As a conscious business owner, you may worry about the consequences of your company’s practices. Being in business means you have the responsibility (and opportunity) to consider what you’re bringing into this world. Incorporating more sustainable practices into your business is a great way to make a positive impact on the environment and your local community.
The good news is that going green helps sales, too. More people than ever want to support green businesses, especially as new generations are aging into consumers. Gen Z is a particularly conscious generation, with most people in this group preferring to buy eco-friendly products.
With this change in preferences and a growing awareness about climate change, there’s never been a better time to go green.
Ways to increase sustainability in business
There are many ways to increase the sustainability of your business. Remember that there’s nothing wrong with starting small - every step helps make a difference.
Here are seven ways to green up your brand:
1. Get to know your supply chain
If you want to be a sustainable business, you’ll need to put some thought into your supply chain. Where do you source your ingredients and inputs? Every branch of your supply chain is either helping or hindering your environmental efforts.Therefore, adopting a green procurement protocol is imperative.
Make sure to support like-minded businesses and socially responsible companies. Wherever you can, source recyclable materials and nontoxic ingredients. It’s also a boon to your local economy if you can find ways to work with other small local businesses within 400 miles of your headquarters.
A great way to get a pulse on your supplier's ethics is to request a code of conduct form. This is essentially a survey on their sustainability initiatives. From this form you'll have a better idea if you want to do business with them -- plus it gets them thinking about ways they can improve, a win-win.
2. Set green goals
Setting up environmental impact goals will help your company get on track. You can establish either quarterly or yearly goals, but make sure they’re both achievable as well as measurable.
Maybe you want to transition to all zero-waste packaging by the end of the year, stop using an environmentally harmful ingredient in a product, or move from paper to digital forms for your employees. These are all great goals, but they’re more likely to transpire if you have solid metrics and deadlines.
Better yet, make your goals public by producing an annual sustainability report where you catalog your practices for your stakeholders to view. The extra level of accountability is sure to keep you in line.
3. Donate to or partner with like-minded organizations
It’s always great to partner with nonprofits or other organizations that are doing the work you want to see in the world. You can choose to completely partner up with an organization to consistently donate a small amount of profits, or use specific holidays and events to donate large commissions of sales on those particular days.
Supporting other sustainable businesses doesn’t have to be sales-based, either. There are other creative ways to support these organizations. Consider helping them with fundraisers, throwing an event in their favor, or paying your employees to volunteer a day every year.
4. Use cloud computing and paperless systems
These days, it’s easy to transition out of systems that rely on using large amounts of paper and printing. We now have access to great software programs and cloud computing that make it possible to share documents and information within a team without the need for paper.
5. Work towards zero waste in your packaging and systems
Packaging is huge, especially if you’re an eCommerce brand. Think about all the materials you’re using each time a customer orders something that needs to be packed and shipped. Where is all that material going to end up?
Find ways to move toward zero waste in your products. Think about what can be recycled, composted, or reused. Every piece of your packaging, from boxes to packing peanuts, can be replaced with a material that won’t end up in the landfill.
Within your operating facility, try sorting your waste more effectively by simply adding signage to your waste receptacles. Clearly calling out compost, recyclables, and landfill on bins for your employees makes sorting waste more easily accessible.
6. Help your customers use your products responsibly
According to a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers, 96 percent of people believe that their actions make a difference. That’s great news - that means they’re inspired to support brands that they feel are contributing to positive change.
It’s important to let them know about your sustainability efforts. Teach customers how to dispose of your packaging materials properly. Let them know how your products can be reused or upcycled. Make it simple for people to use your products responsibly.
Consumers want brands to help them make it easier to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Your responsibility as a business owner is to make it clear for your customers how they can help and be a part of the solution.
7. Become a certified B Corporation
Here’s one of our favorite ways to green up your business - get certified as a B Corp. This certification means you’re committed to sourcing environmentally friendly ingredients, supporting social causes and treating the environment and your employees well. It keeps your company in line and lets your customers know you’re legit.
Why become a certified B Corp?
The B Corp certification measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. The assessment to become certified shows how your company's operations affect your community, employees, environment, and customers. It’s that golden place where good commerce meets good stewardship.
B Lab, the certifying organization, assesses a company’s positive impact on the world. The use of sustainability, green initiatives, non-toxic ingredients - it’s all taken into consideration. Being certified acts as a stamp of approval, increasing your brand credibility and trust while assuring potential customers that you’re taking actions to be sustainable.
And again, this step towards sustainability has positive implications for your bottom line. Through the financial crisis of 2008-2009, companies that were B Corp certified had a 63% higher survival rate than those who weren’t. This shows us two important things - businesses that are focused on more than just profits are more resilient, and customers want to support those businesses.
To learn more about becoming a B Corp, check out B Lab’s documentation on becoming certified.