The State of Sustainability in Business
7 Steps to Make Your Business More Sustainable
Apple recently pledged to make products like the iPhone entirely from recycled materials, ultimately ending the need to mine the Earth for rare minerals and metals. While the company did not provide a date for this ambitions goal, the announcement signifies that corporate America is beginning to understand the interdependence between economic prosperity and the health of the environment.
According to the Huffington Post, a driving factor toward sustainable business practices is the knowledge that companies can be sustainable and profitable at the same time. In fact, it has taken a while to dispel that myth that sustainability stunts economic growth, which was likely fueled by the lack of federal environmental legislation over the past two decades. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a multi-national corporation to make a difference.
As a business, there are a variety of ways to operate more sustainably, from adopting renewable energy practices to selling goods in recycled packaging. Many people assume only multinational corporations can make a significant environmental impact. However, when you consider that 99.7 percent of all U.S. businesses are classified as small businesses, it’s easy to understand how a series of small steps can make a big impact. Below are a few sustainable practices companies of all sizes can easily adopt:
- Print on recycledpaper, or better yet, go paperless.
- Replace physical archive records with a digital filing system that is property backed up at an offsite location.
- Unplug electronics and chargers when they are not in use since they continuously draw low levels of power.
- Provide employee incentives to utilize public transportation.
- Select suppliers within a 20-mile radius rather than relying on goods that must be shipped across the country.
- Reassess your true office needs, opting for shared space and resources whenever possible.
- Don’t be afraid to promote your sustainable efforts because other business people and customers are looking for like-mined sources.
Many people think promoting their sustainability efforts is “tooting my own horn,” but customers want to know! In fact, a recent Nielsen Survey revealed that 55 percent of consumers worldwide say they’re willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.
When promoting your business as an eco-friendly company, avoid “greenwashing,” or overstating your efforts to present an environmentally-friendly public image. Simply communicate what you’re actually doing. Online marketing is an effective platform for sustainable campaigns because digital marketing campaigns require few natural resources. Below are a few effective terms to integrate into marketing materials:
- “Low-energy solution”
- “Sustainable product”
- “Non-toxic ingredients”
- “Low-waste” (or emissions)
- “Recycled materials”
The advantages to operating sustainably don’t end with positive brand reputation. Many RFPs are requiring efficient and sustainable practices from applicants. The logistics industry provides a clear example. Shippers that use intermodal strategies (using a combination of rail and highway) are more likely to receive contracts because intermodal cost less, is environmentally friendly and safer.
Out of the many ways businesses can operate sustainably, one simple practice stands out—spending money wisely. We hold considerable power in how we spend our money. Buying a product or service from a company is a vote in favor of how that company operates. Continual support of businesses with sustainable practices will reward them for their efforts, as well as encourage others to make changes that protect the environment.