It’s no secret that consumers are increasingly buying from brands that reflect their personal values. A recent study revealed that 83% of Millennials believe it’s important for the companies they support to align with their values, and two in three even reported boycotting companies they previously purchased from because of their stance on an issue. And among these issues, consumers continually cite sustainability as a top concern. In fact, from 2013–2018 consumer packaged goods marketed as sustainable represented 50% of CPG growth. You don’t need to be a major corporation to take steps toward a more sustainable business model, however. Start improving your environmental impact today with some of our top tips for sustainability for small businesses.
We throw away enough wood and paper every year to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years. Take a look at how much paper your business uses and look for areas where you could switch to digital. Start sharing documents and sending invoices digitally, and take advantage of electronic forms. This will not only reduce your environmental impact, but can also help you cut your spending on paper and ink.
You can recycle many of the items your business might regularly go through. Paper, corrugated boxes, cans from the communal fridge, and even ink cartridges are recyclable. Encourage recycling by making the appropriate bins easy to access and located wherever waste is most likely to occur.
You don’t need to install solar panels or invest in a new building to start reducing your energy usage. Start with simple steps like turning off the lights in unoccupied offices, and using energy-efficient bulbs. If you can afford a bit more upfront cost, consider renting a space that is LEED certified. Or ask your energy provider if they offer a green power option. Consumers care about the steps you are taking to help the environment, and advertising these efforts can improve their perception of your company.
If your business sells packaged products, consider making your packaging environmentally friendly. Make sure you are not using more material than you need to protect your product. And consider swapping any styrofoam for recyclable alternatives. Corrugated and paper-based packaging are generally environmentally friendly options as they are naturally biodegradable and recyclable.
You can take this a step further by designing your packaging to be usable even after the consumer removes the product. A recent example of this is Amazon’s “Less Packaging, More Smiles” program. The boxes come with instructions on how to up-cycle them into everything from cat condos to robot costumes. Getting creative with your packaging can not only put a smile on your customers’ faces, but help your packaging avoid landfills.
Shipping products, whether to retailers or directly to the consumer, generates carbon emissions. Reduce yours by making sure your shipping boxes are right-sized. This increases the number of packages that can fit in a load, reducing the number of trips necessary to deliver the same amount of product.
If your boxes don’t fit your product, you also risk your product becoming damaged due to shifting in the box. Not only does this reflect poorly on your business, you may need to pay for more shipping for returns and exchanges. Not sure if your packaging is right-sized to your product? We are always happy to help analyze your current packaging and suggest improvements to cut your costs and make your packaging more eco-friendly.
Focusing on sustainability in your small business not only shows your customers that you care about the things they value. It also demonstrates that you are willing to take steps to improve your impact on your community. However, you don’t need to do a complete overhaul to improve your environmental impact. Pick a tip or two to focus on, and gradually add more as your business grows. Your customers — and the planet — will thank you for it.