3 Reasons Your Sustainable Business May Not Be All That Environmentally Friendly

Several business moves are widely accepted as sustainable, including reducing or eliminating plastic packaging, using minimal packaging, and sourcing recycled packaging materials. While these actions are certainly beneficial for the environment, there’s more to sustainability than using eco-friendly materials. 

To be an environmentally friendly business, you need to be intentional with your packaging. However, you also need to source your products, components, and materials from vendors who adhere to sustainable business practices. In other words, sustainability must exist all the way up the chain for your business to be truly sustainable. 

Is your business truly sustainable? Here are 3 things to look into to find the answer to that question.

  1. Is your packaging supplier sustainably certified? 

Just as there are certifications to distinguish organic products, there are certifications that distinguish packaging materials as having come from responsible sources. Consumers want to know where their packaging comes from, and many large packaging companies wouldn’t survive without sustainable certifications. 

For example, Burd & Fletcher, a well-known packaging company, has obtained the Chain of Custody certification from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI). The SFI audits all sources for wood and paper products to ensure the preservation of water sources, wildlife habitat, forests, and biodiversity. 

Many of the certified sustainable sources for wood and paper products are committed to planting a certain number of new trees for each tree they cut down. However, that’s just one aspect of sustainability while sourcing raw materials. 

Some companies only use biodegradable hydraulic fluid to prevent contamination. Other companies source raw materials from crops they plant and harvest themselves. Industrial hemp, for example, is useful in just about every industry. Some companies have started their own hemp farms. Hemp can replace paper, yet requires less water and grows much faster than trees. 

You’ll spend money to obtain a sustainable certification, but that’s just the cost of doing business in our eco-conscious world today.

  2. Are your business partners sustainable?

In business, all of your associations matter. Are your business partners running sustainable businesses? If not, are they taking steps to become more sustainable? 

Most people will be understanding if a company is just starting to embrace environmentally-friendly practices. However, if you’ve partnered with a company that is actively harming the environment or involved in harmful practices, that will reflect on your business. It also makes your business not that sustainable after all. 

Before partnering with any business, do your homework. Find out everything you can about the company and its stakeholders, especially if it’s a large corporation. You don’t want to end up supporting a company like Nestle, which has earned itself the worst reputation on the planet for mixing contaminated water with infant formula, expelling massive pollution, and more. 

If you partner with any individual or corporation, your customers will uncover all of their unsustainable practices at some point, and you will come under fire for your association.

  3. Do you know where and how your components are made?

Knowing where your components come from is essential. If you’re buying cheap, small parts on Amazon made by a company that creates massive pollution, you’re not sustainable. Those parts might be so small it seems insignificant to research their origins – like screws or resistors for electronic components – but you need to know the whole story. 

For example, if you’re using stainless steel screws, that’s smart in terms of durability. However, stainless steel requires four times the energy of regular steel to produce. Stainless steel screw production also creates ten times more pollution than regular steel during production. If your product isn’t used outdoors or at risk for moisture damage, you may be fine using galvanized steel (or even plastic) screws. Yes, plastic is bad for the environment, but until a hard plastic alternative exists, very few companies will be able to avoid plastic components. 

If your goal is to be a truly sustainable business, every component you use to build your products, and every tool used on the assembly line, needs to be as ethical and sustainable as possible. You may need to pay a premium for small components, but that might be what it takes to say your company is sustainable from top to bottom.

Sustainability is a choice

With no concrete definition of sustainability, it’s hard to become a sustainable business. However, you can go to great lengths to ensure your raw materials and final products are produced as sustainably as possible.

You’ll pay more for higher quality materials and certifications, but that’s a necessary step that tells the world you’re being eco-responsible. In the end, if you can’t produce sustainably, you may want to consider producing a different product.

Rylie Holt