Sustainability is more than just a popular corporate trend. It’s the new standard companies should pursue every step of the way.
Follow these tips to be profitable in an environmentally responsible manner.
1. Have a Social Purpose
Your social purpose is your company’s north star, pointing you in the right direction. It’s a belief guiding your decisions, defining your culture and inspiring your corporate social responsibility initiatives. Contrary to your vision and mission statements, values, and business strategies, your social purpose is a never-ending quest you must pursue forever, even if it’s unattainable.
Your social purpose can be anything you find of immense importance to society. You must tie environmental conservation to your business model to lead a sustainable venture.
Considering the various challenges plaguing the planet and its inhabitants, participating in the circular economy is the most noble social purpose. Unlike the linear economy — whose pattern goes from production to sales to consumption to disposal — the circular economy closes the loop. It aims to maximize and prolong the value of existing resources to minimize pollution and waste and help the environment regain its health.
Serious sustainable small-business owners embrace circular practices. Actively participating in the circular economy can be challenging since most organizations operate under the linear model.
It takes a fundamental mindset shift to develop a system to preserve the environment. If you do it right, you’ll be profitable, attract the best talent, retain customers, get good press, win the hearts of communities and magnetize investors.
2. Harness Solar Power
One of the easiest ways to be a zero-net company is to adopt solar energy. The United States still uses fossil fuels to generate 60% of its electricity needs. Conversely, investing in a solar system allows you to run your operations on clean power and reduces your reliance on the grid.
Fully adopting renewable energy can be challenging. Solar panels and batteries get cheaper over time, but catching enough sunlight to produce the electricity to meet your needs is infeasible. Solar energy may not even be viable if you own a power-hungry factory.
Adopting a small solar system is better than consuming nothing but dirty energy. Besides, you can consider nuclear, biomass, wind, geothermal, hydropower, tidal or any combination of these clean sources when solar is impractical.
3. Go Electric
Select electric models when renting or buying machines — automobiles, generators, heaters — to help eliminate air pollution and reduce your company’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Electrified sedans, sports utility vehicles and pickups emit 45, 56 and 74 tons less carbon dioxide over their lifetimes than their gas-powered counterparts. These figures translate to 100 to 170 barrels of oil. Climate change will persist even if you go with electric or hybrid cars, but it can help mitigate its disastrous effects worldwide.
4. Support Remote Work
Giving your employees the privilege to work from home indirectly reduces your organization’s carbon footprint. Transportation accounts for over 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, so not forcing your team members to commute can help slow climate change.
Moreover, having fewer people in the office can reduce your company’s electricity bill. Allowing your remote employees to use their own devices will lessen the demand for electronics and the precious metals and minerals needed to make them.
5. Buy Carbon Credits
Focus on carbon offsetting if you can’t achieve neutrality, no matter how hard you try. Buying carbon credits or offsets compensates for the pollution your company emits due to your business activity. The money funds environmental sustainability projects.
Some developers build fossil-fuel-free power plants or capture methane from garbage to produce electricity, while others focus on forestry and conservation efforts. Industrial carbon and landfill gas capture projects collect fresh emissions before they reach the atmosphere and artificially store them deep underground or reuse them. In contrast, carbon sequestration projects remove atmospheric carbon and store it in natural reservoirs like forests and oceans.
You can buy carbon credits directly from the developers you want to support. Alternatively, you can use a broker to simplify the process or make a purchase on carbon offset marketplaces.
6. Use Green Packaging
Approximately 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean through rivers yearly, endangering marine creatures and compromising human food sources. It’s so bad scientists have discovered plastic particles in rainwater. These pollutants are present in human blood, too.
The world mismanages 22% of plastic waste, so using eco-friendly packaging materials matters to prevent uncollected litter from impacting the environment negatively. As part of the circular economy, you must adopt greener alternatives when you can. Supporting them will increase their demand, make them more commercially viable and financially incentivize their manufacturers.
Upcycled corrugated cardboard, recycled paper, biodegradable plastic, ecological textiles, edible films and reusable bags are some of your best options. Air pillows made from recycled content and packaging based on mushroom, seaweed and cornstarch are also on the market.
7. Embrace Ethical Sourcing
Ethical sourcing focuses on procuring raw materials and finished products acquired or manufactured responsibly. Unethical suppliers significantly harm the environment, exploit workers, deceive the public and compete with others dishonestly.
Exercise due diligence when doing business with other companies. Implement sourcing policies to determine which vendors observe sustainable practices and comply with legal requirements to distinguish ethical supply-chain partners from disreputable ones.
8. Partner With Local Suppliers
Localize your supply chain as much as possible to reduce your carbon footprint. Domestic suppliers generally consume less energy to deliver orders. On the contrary, international companies burn more fossil fuel to ship and store products worldwide.
9. Minimize Waste
Waste is an unnecessary burden on the environment. It congests landfills and depletes finite resources. Disposal is as big a problem as reduction. Mismanaging your company’s garbage can endanger your employees’ health and result in government penalties, translating to a loss of profits.
Reducing business waste to zero is nearly impossible. Fortunately, you can contribute less to landfill congestion in different ways.
Reducing your company’s consumption, adopting eco-friendly secondary packaging that uses as little material as possible, using reusable items instead of disposable ones and recycling whatever you can go a long way. Securing your products helps prevent them from getting damaged while in transit and being labeled defective. If you generate tons of organic matter, compost it so it decays in an eco-friendly way.
10. Pay Livable Wages
Overpopulation correlates with the most pressing environmental challenges — pollution, climate change, animal habitat destruction, resource depletion and poor waste management.
Poverty is one of the driving forces for unchecked population growth, so paying your employees enough to cover their basic living expenses will make a difference. Helping raise their quality of life today will lead to a healthier, more educated and more environment-conscious workforce tomorrow.
Wanting to minimize labor expenses to maintain positive cash flow is valid and makes business sense. One of the best strategies to pay your team livable wages and turn a profit is using talent from countries with low living costs.
Think Your Circular Model Through
The road to sustainability is arduous but rewarding. Implement changes to show your competitors the way and inspire them to be more environmentally responsible in business.