Sustainability is the topic everyone’s talking about, and it’s more than just a passing trend. Businesses are making major efforts to implement sustainable practices and policies within their own operations, thereby boosting efficiency and helping the planet in the process.
If you’re curious about some of the strategies being employed by today’s entrepreneurs, we’ve compiled a list of bright ideas that might give you some insight and inspiration.
It’s a practice that has gone on too long in the business world: hands-off outsourcing that does away with transparency in favor of quick profits.
Thankfully, more companies are rethinking this approach and engaging with the production of their products on a more personal level, ensuring more sustainable outcomes.
“We are very much involved in the manufacturing process of our CBD offerings because we want them to be created as organically as possible,” said Abraham Rahmanizadeh, COO and Co-Founder of Leafwell Botanicals. “We take pride in the care and concern we put into formulating our products and we encourage others to ensure that their products are made naturally. It may require some extra time to observe and modify your production process, but in the end the health and environmental benefits will make these efforts worthwhile.”
A more engaged production process will not only help on the sustainability front, but result in higher quality products as well.
Take a Seat
We often think about sustainability on a macro level, but some entrepreneurs are thinking smaller before they take on the world’s challenges all at once.
It starts in our own offices, where we can certainly do a better job of managing resources and keeping an eye on our consumption.
“One way for a business to remain sustainable and not take too much from the environment is to simplify furniture usage,” said Matt Seaburn, President and Partner of Rent-a-Wheel. “Keep your desks and chairs minimalistic and do not include an extra couch unless you absolutely need to. There are many materials taken from nature in furniture such as wood and metal. It’s worth it to be mindful of how much we rely on the planet we live on for things we take for granted.”
It may be tempting to flash cash and build the office of your dreams, but how much do you really need to get the job done?
Start with Workers
Rather than trying to make every global citizen adhere to your sustainable vision, why not start with the people in your own company and see how that goes, first?
You might learn a lot about how people conceive of sustainability and how important ideas catch on and propagate.
“Like any movement that requires monumental effort, sustainability starts on an individual level, meaning you and your employees should all take some initiative of their own,” said Kelli Lane, Chief Marketing Officer of Genexa. “It’s a good idea to raise awareness in your office or remote work community on key issues and try to get conversations going without detracting from the work that needs to be done each day.”
Just by planting the right seeds at the right time, you can do a lot of good for the world in the long term.
Some brands are sustainable by their very nature, promoting an important message and backing it up by practicing what they preach.
Even if your company doesn’t have sustainability in its DNA, you can find an angle and broadcast it in an effective way.
“Outstanding Foods is inherently sustainable as a plant-based food company, since meat consumption creates more greenhouse gases than all cars and planes, combined,” said Bill Glaser, CEO of Outstanding Foods. “We’re not just a snack for vegetarians and vegans – going plant-based for one snack can hugely reduce an individual’s carbon footprint while proving on a macro scale that there is a market for plant-based foods, incentivizing more brands to make the switch.”
Maybe your next product or service will feature sustainable materials or connect to an initiative that shows your company’s dedication to the cause.
We didn’t have much of a choice in 2020, but many companies quickly realized that the remote workplace was a net gain in terms of sustainability and productivity in general.
If there was a silver lining to the events of the past year, this was it!
“The most obvious way businesses can become more sustainable is by keeping their workplaces remote or in a hybrid environment,” said Steve O’Dell, CEO and Co-Founder of Tenzo Tea. “Keeping the majority of your team at home can help fight the amount of people traveling in a day and the amount of power used from an office. It’s a very simple shift, but it can go a long way to make sure that your business is making the right decisions in terms of sustainability.”
Not every company can thrive with remote setups, but it’s worth investigating different routes to establish a stronger digital infrastructure.
Every so often, we see an acronym actually worth memorizing. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is definitely an important one.
This is the framework that will guide the next generation of business leaders toward a sustainable future, so you better get on board sooner than later!
“The concept of corporate social responsibility has long been used as an effective lens through which to examine the actions business can take toward ensuring mutual long-term well-being and sustainability,” said Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.
CSR practices are constantly undergoing evolutions and changes, so be sure to pay attention and stay on top of the latest advancements.
Health Above All
It seems obvious to some of us, but we must remember that our own personal health is the foundation for any positive movement in business, culture, and everything else worthwhile.
“To promote a more sustainable economy and environment, we need to focus on the health and wellbeing of our bodies and minds first,” said Dr. Blake Livingood, Founder and CEO of Livingood Daily. “We won’t make it very far in our efforts to save the world if we can’t save ourselves first. That’s part of the reason why I stress individual health and wellness so strongly, and why my message resonates with people everywhere.”
