More and more, we’re seeing small business owners and entrepreneurs wanting to contribute to a sustainable economy. Small business owners and their employees are now in a position to make a difference and to seize this opportunity to build and grow an economy that’s sustainable. By doing so, they will cater to a larger audience, enhance their brand’s image, improve employee morale, and cut down on long-term costs. We get it – it can be challenging and costly upfront to make these changes. In this blog, we’ll uncover different practices that you can start using today to make your SMB more sustainable, and hopefully your transition to go green much smoother.

What is a Sustainable Economy?

A sustainable economy supports long-term economic growth without negatively impacting social, environmental, and cultural aspects of the community. In this blog, we’ll focus solely on the environmental pillar. Simply put, a sustainable economy is one that can keep our planet’s temperature below the global warming threshold of 2 degrees Celsius. Although small businesses around the world have been making strides in the right direction, we’re not quite there yet. Some have made inspiring efforts and launched initiatives, but the negative impacts of businesses have continued to grow. Even during our current pandemic, we’re continuing to see record-breaking CO2 emissions. To build a hopeful future for the next generation, more changes and effort are needed.

Times Have Changed

Consumer expectations are evolving and changing for the better. Canadians are pivoting to a more sustainable way of living. In fact, 61% of Canadians are planning to pay more attention to the environmental impact of what they consume. Canadians are also 65% more likely to pay a premium for local products. As a small-business owner, going green is a major opportunity to foster customer loyalty and acquisition. It is no longer business as usual, practicing business sustainability is imperative to being successful in this ever-changing economy. Here are a few strategies your SMB can start practicing today to reduce its carbon footprint.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

1. Sustainable Suppliers

It all starts from the source. Does your supplier practice sustainability? Are your products sourced locally? As a first step, you should identify suppliers who are aligned with your sustainability goals and with whom you share similar values and beliefs. Step 2, it’s important to validate your supplier’s claims of being sustainable. Find out if they have an eco-friendly certification and how they meet their sustainability goals and metrics. If possible, you can always visit their facility in person and observe sustainability practices first-hand. From there, you will be more inclined to make an educated decision on whether they fit your criteria. Not only it is important to investigate your direct suppliers, but also their own suppliers. The further down you investigate your supply chain, the more of an impact you will have on its sustainability.

2. Sustainable Packaging

What can you do in your business to be more environmentally sustainable? If you’re in the business of selling goods to consumers, one way is to have eco-friendly packaging. Millennials and the Gen Z population are especially attracted to green packaging with 83% of those age 44 and under willing to pay more for it. Rule of thumb: go with recycled paper or cardboard products. When practiced, eco-friendly packaging can lead to more efficient storage use and space, and ultimately lead to lower cost. Other options are available such as plant-based, compostable mailer bags and biodegradable packaging. The choices are endless. This will all depend on what type of products you’re selling and finding out if it’s compatible with your packaging requirements. To decide which option is right for you, experiment with different types of packaging and get feedback from your customers. Be creative and most importantly, make it fun!

3. Sustainable Shipping & Deliveries

With the pandemic still affecting our daily lives, the modern consumer is opting for packaging that’s delivered right to their door. And with an increase in online shopping, consumers are wondering about the impacts of shipping and transportation on the environment. It can be intimidating to compete against monopolies such as Amazon; however, third-party shipping companies can provide tools and processes that will help you with your environmental and operational efficiency. An easy way to make a big difference is with smaller packaging. Use as little packaging material as you can to cut down on its weight. Also, encourage your consumers to make bulk orders. This will result in fewer trips and fewer emissions. If most of your consumers are local, consider using in-house delivery, which is making the deliveries yourself. And if your products come in containers or bottles, you should offer a return program where it can be beneficial for you and the consumer in reducing your carbon footprints. To take it a step further, communicate to your customers the best ways to recycle and dispose of your materials. An open line of communication will help build brand loyalty and empower your customers to play a bigger role in helping the planet.

4. Sustainable Workplace

If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, your workplace needs to live and breath sustainable practices. It can be easy as eliminating as much paper use as possible. Practices include online billing, offering email receipts, utilizing digital marketing and social media platforms, and replacing your document storage with cloud storage. Another practice involves choosing energy-efficient equipment, lights, and appliances. For example, you can switch over your lights for options like CLF or LED lighting, which can also save you money in the long run. Finally, plants, plants and more plants. Liven up your space with as many plants as possible to show your customers that you care about the air they breathe. Even better, if you have an outdoor space, plant trees and make it green as possible.

Communication is Key

Your efforts can only go so far if you don’t communicate your involvement in sustainable initiatives to your consumers. Your employees must also be on-board with your mission and share similar values and beliefs. Communicating your brand’s vision to foster sustainability will develop brand awareness and additional support from your consumers. This is where efficient content marketing comes into play; in our previous blog, we discussed content to enrich your SMB’s social media. Marketing and social media content come in different forms, but two of the main ones are to educate and to inspire. Use these to your advantage to educate your audience on what they stand to gain by supporting your business and inspire them to make changes in favor of the environment. All that said, avoid greenwashing your brand’s identity, which is making false claims about your sustainability initiatives. Be honest to your consumers and don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk. Take your time when making changes and treat sustainability as a long-term goal.

The Bottom Line

Faced with a planet that’s slowly heating up, consumers are thinking about the consequences of their purchases and changing their buying habits. As a small business owner, you must be aware of your consumers’ needs and shift your attention in answering their call. Whatever the size, every business has their part to play. With your commitment to fostering sustainability, you and your customers can help slow and reverse the effects of climate change. The ball is in your court.