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Sustainability: Why it matters

Sustainability. It’s a word you’ve probably heard more often lately, especially as an increasing number of consumers and businesses start to consider their environmental impact. Many of us have probably thought about our own carbon footprint… and then wondered about the carbon footprint of our favorite businesses.

The Sustainable Global Growth and Shopper Expectations report by ESW revealed that Gen Z and millennials displayed the highest consideration for sustainability, at 94% and 93%, respectively. That means consumers will be—if they aren’t already—looking to purchase from businesses that run sustainably or are making strides to do so. 

If you think you can run your business as usual and not worry about becoming more sustainable—think again. Consumers speak with their dollars, which don’t stretch as far as they used to. So, let’s talk about how important it is for your small business to be sustainable, and look at some actionable ways you can put sustainability into practice now. 

Why it’s important for your small business to be sustainable

Sustainability has become increasingly important for several reasons: 

  • Environmental impact. Small businesses (which make up a majority of companies around the globe) have a significant environmental footprint. When they adopt sustainable practices, the impact on natural resources is reduced.

  • Cost savings. When businesses become more sustainable, they typically reduce waste and increase efficiency. This can result in reduced costs.

  • Regulatory compliance. Governments are implementing more environmental regulations worldwide to reduce carbon footprints. Becoming sustainable helps businesses remain compliant and avoid penalties.

  • Consumer demand. Small businesses that practice sustainability will attract consumers looking for sustainable and ethically produced items. Considering the growing number of younger shoppers who prefer sustainable companies, this can have a lasting impact on businesses.

  • Competitive advantage. Businesses that focus on becoming more efficient and reducing their environmental impact may be able to edge out the competition, especially if their competitors have made no similar moves.

  • Employee attraction and retention. Just as consumers are investing in sustainable companies, many employees in the younger generations are looking to work for businesses that share their same commitment to sustainability.

  • Community and social responsibility. Small businesses are important fixtures within their communities. Adopting sustainable practices demonstrates their dedication to social responsibility. This can strengthen community ties and increase business in the long run.

It’s also important to keep in mind that sustainability is often linked with long-term business viability. If your business can adapt to a changing environment, there’s a strong chance your business will remain successful for a long time.

Ways for your small business to become more sustainable

From large to small, there are several actionable steps businesses can take to become more sustainable.

  • Hybrid or remote work. If your business allows for it, consider adopting a hybrid or 100% remote work environment. Telecommuting reduces commuting emissions and the amount of paper in the workplace. You could also encourage and reward your employees for carpooling, biking or using public transportation.

  • Energy and water conservation. If your business must remain in-office, consider changes such as energy-efficient lightbulbs, appliances and equipment. Also, think about installing water-efficient features like low-flow faucets or toilets.

  • Sustainable sourcing. Be sure to source materials and products from local suppliers to reduce transportation costs and work with suppliers who also practice sustainability.

  • Community engagement. Have your business engage and participate in local community initiatives, and educate your team and customers about sustainability practices.

Start your sustainability journey

Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword—it’s a strategic business decision that impacts the environment, your reputation…and your bottom line. Your business won’t become 100% sustainable overnight, but taking small steps now, like going completely digital or sourcing sustainable products, will make a huge impact on your customer base and your long-term success. 

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