10 Easy Ways To Make Your Small Business More Sustainable

Here's how you can implement "green" practices that lead to another "green" we all like: saved money and increased profits.

If you have an established small business, it can be tough to figure out where, how, or when to begin implementing sustainability practices. First, the reward has to be worth the risk and time. Secondly, implementation can't disrupt the flow of business; generally speaking, small businesses don't have the failsafes that larger businesses have to accomodate the disruption that comes with extreme change. We've selected 10 rewarding, easy-to-implement strategies that small businesses can use to create a sustainable precedent for the future.

Sustainable Business Practices for Small Businesses

Today, sustainability is not just a buzzword—it's a crucial component for long-term success and competitiveness. For small businesses, adopting sustainable practices can lead to significant benefits, from cost and time savings to enhanced brand loyalty. On a macro scale, leading bodies such as the World Economic Forum have deemed small businesses as "the key to sustainability" for not just local communities, but the entire world. Most small business owners agree, studies show that over 70% of small business owners say that sustainability is "important", but a large number of busines owners don't know where to start. Here are some suggestions.

1. Energy-Efficient Upgrades

By now, most small business owners have probably embraced energy-efficient technologies in their homes, but it's not a given that business owners have embraced the technologies at their offices, warehouses, and workshops. Investing in energy-efficient technology, such as LED lighting and Energy Star-certified appliances, can drastically reduce energy consumption and utility costs. For instance, replacing 100 incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs can save a business over $1,000 annually. Energy-efficient HVAC systems and smart thermostats also contribute to substantial savings and a smaller carbon footprint.

2. Renewable Energy Sources

Transitioning to renewable energy sources, like solar or wind power, can significantly reduce a business's reliance on fossil fuels, and in some cases, any outside power supply at all. While the initial investment might be high, many regions offer rebates and incentives that can offset these costs. Solar panels, for example, can cut energy bills in half and provide long-term savings and protection against future energy price increases.

Solar panels can cut energy bills in half... or by even more.

3. Water Conservation

Implementing water-saving practices, such as low-flow faucets and toilets, and using water-efficient landscaping can significantly reduce water bills. Simple measures like fixing leaks and encouraging water conservation among employees can also lead to noticeable savings. Businesses can also collect rainwater for non-potable uses like irrigation. In a world where water is expected to become one of the most in-demand resources over the next 25 years, it's important to not take water use for granted.

4. Sustainable Procurement

Choosing suppliers who prioritize sustainability in their operations can reduce your business's environmental footprint. Sustainable procurement involves sourcing materials and services that have minimal environmental impact and are socially responsible. This practice not only supports sustainable businesses but can also lead to cost savings through more efficient supply chains.

Sustainable sourcing is not only a way to be more socially responsible, but it can be a part of a responsible supply chain strategy. Supply chain optimization is not only a way to ensure your business is safe in case of a global shock, but can also be a way to literally create value for your business.

5. Waste Reduction and Recycling

Minimizing waste through recycling programs, going paperless, and reducing unnecessary packaging can lower disposal costs. Implementing a zero-waste policy, where all materials are reused or composted, can be tough in the short run, but can also enhance sustainability. Encouraging employees to adopt eco-friendly practices, like using reusable containers and reducing plastic use, can contribute to a significant reduction in waste in the long-term.

6. Embrace Remote or Hybrid Work Policies

Allowing employees to work from home permanently, even part-time as hybrid employees, can reduce the need for office space, lower energy consumption, and decrease commuting costs. This not only saves your company money but also can save your employees money and increase employee satisfaction and productivity. The COVID-19 pandemic and the years after have shown that remote work can be a viable long-term strategy for many businesses.

Have Remote Employees? Here's how they can get in the zone... and stay there.

One of the major benefactors from the WFH revolution? The earth.

7. Energy Management Systems

Using an energy management system (EMS) can help monitor and control energy use more efficiently. By understanding energy consumption patterns, businesses can make more informed decisions that lead to additional cost reductions. EMS can also help in identifying areas where energy use can be optimized.

8. Green Certifications

Obtaining green certifications like LEED, Energy Star, or Green Business Certification can make a business more attractive to consumers and lead to operational efficiencies. These certifications can also qualify businesses for tax credits, rebates, or reduced insurance rates, adding to the financial benefits of sustainability.

9. Eco-Friendly Packaging

Switching to eco-friendly packaging reduces material costs and appeals to environmentally conscious consumers. Using recycled or biodegradable materials for packaging can also decrease waste and enhance the company's reputation for sustainabilit.

10. Leveraging Sustainable Business Models

Adopting sustainable business models such as the circular economy, which focuses on keeping resources in use for as long as possible, or the shared economy, which reduces the need for individual ownership, can lead to significant environmental and economic benefits. These models promote resource efficiency and reduce waste, aligning business practices with sustainable development goals.

The Moral of the Story:

Implementing sustainable practices is not only beneficial for the environment but also for the financial health and reputation of small businesses. By investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, and sustainable procurement, businesses can reduce costs and enhance their appeal to eco-conscious consumers. Additionally, waste reduction, remote work policies, energy management systems, green certifications, eco-friendly packaging, and sustainable business models can contribute to long-term success and competitiveness. Embracing sustainability is a win-win strategy that can help small businesses thrive in an increasingly eco-aware market.

Hero Illustration from Dall-E. Prompt: "Please create a simple cartoon illustration spotlighting a 'green' business in the style of 1990s business magazines like Forbes and Entrepreneur."

Stock Photos courtesy of Pexels.