, so there’s an added bonus (depending on your location).
  3. If you use business cards, start printing them on recycled paper to show that your sustainable values apply to all parts of your business.
  4. If you sell physical products, look at your packaging to see if there are ways you can minimize, or even eliminate, your existing packaging. In addition, see if there are sustainable alternatives to your packages that would be gentler on the planet, like recycled paper and compostable packing peanuts.
  5. Whether you work from home or have a physical office, switching to LED light bulbs can save you a ton of money in the long run. Plus, they use much less electricity than traditional light bulbs and last a lot longer, which means you’ll have to change them less often.

These are a few easy wins that you can tuck under your sustainable business belt. They will give you momentum as you work your way toward things like sustainable packaging, nontoxic ingredients, and a carbon-neutral footprint.

Choosing to run a sustainable business is a choice that’s better for your bottom line, your customers, and your community. An added bonus? It’s also better for the planet.

We can all benefit from supporting and participating in sustainable business practices. And your customers are more ready than ever.

So what’s holding you back?

To learn more about what you can do as a small business, check out the SME Climate Hub. There you’ll find a list of simple, actionable steps you can take right now to begin to reduce your business’s carbon footprint.

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