Choosing more sustainable practices for your business is good for the environment as well as your brand image. If you’re like most people, you probably care about reducing your carbon footprint and protecting resources for future generations. You may just not be sure how much impact one person and one small company might have.
The CGS 2019 U.S. Consumer Sustainability Survey of more than 1,000 people found that 75 percent of participants at least consider sustainability before making a purchase. Generation Z in particular is conscious of the impact of their buying decisions, with 68 percent of them choosing eco-friendly products. While you shouldn’t make a commitment to a cause unless you believe in it too, focusing on green practices will help attract like-minded buyers.
If you’re ready to make the leap into eco-consciousness, here are seven simple ways to start.
1. Find a Single Cause
Megabrand Unilever commissioned a study to find out how much consumers care about sustainable brands. They found that roughly one-third of people choose brands focused on social or environmental causes. As a small business owner, you can’t be all things to all people. You can’t save the world alone. However, you can find something you’re passionate about and commit to it fully. You might choose to clean up your local community, reduce your energy usage or donate to an organization that plants trees. Think about what best reflects your brand and values.
2. Seek Accountability
You may have big intentions but in the hustle and bustle of daily life forget to follow through. It isn’t easy to reduce paper usage, turn off lights and bike to work every day. Seek out accountability partners to help you stay on track. Hold a monthly meeting to report on progress in sustainable practices. If your company is a cooperative, you may have better luck adopting sustainability. Cooperatives are member-controlled and tend to have more concern for the community and more incentive to increase eco-friendly practices.
3. Create a Green Team
Put a sustainable leadership team in place. Ideally, the group would include those passionate about the causes you’re trying to invest in. These people can plan events, increase awareness and lead others in a passion for improving green living.
4. Educate Employees
Not all of your employees will be on board with your new sustainable practices. They may fear big changes. Take time to educate them on why you’re choosing to adopt a green business platform and what things they can do to help. Bring in guest speakers. Go on a field trip to a local park that needs cleaned up. Offer opportunities for workers to see the benefits of sustainable business.
5. Study Other Companies
Adopting sustainable practices isn’t easy. Look at other companies that are making a positive impact on the world, and learn from their mistakes and successes. If there’s a local company that has been running an eco-friendly business model for a while, ask them if they’ll mentor you and help you figure out where you should make improvements.
6. Get to Know Your Supply Chain
If you’re truly committed to an eco-friendly future, you must make some hard decisions about your supply chain. Are the companies you buy products and services from sustainable? Consider the packaging you use and whether it’s recycled or recyclable. Find out if your web hosting company uses green practices. Talk to everyone, because you’re also accountable for the brands you choose to do business with. If you’re truly committed to the environment, you’ll look at both small and large impacts.
7. Reward Effort
Implement programs that reward employee efforts toward sustainability, such as giving out gift cards for employees who carpool a certain number of days. Set goals for your company, such as reducing energy usage by 10%. Then, throw a celebration when you reach that goal, letting employees have some free time and even just get outside and enjoy some beautiful weather.
Start With One Small Thing
There are dozens upon dozens of things you can do to reduce your energy usage. Look for one small thing you can start with, such as installing automatic faucets in the bathrooms or tending to a beautiful little garden or small wildlife habitat on your property. Remember that change starts small and grows from there. You might not impact the entire world, but you can make a big impression on those around you and your local community.