- April 14, 2023
- by Melanie Evans
- Consulting, Growth, Innovation
Small businesses play a crucial role in the economy, but they can also have a significant impact on the environment. Becoming more sustainable can help small businesses reduce their environmental impact, cut costs, and appeal to eco-conscious customers.
In this article, we will discuss some ways that small businesses can become more sustainable and why this is something they should be concerned about in the first place.
The Big Benefits of “Going Green” in Business
Sustainability is a buzzword that has been trending in recent years, and for good reason. As we face more global challenges such as climate change and the depletion of natural resources, businesses of all sizes are starting to recognize the benefits of becoming more sustainable.
Small businesses, in particular, can greatly benefit from adopting sustainable practices. Here are just some of the important ways small businesses can benefit from becoming more sustainable.
One of the most significant benefits of becoming more sustainable is the potential cost savings. By reducing energy, water, and waste, businesses can save money on utility bills, raw materials, and waste disposal fees. Small businesses can also benefit from tax credits and incentives for implementing sustainable practices. For example, some states offer tax credits for businesses that invest in renewable energy or energy-efficient equipment.
Sustainability is no longer just a buzzword; it has become an essential aspect of business operations. People are becoming more aware of how what they buy affects the world around them, and more and more of them are choosing to support businesses that are committed to sustainability.
By adopting sustainable practices, small businesses can improve their reputation and attract customers who are interested in environmentally friendly products and services.
Improved Employee Satisfaction and Retention
Sustainability can also have a positive impact on employee satisfaction and retention. By adopting sustainable practices, businesses can create a culture of environmental responsibility that employees can feel proud to be a part of. A sustainable workplace can also improve employee health and well-being by reducing exposure to harmful chemicals and improving indoor air quality.
Gain a Competitive Advantage
In a crowded market, small businesses that adopt sustainable practices can gain a competitive advantage. By making products and services that are good for the environment, businesses can set themselves apart from their competitors and attract customers who want eco-friendly options.
Sustainable practices can also help small businesses stand out in procurement processes, where sustainability criteria are increasingly being used to select suppliers.
Sustainability is not just a short-term trend; it is a long-term necessity. By adopting sustainable practices, small businesses can future-proof their operations and ensure their long-term viability.
Sustainable practices can help businesses reduce their dependence on finite resources and mitigate the impact of environmental challenges such as climate change. By investing in sustainability, small businesses can build resilience and adaptability into their operations, ensuring their survival in an ever-changing business landscape.
How Small Businesses Can Become More Sustainable
Conduct a Sustainability Audit
Conducting a sustainability audit is a crucial first step for small businesses that want to become more sustainable. A sustainability audit looks at how a business runs and what it does to see where it can reduce its impact on the environment, save money, and make itself more sustainable overall. Here is a quick look at how such an audit can be performed:
Step 1: Define the Scope of the Audit
The first step in conducting a sustainability audit is to define the scope of the audit. This involves identifying the areas of the business that will be examined, such as energy use, waste generation, water use, transportation, and procurement practices. The scope of the audit will depend on the size and nature of the business, as well as the goals of the audit.
Step 2: Gather Information
The next step is to gather information about the business’s current practices and operations. This can include:
- Energy bills: Collect energy bills for the past year to determine the business’s energy use.
- Waste records: Collect records of waste generation and disposal to determine the amount and type of waste generated.
- Water bills: Collect water bills to determine the business’s water use.
- Transportation records: Collect records of business travel to determine the modes of transportation used and the amount of fuel consumed.
- Procurement records: Collect records of purchases to determine the types of products and materials used and their environmental impact.
Step 3: Analyze the Data
Once the information has been gathered, it needs to be analyzed to identify areas where the business can make improvements. This can involve:
- Benchmarking: Comparing the business’s energy use, waste generation, and water use to industry standards to identify areas where the business is above or below average.
- Identifying trends: Looking for trends in the data to identify areas where the business’s performance is improving or declining over time.
