Making your small business sustainable
by Rebecca Neumann, Senior Paralegal at Rocket Lawyer
With the global economy set to lose up to 18% of its GDP because of climate change by 2050, environmental sustainability (or ‘going green’) has never been more important. But what steps can a small business take to become more sustainable, and is it really worth it?
Why should a small business become sustainable?
The most important reason to make a business sustainable is to protect and conserve natural resources, which can help combat environmental issues like climate change.
Sustainable businesses are also more likely to be chosen by staff, customers and investors. According to an Edelman Global Brand Report, when choosing businesses to engage with, investors, staff and customers alike care about the societal impact of that business. Consumers in particular are placing great importance on businesses being sustainable. They also expect businesses to play a positive role in society, especially with the rise of B-corporations like Ben & Jerry’s. This expectation is reflected in consumers’ buying habits, with the Global Sustainability Study 2021 finding that, in the past five years, 85% of people worldwide have changed their purchase and consumption behaviour to become more sustainable.
Studies have also found that being sustainable can lower costs and increase profitability. By cutting down on supply chain waste and emissions, making efficiency improvements, and gaining favour with customers, green businesses tend to reduce costs and increase profits.
What steps can a business take to become sustainable?
Becoming greener doesn’t have to be costly or difficult - businesses can start small and still make a difference.
As with all projects, the first step is to plan. Consider what your business wants to achieve, set realistic goals and timeframes, and determine a way to monitor your progress.
2. Consider your business and staff
An easy way to make your business more sustainable is to change how your business operates on a day-to-day basis and to change your corporate culture by involving staff. Steps you can take include:
- encouraging staff to use reusable travel mugs, water bottles and take away containers. Consider providing branded versions to promote your business and build community spirits
- going paperless and avoiding printing documents, where possible
- using recyclable and/or eco-friendly packaging and shipping for any products (e.g. cornstarch packaging or biodegradable packing peanuts)
- encouraging cycling (e.g. by helping staff purchase bicycles through the Cyclescheme) or car-sharing
- changing in-house menus or where you eat as a team (e.g. by introducing plant-based options, buying locally grown/produced food, or eating in another way that is sustainable for the planet)
3. Improve business premises
Consider how you can make your business premises more environmentally friendly. For example, by:
- insulating the premises and turning the heating or air conditioning down
- switching to more energy-efficient equipment and/or appliances
- switching to green energy suppliers
- installing solar panels
- keeping bees in available outdoor spaces, like roofs
- replacing lighting with energy-efficient alternatives (e.g. LEDs)
4. Evaluate supply chains
As every business relationship contributes to how sustainable your business is, ask yourself the following questions when deciding to work with another business:
- how sustainable are their products? Consider how the products were made and transported (e.g. plastic products made abroad in unknown factories are less likely to be sustainable)
- where are they located? An easy way to be greener is to work with local suppliers
- do they use unnecessary packaging to ship their products?
- what environmental policies and/or procedures do they have in place? For example, consider if they use environmentally friendly practices in their business; if they are a B-Corp; or if they pay those in their supply chain well (e.g. farmers who source their coffee beans)
While these steps provide a starting point for helping your business to become more sustainable, there is always more that can be done. Trying to decrease your business’ environmental impact is an ongoing task and it is a good idea to outline your commitment to managing your business’ environmental impacts in an Environmental policy.
You can use Rocket Lawyer’s ask a lawyer service if you have any questions about business sustainability.