By promoting healthy habits and wellness initiatives in the workplace, other efforts like sustainability and resource management will fall into place with ease.
Be Smart, Recycle
It’s a message we’ve been told since middle school, but it remains relevant to this day. Recycling needs to happen in the home, in the office, and on an industrial level to make sure we hit our sustainability goals as a society.
“A great way to make sure that your business is taking the proper steps to sustainability is to make sure that the packaging you are using is all recyclable or recycled materials,” said Joshua Tatum, Co-Founder of Canvas Cultures. “In reality, businesses send a whole range of products left and right, and if you are not careful about the type of packaging you are using then it can make a dent in how sustainable your business truly is. Make conscious choices of what type of packaging you will be using and how it will affect your local community.”
There are so many ways to sharpen up your company’s recycling and production methods, so start looking into improvements now.
Supply Chain Challenges
For the average consumer, supply chains are largely a mystery. Unfortunately, many companies also lack transparency in how they obtain their materials and where they all come from.
“If you want to make an impact in regards to your business’s sustainability, you need to properly analyze your supply chain,” said Melissa South, CMO of SwingTie. “If you can know what products are coming from where and how good the companies you align yourself with fit into your business’s sustainability cause, then you can feel more confident knowing that the goods and materials you are getting can be considered sustainable.”
We’re only just starting to shine a light on supply chains and making adjustments, so start small and make incremental improvements where possible.
Broadcast on Social
Even if your brand is just finding its footing, you’ve likely got plenty of social media followers and plenty of opportunities to broadcast a good message to the masses.
Why not use this platform to enact positive change and get the conversation going about sustainability?
“Today’s brands have an opportunity to spread awareness through social media, on their websites, and in the message of their marketing,” said Ashwin Sokke, Co-Founder of WOW Skin Science. “It’s important not to be too preachy or political, since you risk alienating a segment of your audience. Keep things general and well-intentioned as a way to get more people on board.”
There is a right and wrong way to talk about these issues on social media, so know the etiquette and be smart with your statements.
Many companies are only just beginning to engage with concepts of sustainability and they don’t know where to start.
A good foundation is to see sustainable practices as an opportunity for advancement and improvement, rather than a source of stress or uncertainty.
“Corporate social responsibility is not just about managing, reducing, and avoiding risk, it is about creating opportunities, generating improved performance, making money and leaving the risks far behind,” said Sunil Misser, Head of Global Sustainability Practice at PwC.
The businesses that use sustainability to their advantage will be the ones to win big in the future.
Careful with the Tech
Remember our recycling lesson from earlier? It goes far beyond cardboard boxes and takeout containers.
Everything in your business can be recycled at some point, even the big, fancy electronics that run the show. Know what to do with these items to make a major impact.
“In this technology-filled world, the best way to make sure that you stay sustainable is by always recycling the electronic products you use,” said Ryan Solomon, CEO of Kissmetrics. “So often you will see that electronic items are never recycled properly. People see them as something that should be thrown away rather than recycled, and this is far from the truth. So many electric products can be recycled to make for a better workplace that values sustainability.”
It’s not always intuitive what should be done with certain electronic items, so do some research and get it right the first time.
Everyone will need to make small sacrifices to enjoy a more sustainable future – that’s just part of the deal that we accept from the start.
Look around your office space or and your digital infrastructure to see how you can be more efficient, cut down on waste, and even speed up daily processes.
“While it may seem like something small, take the printers out of your individual office spaces, and have your entire team use one printer that can be accessible to everyone,” said Timmy Yanchun, Co-Founder of LTHR Shaving. “In this way, it will force your team members to really think about each email that they decided to print out, or thinking that they need a hard copy of the latest meeting point. And remember, even the tiniest step can eventually have a large impact!”
Make an Investment
The big fear for many companies is that sustainability practices will be costly and not worth the upfront investment. Quite the opposite is true, of course, especially if you zoom out and look at the long-term effects of these decisions.
“Opting for more sustainable products and services is not always the most cost-effective choice, which is why so many businesses hesitate to take that step,” said Dr. Robert Applebaum, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. “However, the truth is that the cost pales in comparison to the challenges we face in the future, so we need to think on a much bigger timeframe, starting now.”
Remember, you don’t need to drain the bank account all at once to become sustainable, and even small steps forward can make a difference.
Filter Out Vendors
It’s not easy to determine which vendors are better or worse for your sustainability efforts, but we suggest running those numbers sooner than later.
This will clean up your supply chains and also encourage vendors to step up their sustainability game.
