5 Simple Ways to Make your Business Sustainable

As a small business owner, you may think your business’s environmental impact is inconsequential. But your customers may not see it that way.

Today’s consumers expect more from the companies they support. A recent study showed that 77% of people think a product should be sustainable and environmentally friendly.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Cutting carbon emissions and reducing waste is at the forefront of climate change and sustainability discussions.
Sustainable business is here to stay. This means you should start thinking about how to make your business operations more eco-friendly. Not only is sustainability good for the planet, but it also sets your business apart from the other 98% of small businesses in Canada.

Incorporate Sustainability in your Business

1. Reduce Energy Usage and Go Renewable

Reducing your business’s energy usage will decrease your carbon footprint, reducing your energy bill.

There are many ways to reduce energy consumption. A great place to start is upgrading to energy-efficient appliances, switching to a renewable energy provider, upgrading to smart thermostats, and switching to LED bulbs.

Check your utility bill to establish your usage baseline, then track your energy (and money) savings with each change. What could be better than lowering your impact and saving money? 

2. Reduce Waste

The “R” principles provide the most effective ways to reduce waste: Refuse, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse and lastly, Recycle.

The first step to reducing waste is to know the waste your business generates.

A trash audit is a cost-effective, quick and easy way to identify the waste (cardboard, plastic packaging, paper) tossed out, so you can find ways to divert it from the trash by reducing and reusing it.

Easy waste-reducing tips include reusing boxes and packing materials from shipments, using stationary and packing materials made from 100% recycled materials, providing staff with reusable kitchenware, reusing envelopes and reducing printing (save on printer ink and paper).

Every company produces waste. The type and amount of waste generated will be different depending on the size and nature of your business. The best way to keep it out of the landfill is not to create it in the first place.

3. Audit Inventory Flows

Does your company have dead stock or receive many returns? If so, it’s time to look at why.

Designing products to last longer and for repair is an effective way to reduce waste. However, quality becomes irrelevant if products are frequently returned due to production defects (cracking, wrong fit, flaws) or shipping damages.

Products use many resources and create carbon emissions and pollution at each life cycle stage, from raw material extraction to distribution.

Products deemed unusable due to defects or damages and dead stock inventory can be a major expense to company owners and may indicate the products your customers want. These products are sent to landfills, further contributing to resource depletion and increased waste and pollution.     

Good inventory management will help reduce deadstock. Take inventory of your returns to identify commonalities to address.

4. Sustainable Supply Chain

A business’s supply chain is comprised of many parts. So finding ways to simplify it is important in reducing environmental impacts.

There are many benefits to sourcing local suppliers. Reducing the distance products travel is a great way to reduce carbon emissions. In addition, reducing distribution complexities makes it easier for suppliers and businesses to reuse containers and packaging for your next shipment or delivery.

For materials or products that can’t be sourced locally, ask your supplier to use recycled materials for shipments and avoid excess packaging. In addition, ask suppliers how they incorporate sustainability in their business, and if necessary, collaborate on ideas and create an action plan.

5. Reduce Carbon Footprint

More and more, we’re hearing about the need to reduce global carbon emissions.

Similar to reducing waste, you need to know how emissions are produced before you can start making changes to reduce them. This starts with measuring your company’s carbon footprint.

Most carbon footprint calculators measure emissions produced by heating and cooling systems, transportation, etc., and provide a good high-level view of the most significant impact areas, providing a starting point to reduce them.

There are many online calculators available for companies to calculate their footprint, such as this one by Carbon Footprint. Measuring your company’s carbon footprint will highlight the areas to focus your carbon-reducing efforts and establish your business’s emission baseline, which will help guide your sustainability strategy year after year.

Gone are the days of deciding to “go green or eco-friendly.” Having a sustainability strategy for your business is essential. Engage employees, suppliers and customers in your sustainable journey. Not only will it create awareness, but it will also set your company and products apart from competitors.

Anisa Maruschak

Anisa Maruschak

Anisa Maruschak is a sustainability consultant and circular economy communicator. Her background working in cleantech made it clear that our linear economic model cannot be maintained. She helps show small business owners how to incorporate sustainability into their business to attract more customers.

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