How Small Businesses Can Impact Sustainability in Big Ways
Although the benefits of sustainability in business are long-standing and hardly abstract, awareness and implementation of sustainable practices are relatively new to most industries. Gone are the days that we view sustainability as just a well-intentioned idea. Now more than ever, consumers demand sustainable products and processes, and small and large businesses benefit from reducing their carbon footprint and taking on the reuse, reduce, recycle mindset and state of operation.
Nearly 58% of consumers say they would change their shopping habits if it reduced their environmental impact, and over 70% say they would pay more for brands and products that are more sustainable. Customer loyalty and increased sales are far from the only rewards that brands see for their efforts, though. One study conducted by three Harvard economists found that if a company invested $1 in a “high-sustainability” business model at the beginning of 1993, their investment would have grown to more than $22 by 2010 - nearly 150% the growth that a “low-sustainability” model would have seen. With so much cost-benefit potential, it seems that businesses have no choice but to make a move toward sustainability in all aspects of their operations. Below, we look at how small to medium-sized businesses can make changes that positively impact the future of commercial sustainability.
Sustainability Challenges for Small Businesses
Over 50% of US businesses invest in sustainability strategies that reduce their environmental impact. Still, more than 70% of those same businesses struggle to turn those strategies into successful sources of action. With so much momentum on their side, what causes these small businesses to flounder rather than drive impactful change?
Among the most pressing reasons that small businesses don’t flourish as large organizations and corporations do is a simple lack of resources. Recognizing the importance of sustainability and reduced environmental impact within a business is one thing - making it happen is another. The simple fact for most is that they don’t have the money, time, or know-how necessary to make quick and efficient changes. Just as countries must invest money to meet sustainability goals and standards, small businesses and organizations must also invest in a greener future. For reference, firms and organizations that implement changes to meet new national or regional green initiatives and compliance standards spend over $400,000 per year to do so - most of which is due to labor increases. Small businesses can expect the same requirements for internal restructuring - making labor and cost the biggest hurdles to overcome.
How Small Businesses Can Implement Sustainable Practices
There are plenty of ways small to medium-sized companies can make impactful changes that promote sustainability and environmental stewardship within their business or market. Not only can these changes drive positive growth for the environment, natural resources, or company culture, but they can also increase profit through numerous avenues. Below, we outline a few of the easiest and most common ways to promote sustainable change within a business.
Most documents used within commercial businesses, especially small businesses, can easily benefit from moving to a digital platform and ditching the paper trail. Not only will the company save money on resources, equipment, and shipping, but it will also reduce the number of natural resources used within the company. It’s a win-win.
Converting to Green Energy
Green energy is defined loosely as any type of energy derived from renewable or sustainable resources. More than half of small businesses globally live in areas where they have the option to collect and use at least part of their energy supply from renewable resources - making it one of the best options to save money, gain positive public opinion, and reduce the number of non-renewables used to operate the business.
Reuse, Reduce, Recycle
Adopting the reuse, reduce, and recycle method is another standard method for businesses to start toward green practices. The most significant benefit here? It costs businesses next to nothing to implement - no worrying about a lack of resources, time, human resources. Just like many sustainable practices, simple is better.
Remote Working Opportunities
If we’ve learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that businesses can not only survive with remote operations - but they can thrive in ways they previously had not. Offering remote work reduces the carbon footprint of businesses and their employees, and it promotes a work culture based on trust and understanding - pushing employees to make positive changes for the company on their own and without direction.