There can sometimes be the stigmas that only large companies have the capital to invest in sustainable business practices, or that these changes can be only for external benefits, rather than ones internal to the company. However, that is simply not the case. Energy prices are constantly rising and consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of sustainability, especially in the industry and commercial sector.
Implementing more sustainable business practices cannot only provide altruistic benefits for your small company, but they can have a huge financial impact. When your business model is more efficient, you can cut costs as well as feel secure that the model can be a more resilient one that is able to generate a more reliable cash flow.
While the reasons and practices of adaptation of sustainable measures will vary from company to company, studies have shown that creating a focus on sustainability can increase loyalty and commitment from customers and employees, increase profitability and formulate strong relationships with suppliers.
If you are interested to implement more sustainable practices, but are not sure where to start, here are some key elements of a sustainable business model that includes strategy and planning, execution and alignment, and monitoring and evaluation.
Look at sustainability from an innovative viewpoint
The first step in your planning your sustainable business model is to look at sustainability from an innovative viewpoint. While there are obvious measures to take that have a direct impact on the environment such as recycling paper, there are also much more innovative measures that can produce big results for you employees, customers and suppliers. Hiring an outside consultant could be a good choice during your planning and design phase because experts are able to point out practices that may not be obvious to those who don’t focus on sustainability measures.
A good example of an innovative idea would be to give consumers choice while still encouraging sustainable practices. For example this online printing company gives users the choice for carbon neutral printing. Customers can choose to individually offset the carbon emissions generated from their printing order through a few projects worldwide.
Describe the sustainability measures in detail
Describe in detail what your motivations and expectations are for your sustainability measures. This will help to maintain transparency with customers but also establish clear measures for investors so that any changes will focus on your goals with a clear definition.
During planning, include all stakeholders in the process. Speak with customers, suppliers, investors and employees to give them a voice, which can also give weight to the implemented measures.
Incentivise adoption – and monitor it
Look into what incentives are provided by national, international or industry wide organizations that are available to make your company more sustainable. Many times there can be economic incentives as well. When you implement your strategy make a clear chain of responsibility. Senior managers should be in charge of the policy, appoint employees to focus specifically on these projects and engage in knowledge sharing for the importance of sustainability company-wide.
Remember that these changes will not necessarily provide results instantly. Moving to become a more sustainable company is meant to provide both long and short-term benefits. Set realistic goals and indicators to make sure you’re on track. Monitor results, especially to show the commercial benefit of your practices. This is vital for sustainable growth.
If you simply advertise your sustainable practices without meaningful actions to implement, your stakeholders will soon become aware of greenwashing, or using sustainability just as a marketing tool. This can make your company lose credibility. Make sure your goals are realistic and ones you definitively plan to practice.
Connect your sustainability practices specifically with profit. For example, reducing electricity usage by utilizing the natural lights rather than artificial ones will show a direct financial benefit of sustainability.
Plan for the future
Lastly, look towards the future. The implementation of these practices is meant to provide long-term benefits, both measurable and not measurable. Find out which practices are right for you and your company.