7 easy habits that will make your business more sustainable (and save you money)

7 easy habits that will make your business more sustainable (and save you money)

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Businesses of all kinds are making sustainability a priority. In today’s world, a sustainable business model is practically a necessity. Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store, a tech startup, or even a law firm, now is the time to embrace a sustainable business model.

While adopting sustainable practices may seem expensive or out of reach, there are many easy and cost-effective ways to weave corporate sustainability into the fabric of your business.

Related: The 4 Principles of Sustainable Innovation for Modern Brands

Ashlee Piper, sustainability expert and author of Give a Sh*t: Do good. Live better. Save the planet. says corporate sustainability can take many forms.

“There really is no single rubric for sustainability…This is very much a self-developed, choose-your-own adventure game,” Piper says.

Although small business owners with lower profit margins may be intimidated by the idea of ​​committing to a sustainable business model, Piper says small businesses are actually in a better position to adopt effective sustainability practices because they are generally more agile and adaptable than larger companies.

What is Corporate Sustainability?

Corporate sustainability refers to transparent, long-term strategies that prioritize the environmental, social and ethical realities of your business. It’s a broad term, and it can be implemented in different ways.

Related: How to future-proof your remote team

Some companies might prioritize local sourcing or reducing carbon emissions, while others might emphasize donating a portion of their profits to NGOs or social programs. Some employees might be interested in cruelty-free and vegan food options, while others care more about closed-loop manufacturing. It is up to you to decide exactly which sustainable path to take and how you are going to achieve these goals.

Piper suggests starting small and building momentum until you’re ready to implement a more robust corporate sustainability model in your business. Ultimately, you’ll want sustainability to be a core aspect of your business. In the long term, you should plan to hire advisors dedicated to your sustainability goals and even include sustainability efforts in your financial reports. You don’t have to start here (and you shouldn’t), but keep in mind that the more sustainability actions you take, the more long-term financial and ecological benefits you’ll get. .

Here are some tips that will help you build momentum in your small business’ sustainability work and ultimately lead a more sustainable business. Here are some handy fruits first, then tips for building bigger projects that will help your business save money and become sustainable from the ground up.

1. Turn it off

A very simple way to cut costs and make your business more environmentally friendly is to adopt a “switch off” policy in your office. This means that all lights and appliances are turned off at the end of the day.

Installing motion sensors for your lights or using energy efficient lighting, such as LEDs, will reduce energy consumption. Finally, making the most of natural light is an effective way to save on energy costs and help your employees feel better in the office.

Related: 4 tips to take your startup’s sustainability to the next level

2. Remote First

One of the best ways to reduce your business’ carbon footprint is to make your business remote (or as remote as possible). Encourage your team members to work from home unless they have an explicit reason to come to the office.

According to a study by Global Workplace Analytics, encouraging your employees to work remotely at least 50% of the time can save your company around $11,000 per employee per year.

These significant financial savings are also linked to a considerable reduction in costs and energy consumption. By allowing your employees to work from home, you reduce the energy costs associated with travel, powering an office and maintaining basic infrastructure.

A remote model will also help you save unexpectedly. Piper says remote workers are actually healthier, which greatly reduces the burden of health and life insurance costs.

Related: Are fully remote enterprises the future?

3. Compost

If working remotely isn’t an option at your business, composting is a relatively simple way to reduce office waste and save money.

Lunchtime is the most wasteful time of the American day, Piper says. “We make almost 10 pounds of trash per person during lunch, because we go out, buy lunch and all that jazz.”

Encouraging composting in your business is obviously a greener option, but it will also save you money. Piper estimates you could cut your waste bills by 40-50% by composting in the office.

4. Examine your business swag

Many companies like to give their employees all kinds of trinkets like t-shirts and pens to build brand awareness and encourage staff to represent the company. Although well-intentioned, many of these gifts end up being wasted. Ask your employees what they really need and consider this before buying branded baseball caps wholesale.

Related: 15 startups contributing to sustainability

5. Reduce travel

Traveling for work is both expensive and carbon intensive. With virtual meeting platforms like Zoom the new normal, reconsider whether an in-person visit is actually necessary or not.

If it’s essential for you or your employees to travel for work, consider some of the ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. Piper says forward-thinking companies like WeWork are taking drastic measures to reduce the travel footprint.

“They only book LEED certified hotels. They only book non-stop flights. They don’t do first class or business class because those seats take up a lot more space. They don’t allow people to check in their bags unless absolutely necessary.

While this can be a larger and daunting project to get into, take a tough line when it comes to travel. You’ll mitigate many of the environmental and financial costs of business travel.

6. Encourage employee engagement

When you’re ready to take sustainability even more seriously, Piper says involving your employees is one of the best places to start.

“Instead of the fall team building activities that so many of us have had to endure, there are tons of environmental impact team building activities people can do that really make a difference.”

It is up to each company to decide what its priorities are. Perhaps your employees can pick up trash in a neighborhood or raise money for a local issue. The possibilities are virtually endless, so meet with your team members to discuss how they are most interested in getting involved with your company’s sustainability goals.

Related: How to turn sustainability into a brand and a business force

7. Hire a sustainability advisor and do an audit

One of the most important steps your company can take to seriously commit to sustainability in its culture is to hire an internal sustainability manager. A salaried employee is obviously an additional expense, but according to the principles of corporate sustainability, it is an investment that can ensure the survival and prosperity of your business in the future.

Making sustainability part of your company’s actual strategic plan is another good long-term goal. This includes carrying out a sustainability audit or even including these practices in your annual report.

Piper says an audit is invaluable because it shows how your company can improve its sustainability efforts. “Because you really don’t know unless you calculate where you are right now…It’s no longer just a niche that Patagonia would have. It’s something that’s now woven into the fabric of everyone types of businesses, regardless of size.”

The heart of the company

Today, many customers demand that companies take corporate sustainability seriously, and there are plenty of ways for your team to do just that. Start somewhere, even if it’s just giving workers refurbished laptops or furniture instead of new ones, or turning off the lights in the office at the end of the day. In no time, your company’s sustainable practices will be central to your business growth.

Related: Sustainability in business: why change is needed now

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