- Prioritizing opportunities: Prioritizing opportunities for improvement based on their potential impact, cost, and feasibility.
Step 4: Develop a Sustainability Plan
Based on the analysis of the data, the next step is to develop a sustainability plan that outlines the actions the business will take to become more sustainable.
When we work with clients as sustainable business consultants, we ensure that these sustainability audits are carried out efficiently and effectively. While your business can choose to conduct one in- house it is a time consuming, and sometimes confusing process that is made a lot easier when you have professional help.
Reduce Energy Use
Reducing energy use is one of the most effective, yet easy to implement, ways to become more sustainable. Small businesses can reduce energy use by:
Switching to energy-efficient lighting: Replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with LED bulbs can be more than just eco-friendly. LEDs have several advantages over incandescent bulbs.
Firstly, they run much cooler, reducing the risk of fires. Secondly, LED chips are small and thin, allowing them to be mounted in narrow containers without the need for big glass bulbs.LEDs are also much more efficient in general, with 80-90% of their energy converted to light and less light wasted due to their directional projection.
Most notably from a sustainability point of view LEDs consume 80-90% less energy than incandescent lights and they have a longer lifespan of up to 40,000 hours or 15-20 years of continuous use, depending on the on-time each day.
Investing in energy-efficient equipment, such as refrigerators, ovens, and HVAC systems, can reduce energy consumption. This may also help your business do more than help save the planet, it can save your business money too.
In addition to the energy bill savings they will almost certainly lead to the purchase of energy efficient equipment your business may be able to take advantage of rebates and tax savings. For example, in the UK you can claim capital allowances when you buy energy efficient technology for your business.
Implementing energy-saving practices
Simple practices such as turning off lights and equipment when not in use, adjusting thermostat settings, and reducing heating and cooling during off-hours can significantly reduce energy use.
Small businesses can also become more sustainable by minimizing waste. This can include:
- Reducing packaging waste: Using eco-friendly packaging materials and reducing unnecessary packaging can help to reduce waste.
- Recycling: Setting up a recycling program for materials such as paper, cardboard, plastic, and glass can help to reduce waste.
- Composting: Composting food waste and other organic material can help to reduce waste and provide nutrient-rich soil for gardening.
Implement Sustainable Procurement Practices
Sustainable procurement practices can help small businesses reduce their environmental impact by choosing suppliers and products that are eco-friendly. This can include:
Choosing suppliers that prioritize sustainability: Small businesses can choose suppliers that prioritize sustainability and use eco-friendly materials and practices.
Choosing eco-friendly products: Small businesses can choose products that are made from sustainable materials, such as bamboo or recycled materials, and have eco-friendly certifications.
Encourage Sustainable Transportation
Encouraging sustainable transportation can also help small businesses become more sustainable. This can include:
- Providing incentives for employees to use public transportation, bike, or walk to work.
- Encouraging virtual meetings instead of travel when possible.
- Using fuel-efficient vehicles or electric vehicles for business travel.
Engage Customers in Sustainability Efforts
Engaging customers in sustainability efforts can help small businesses build a loyal customer base and promote sustainability. This can include:
- Educating customers on sustainable practices: Small businesses can educate customers on sustainable practices, such as composting or recycling, and provide resources for sustainable living.
- Offering eco-friendly products and services: Small businesses can offer eco-friendly products and services that appeal to environmentally conscious customers.
- Hosting sustainability-focused events: Hosting sustainability-focused events, such as eco-fairs or clean-up events, can engage customers in sustainability efforts and promote the business’s commitment to sustainability.
If you’re a business owner looking to reap the benefits of sustainability, then there’s no better time to start than now. By adopting sustainable practices, you can improve your bottom line, attract eco-conscious customers, and future-proof your business. However, getting started can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to begin. That’s where sustainable business consulting comes in.
At Pearl Lemon Consultants, we specialize in helping small businesses like yours implement sustainable practices and reap the benefits. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you take your business to the next level while also making a positive impact on the planet.