Published on June 1st, 2023
Sustainability is all about leaving a better world for our children than what we inherited from our parents. It’s about maintaining resources, using only what we need, and minimizing our environmental impact, or even creating a positive one.
But sustainability is not only good for the environment, it’s good for business as well.
With climate change and rising energy costs affecting more and more people, there has never been a better time to integrate sustainability into your business practices. By reducing consumption, businesses can reduce waste and save money.
Plus, with a growing environmental urgency among the general public, sustainable business practices help build a better brand image. Surveys from Deloitte in 2022 show that:
- 40% of consumers have chosen brands because of their environmental or sustainable practices and values.
- 34% stopped buying from a brand because of ethical or sustainability concerns.
- 48% bought more locally produced goods.
Sustainability in business is no longer a nice idea in theory, something to consider if it doesn’t significantly affect the bottom line. It is a real competitive advantage. So how can your company become more sustainable? What can you do to reduce your environmental impact while improving business outcomes?
Listed below are five ideas to help get SMBs started on their path to a more sustainable future.
Let’s start with a straightforward idea – going paperless. For most organizations, there aren’t many reasons to still use paper in today’s business world. Technology is available that replaces paper with digital alternatives for almost all of its use cases.
These alternatives also produce significant benefits—improving accessibility and transparency, saving money, and increasing the speed of work—all while doing something good for the environment.
Tips for going paperless include:
- Replace traditional accounts payable processes and paper checks with a smart bill paying service for SMBs. No longer rely on sending physical checks to your vendors, paper that is easily lost in the mail and offers your banking details to anyone who sees it.
- Take advantage of the cloud for seamless, paperless document management. With a range of options out there (Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive, etc.), businesses can now effortlessly share digital documents and collaborate with others on projects.
- Many think they still need to use paper due to signatures, approving documents, and signing contracts. However, physical signatures are easily forged and were never as secure as we thought. Nowadays, a range of electronic signature tools does a better job without the need for paper.
Incorporating Technology For Sustainability
When it comes to the workplace and sustainability, technology can go much further than removing our dependency on paper. From advanced data collection and analytics for sustainable decision-making to tools and hardware that improve how we use resources. Technology helps businesses get more done with less to boost efficiency.
- Managing resources with smart meters and thermostats. Businesses can upgrade their utility infrastructure with smart meters that carefully track energy usage and smart thermostats that increase control, so you never waste resources when the office is empty.
- Technology can generate accurate real-time data across a range of business functions. With better information available, businesses can improve decision-making for themselves and the environment. This could include identifying key causes of waste during manufacturing or identifying hidden environmental costs caused by various business operations.
Building Sustainable Supply Chains
In today’s marketplace, consumers are becoming conscious of environmentally friendly business practices. They want to understand the process behind the products they buy, who makes them, and where they are made.
The internet and globalization make it easy to hunt for the cheapest option available. You can partner with vendors anywhere in the world if you choose to, shipping cheap supplies (that might be produced using unethical practices) great distances to maximize profits.
However, more sustainable and ethical approaches are available.
While it may feel like you are leaving money on the table, designing your supply chain with sustainability in mind can bring many benefits. For example, buying from local vendors reduces the carbon emissions associated with shipping while also building a compelling reason for customers to choose your business over the competition.
Less travel reduces lead times, improving the flexibility of your supply chain. Plus, dealing with someone face-to-face can help build stronger vendor relationships that may lead to cost savings down the road.
When selling a physical product, you must choose how it is packaged. This is a particular issue for online brands that need to protect their products during shipping.
A small change towards eco-friendly packaging can have a considerable impact when tallied across every product.
Businesses should consider sourcing packaging materials that are either biodegradable, recyclable, or reusable.
It is also vital to limit material mixing in your packaging, making it as simple as possible to recycle. For example, using two different types of polymers can make plastic unrecyclable.
Another good idea is to replace physical items included with the product, i.e., manuals or additional marketing material like catalogs, with scannable QR codes that direct customers to an online version.
Again, while these changes may come at an additional cost, when marketed right, you can explain the environmental benefits associated with the price rise. Knowing it is for sustainable reasons, many modern consumers would be happy to pay a little extra.
Sustainable Business Practices Help Sustain Businesses
To maintain a habitable planet, free from the extreme effects of climate change and filled with plentiful resources, sustainability has to become a critical part of every decision we make. This includes how consumers choose to spend their money and how businesses choose to run their operations.
Thankfully, sustainability is not just a burden on businesses. It generates benefits beyond being the right thing to do. Sustainability generates a range of benefits that can help keep your business in business.
From an improved brand image that attracts customers and new employees to reduced business costs, increased efficiency, and greater profits. Sustainability can even help businesses comply with future regulations.
So, the next time you have a business decision to make, consider the more sustainable option. It might just be better for both your business and the environment.
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