As a small business owner, you may think that your company has a minimal impact on the world around you. However, since you control your company’s direction and its business practices, this gives you plenty of power over the choices you make for your business and the products or services you offer. An increasing number of consumers are willing to spend more on environmentally friendly products, and you can attract them by making a few simple changes to your product or service mix.
How to Make Your Small Business More Sustainable
Traditional business practices that produced a great deal of waste and pollution throughout the environment are beginning to give way to new methods that have incredible environmental impacts. Although many initially think that sustainable initiatives will cost them a great deal of money, you will find that this does not have to be the case when you implement even a few of the tips below.
While there are plenty of significant changes you could make, such as installing solar panels on your business’s roof, you do not have to go big to make a significant social and environmental impact. Even small changes add up to substantial ecological implications over time.
Create a Plan for Sustainable Business Practices
Before jumping into the deep end, create a plan that will work for your business. This plan should reflect the number of employees you have, the building you use, your budget, and your current carbon footprint. If you do not know much about sustainability for small businesses, read up on sustainable energy, recycling options, and green living. Next, determine which areas of your business need the most noticeable improvements before creating a sustainability vision for your company and implementing desired changes.
Start With Sustainable Materials
If your business creates physical products, make sure that you are starting with sustainable materials. Check with your supplier to ensure that materials are sourced sustainably and are fair-trade certified. If you are ready to go above and beyond, opt for products made from renewable or recycled resources.
Eliminate Wasteful Packaging
Today’s landfills are filled with discarded packaging. Plastics take hundreds of years to break down and are among the worst packaging sources you could choose. Instead, opt for materials that break down quickly, such as wood pulp and cornstarch. You may also want to create containers or packaging that can be reused by your customers, such as cute cotton bags.
Offer Eco-Friendly Shipping
Now that your actual product is packaged sustainably, you will want to also ship your items to out-of-town customers in an eco-friendly way. The ideal solution is to ship your product in the original packaging box rather than in a second larger box. Offer customers discounts for order consolidation. Always opt for biodegradable shipping options rather than anything made with plastic bubble cushions or styrofoam.
Go Paperless Whenever Possible
Every year, so much paper is thrown away in the United States that it would be equivalent to destroying 1 billion trees. Your business can have a small part in off-setting this consumption by going paperless whenever possible, such as by opting for paperless small business insurance bills. Offer your customers special discounts for choosing paperless statements. Store vital information in the cloud rather than on paper documents. Ask customers to accept digital receipts. Keep in mind that going completely paperless is impossible. Therefore, be sure to recycle the paper that you do use.
Reduce Water and Energy Consumption
If your business has a brick-and-mortar storefront, you will also want to come up with ways to reduce the natural resources you use there. Get any dripping faucets or plumbing leaks corrected quickly, and switch to drought-resistant landscaping. To reduce energy usage, consider switching to LED light bulbs if you have not done so already, and turn off all electronics before leaving for the day. You could also opt for an energy audit to find out where you need to focus your attention in your workspace.
Donate to Environmentally Friendly Causes
If you have the resources to do even more for the environment, consider donating to green companies that give back to the earth. Make cash donations to environmental programs, or commit to planting a certain number of trees when reaching specific sales milestones.
Encourage Employees to Become Involved
While you set the tone for environmentally friendly practices in the office, you can also enlist your employees’ help. Offer them incentives for making sustainable choices, such as recycling their used electronics or carpooling or biking to work. If feasible, working from home at least some of the time is a great way to save energy in your business space while also decreasing the frequency your employees need to drive to your location.
The Short-Term and Long-Term Benefits of Sustainable Business Practices
Once you get out of the mindset that having an energy-saving, environmentally friendly business has to be expensive, you may be surprised to see just how positive these changes can be for your company. Not only can you save money by decreasing your consumption of natural resources and by opting for energy efficiency with Energy Star-rated appliances, but also you can improve your business’s reputation in your community and create a healthier work environment for yourself and your employees.
Learning how to make your small business more sustainable does not have to be confusing, expensive, or time-consuming. Instead, you can make these new practices serve your bottom line, helping you improve your business’s reputation, gain new environmentally minded customers, and even save money.
At E-Marketing Associates, we are excited to help you build and sustain your small business any way we can. From website design to social media, reputation management, and listing distribution software, we have the tools you need to grow your business.