“To be more sustainable, companies should pay close attention to the vendors that they use, or businesses from which they order their product,” said Heidi Robinson, Chief Operating Officer of Because Market. “If your company partners or suppliers are leaving a large carbon footprint, then that lack of sustainability can trickle right down to your business as well. So, be sure to do your research!”
More reports and metrics are made available each year that rate vendor sustainability, so keep an eye on those as they’re released.
One at a Time
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the number of requirements and expectations that come with sustainability, so don’t try to do everything at once. Smart entrepreneurs go piece-by-piece and move forward in a manageable way.
“Sustainability means so many things, and you can’t check off all the criteria in one swoop, no matter how hard you try,” said Brandon Monaghan, Co-Founder of Miracle Brand. “It’s much smarter to pinpoint a few areas of focus that you improve tangibly each quarter, whether it’s supply chain efficiency, waste reduction, improving wages, or whatever is most important to you and your team members.”
There are likely a few things on your agenda that take priority over others, so start there.
Keep it Clean
When it comes to sanitation, everyone can get a bit carried away. We buy products, try different things, and often end up using more than we need.
Reconsider how you’re approaching standard maintenance and hygiene at work to make a small impact on sustainability.
“Every company needs to stay clean, especially when we’re still in a pandemic,” said Travis Killian, Owner and CEO of Everlasting Comfort. “However, the cleaning supplies that we opt to use at the office can sometimes be bad for the environment. Rather than focus solely on cost or convenience, seek out cleaning agents that are safer for the environment. And, once you find products that you like, many companies offer scheduled deliveries, so you don’t even have to drive to a store to make the purchase. That’s a double win!”
Now, with remote work taking hold, we may not need so many cleaning supplies for the office anyways!
So, you want to dive in headfirst to a sustainable strategy, but what’s your first move? This question can leave many companies paralyzed from the outset, which is why they’re seeking assistance from professionals in the space.
“It can be hard to analyze the sustainability of your company if you don’t have an outside perspective on your operations and footprints,” said Michael Fischer, Founder of Elite HRT. “Many businesses are bringing in third-party consultants and services to help them improve sustainability in key areas, which can actually help save some money in the long run.”
The benefits of consulting may not be apparent the first day or week, but they will compound over time, undoubtedly.
Tell the World
It helps to document your sustainability journey so that you know whether you’re making progress, and to what degree.
The next step is sharing these findings with online followers so that they know you’re making an effort and can support you in the process.
“One important way that your business can be more sustainable is to share the ways in which you’re actually making a difference,” said Rachel Jones, Head of PR at Hope Health. “Write a blog post that clearly defines your eco-friendly strategy, and share where you’re succeeding, and where you may still need a little work. Exchanging ideas with other like-minded companies can help everyone decrease their carbon footprint. After all, we’re all in this together.”
As you might imagine, this approach is also a great marketing tactic!
How do you make sustainability more engaging and fun on an individual level? Try turning into a game that inspires a bit of healthy competition and incentivizes people to put forth their best efforts.
“Having a sustainable business is extremely important these days, which is why offering employee incentives to get on board can be a fantastic way to implement real change,” said Jared Zabaldo, Founder of USAMM. “Many companies keep leaderboards for their employees for sales, but why not for sustainability? Give points for riding a bike to work, for carpooling or a number of other eco-friendly ideas. Before long, your employees will do these things simply out of habit, which can change your company culture dramatically.”
When there’s a reward at the end of the tunnel, you can expect way more participation and excitement, no matter what the subject may be.
Eye on Energy
Modern businesses are fairly energy efficient, but there’s always progress to be made. The first step is acknowledging the status quo and committing to improvement.
“If you really want to see a change in your company’s sustainability, closely monitor the energy used every month,” said Jordan Dwayne, CEO and Founder of 6 Ice. “Additionally, as incoming revenue allows, begin replacing equipment that isn’t eco-friendly or up to current standards. Older electronics and office machinery can be real power drainers, so keep an eye out for those, especially!”
These days, the best technology is also the most energy-efficient, so you and your employees win on every level by making key upgrades.
We touched on remote work before, but it’s worth reiterating the positive impact these practices can have on sustainability in your company and beyond.
If you think you missed the boat on remote work, think again – the time to adapt is now.
“Continuing remote work is a great way to be sustainable,” said Jim Beard, COO of BoxGenie. “It minimizes employees having to drive to and from work every day, as well as allows for a general lesser use of non-recyclable materials. Consider consulting with a sustainability expert to determine what your business is doing that is harmful to the environment and craft a team to crack down on how to fix it.”
We’ve only scraped the surface of the sustainability conversation today, and there’s so much more to discuss. Listen to what these entrepreneurs have to say on the subject, because they’ll be the ones shaping the future for us all!