If you’re setting up a sustainable business, or you’re trying to switch your established business practices to a more sustainable model, it isn’t always plain sailing. Although being a responsible and eco-friendly business is becoming more important, it can be hard even knowing where to start or what you need to do.
Even if your business offers a service instead of a physical product, there are plenty of ways you can offer environmentally sound service. But, whatever your business model, you’re likely to encounter these challenges to your attempts to go fully sustainable.
Although we hear the word used increasingly by many big businesses, what does it actually mean? This initial stumbling block can make it very difficult for businesses to set up their environmental strategy and even get started.
Sourcing sustainable materials for your products and aiming for a zero waste office are a good start. But the umbrella of sustainability covers a very wide spectrum, and understanding what it covers is a job in itself.
One of the best ways to understand if you’re meeting the guidelines of a sustainable business is to sign up for one of the environmental certification standards, like B Corp. A not for profit organization committed to providing a framework for any business that seeks to be both environmentally and socially responsible.
Getting accredited with B Corp offers your business 30 questions to assess environmental sustainability. If these are passed, you can then apply for certification by completing the bigger 200 question questionnaire.
Some of the best-known businesses that are already certified B Corps include Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, Danone and Seventh Generation. Although these established players have built their business over many years and have the luxury of the budget to be sustainable, there are many startups who use B Corps certification as their framework for sustainability. In fact startup fashion brands, such as sustainable shoe company Baabuk, use B Corps certification from the outset. It’s a great way to highlight what you’re doing right and flag up what you need to do to meet the criteria for responsible business.
Company Culture and Employee Engagement
It’s all very well establishing the ways and means for your business to go environmentally sustainable. But if your team doesn’t engage with your sustainability guidelines, it can be all for nothing. Equally, some industries might be hardwired to a fast-paced and wasteful culture, where using disposable items or avoiding recycling is ingrained.
So how can you change your company culture or encourage engagement? The first step is to establish your company goals and strategy with regards to sustainability. What is it you want your business to be? Are you aiming to go zero waste, or looking to reduce your dependence on suppliers who have suspect environmental practices?
Once you’ve established your end goals, you’ll need to communicate them clearly. Simply sending out an email probably won’t be the most effective way to change the mindset of your team. Regular meetings, outlining everyone’s responsibility as part of the strategy and monitoring of the progress you’re making will get everyone involved.
Establishing a sustainability team, or an officer in each department in charge of reaching your targets will also encourage more engagement. And by reinforcing the importance of your sustainability goals regularly, and keeping track of developments, your team will take your sustainability targets as seriously as you do.
Time and Money
Probably the number one issue with most businesses looking to boost their sustainability. But strangely, it’s probably one of the simplest to put right. At least on an elementary level.
One of the first things to do for any business looking to be sustainable is to ensure that things are right at home. This means using green energy where possible, switching to energy friendly options such as LED lighting or using smart sensors to control heating and air conditioning. These options won’t just help the planet and contribute to your sustainability goals, they’ll also save money.
When it comes to the time issue, well, it comes down to understanding that sustainability isn’t just a luxury but an essential. More than half of all millennials would prefer to use a sustainable business, meaning that if your competitors are going green, you could be losing out. And, as mentioned above, many green options are not just environmentally friendly, they’re also a good way to save money.
So how do you have the time to take a look at your eco credentials? If you really don’t have the time then delegating it to your team and giving incentives for meeting targets should be very effective.
Sustainability in business isn’t just a buzzword, it’s become a proof that your business isn’t just about money and profit. And with more and more consumers choosing brands that align with their personal standards and values, going green can be the difference between success and failure.