5 Tips to Make Your Business More Sustainable
Sustainability is an increasing priority for both business owners and consumers, due to concerns about the environment and a greater cultural emphasis on operating businesses in a socially responsible way. Today, more than 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies are regularly issuing sustainability reports, informing stakeholders and consumers about their sustainability efforts.
But why is sustainability so important, and how can you make your business more sustainable?
Types of Sustainability
There are four main types of sustainability, all of which are focused on the long-term ability of this business to continue functioning without harming its surroundings:
- Environmental sustainability. Environmental sustainability is the most commonly practiced form of sustainability, and it’s arguably the most important for the modern era. Businesses become environmentally sustainable by reducing pollution, recycling as much as possible, and otherwise supporting a healthier natural environment. Some businesses even get certified as being environmentally sustainable to prove their efforts in this area.
- Human sustainability. Human sustainability is all about preserving the human element of your business and your community. This could include investing in the health and education of your employees, or philanthropic efforts to improve human wellbeing in your area.
- Social sustainability. Social sustainability attempts to preserve social capital, improving the quality of social interactions with cohesion, honesty, and reciprocity, among other important values.
- Economic sustainability. Economic sustainability is a business’s capacity to continue generating a profit for as long as possible, and promoting a healthy economy at large.
The Importance of Sustainability
Sustainability is important to businesses for three reasons:
- Long-term potential. Sustainability is all about optimizing conditions to be available for as long as possible. If your business is “sustainable” in every sense of the word, it should have no trouble continuing operations indefinitely.
- Harm reduction. Sustainability is also about reducing the harm your business does. You want your business to be a positive force in the world, and that means preventing your business from actively damaging its environment or community.
- Reputation. Promoting sustainability is a great way to improve your business’s reputation. You’ll be seen in a more favorable light, and modern consumers will be much more likely to buy from your business. You can even use sustainability as a selling point in your marketing and advertising campaigns.
How to Become More Sustainable
For the purposes of this guide, let’s focus on environmental sustainability. How can you make your business more sustainable?
Try these actionable strategies:
- Reduce your energy consumption. One of the best ways to improve environmental sustainability is to reduce your total energy consumption. Consuming energy is vital for your business’s operations, but it also contributes to pollution, carbon emissions, and therefore global climate change. You can improve sustainability with simple measures, like upgrading your light bulbs to LEDs, and investing in energy efficient appliances instead of old ones. You can also reduce energy consumption by operating more efficiently, such as by using a smaller space or simply by turning off all equipment when you aren’t using it.
- Reduce waste. Just as you should reduce your waste of electricity, you should reduce the waste your business produces. Some types of business carry a heavier burden than others; for example, if you’re running a manufacturing plant and your process results in wasteful byproducts, you may not be sure how to optimize this process to reduce waste. Otherwise, try to recycle as much as possible, reduce the amount of things you purchase, and reuse things instead of throwing them away.
- Reduce direct environmental impact. You may also improve your environmental friendliness by controlling the direct impact you have on the environment. This could mean occupying less physical space, introducing fewer pollutants into the environment (including sound and light pollution), and creating spaces where nature can thrive in harmony with your business.
- Buy locally. Though it’s a small step to take, it can have a big impact. Try to source things locally when you have the option. You’ll ship them across shorter distances, reducing pollution from fuel, and you’ll also promote a healthier local economy.
- Promote environmental initiatives. You can also get involved in environmental initiatives. For example, you and your employees could volunteer to plant trees, or native plants that foster a healthier local environment. You can also pledge to donate a portion of your profits to an environmental cause, or support an environmentally conscious nonprofit organization in another way.
If you’re interested in other forms of sustainability, consider putting together a comprehensive corporate social responsibility (CSR) plan. A sustainable business is a business that can continue operating for many years, if not decades—and it’s also a more trusted, reputable business. It’s important to take sustainability seriously.