Waste Not, Want Not: How Can Businesses Be More Sustainable?

Sustainability is about more than just being a little more green with your business. Companies that adopt sustainable business practices are setting themselves (and everyone else) up for success by cutting down on waste and improving their relationship with the world around them. But how can a business be more sustainable? Here’s what every small business needs to know when creating their plans for sustainable operating. 

What Does Small Business Sustainability Really Mean?

According to a blog by Harvard Business School Online, “In business, sustainability refers to doing business without negatively impacting the environment, community, or society as a whole.” While this is an admirable goal for any company, let’s face facts. There is no way for us to live in our modern society (or at least none invented yet) that truly does no harm to the environment.  

The real question is, how can we reduce the amount of harm while increasing the amount of good we do? By mitigating environmental damage and increasing how much you give back to the environment and your community, you can become more sustainable. In other words, seek to use less and give more.

Why Is Sustainability Important?

Sustainable practices don’t just benefit the environment, they also benefit our communities, our health, and even our business! Here are just a few benefits that can come from small business sustainability: 

  • Savings: Yep, when you conserve resources and avoid waste, you can save money! Using lightbulbs that last longer, sticking to reusable containers, and going digital can all save you money.
  • Protecting your future: Being sustainable is all about ensuring that we conserve and wisely use our resources, which helps prevent rapid inflation caused by material scarcity.
  • Become more competitive: Consumers are concerned about the future of our planet, which means they are on the hunt for companies that share planet-friendly values.
  • Help the planet: That’s not just a fun dream, you live here too! When you take initiatives to help the planet, you’re protecting the place you live and work for a better future.

5 Ways to Be More Sustainable In Business

So how can businesses help the environment? There are a lot of ways to be more sustainable in business, no matter what industry you’re in. Here are a few methods made for any business. 

1. Use FSC-Certified Products

The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council®) is an organization dedicated to promoting sustainable practices, particularly in paper production. They work to support sustainable forestry, forest conservation and restoration. They also seek to prevent illegal logging and the exploitation of workers and communities. To learn more, check out our other blog post all about FSC certifications, what they mean, and why you should seek them out. 

2. Use Renewable Materials

There’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the materials businesses use, both for products and for packaging. For packaging, seek to use recyclable and/or bio-degradable materials instead of single-use plastics. For products, many industries can benefit from using materials such as hemp, jute, bamboo, RPET, etc. Even if you can’t change a lot, a little goes a long way when it comes to what you sell and ship. You can also find more renewable energy sources by contracting with solar and wind companies for your business. 

3. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

More than just what you sell and send, you can create a more sustainable business by changing what you do internally. Work with your employees to cut down on waste by: 

  • Recycling where possible
  • Using more efficient appliances and light fixtures
  • Repairing electronics instead of replacing when possible
  • Avoiding single-use products
  • Add a compost bin in your breakroom

4. Go Digital (The Right Way)

Data storage salespeople LOVE to talk about how going digital is going green because it saves paper. But cloud storage isn’t happening in a literal cloud. Data centers require a lot of upkeep and can produce a lot of emissions, so going digital isn’t necessarily going to reduce your carbon footprint. If you want to go digital for the health of the planet, do it right by: 

  • Research your data storage: When choosing providers for data storage and computing solutions, do your due diligence on their environmental practices. Find the one that works both for your business and is actively working to reduce their emissions.
  • Don’t do both: If you’re going to keep certain documents and data online, don’t print it out on paper too! Wherever practical, pick paper or digital, not both at the same time.
  • Use the right paper: You can’t always avoid paper, so do it right by using FSC-certified paper products where you can.
  • Reduce your digital footprint: Streamline your operations as much as possible and don’t waste digital storage space on files you don’t need. This will help your business run more smoothly, reduce your data storage costs, and lower your vicarious emissions.

5. Give Back

Being sustainable is more than just reducing how much you take, it’s also about increasing how much you give. While you may not be able to put nutrients back in the soil like jute or hemp, there are lots of ways for you to give back to the environment and the community, including: 

  • Donate instead of wasting: Grocers are in a great position to give back to their community by donating food that is safe to eat but would be otherwise thrown out. Other companies can donate excess products, materials, and even cardboard boxes to charities.
  • Create community resources: Host fundraisers for your local library, help plant a community garden, advocate for more city parks, etc.
  • Promote green initiatives: Use your resources to help promote awareness of the need for green initiatives, while encouraging consumers and other businesses in your area to adopt them.
  • Donate profits: Share a portion of your profits with nonprofits and other organizations dedicated to preserving and helping the planet.

When putting together your green initiatives, any company will find lots of ways for how businesses can be more sustainable. Whether that’s recycling, finding renewable resources for your materials and energy consumption, or even finding ways to give back to your community, sustainability is all about giving more than you take. As a business, take time to explore where you can take less and give more to the environment and your community. 


Katie Yelisetti

From marketing tips to product recommendations, I’m here to help small businesses be their best.

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