More than ever before, companies are genuinely concerned about the impact that their businesses actions have on the environment, and with growing consumer interest in sustainability, small businesses in particular need to have their company's "green" efforts stand out in the marketplace.
Following are 10 tips for small businesses that want to make a lasting and sustainable stamp in the business world.
1. Plan. Before you can run a sustainable business, you've got to have a solid business plan in place. Use your plan to integrate the changes you can make in your company to maintain and increase your environmental sustainability. This plan should outline your company's environmental philosophies as well as your mission statement.
2. Sweat the small stuff. Daily rituals such as printing, shipping and even office lunches can make a big impact on your company's carbon footprint. Is it really necessary to print that particular packing slip? Perhaps you can ship products every other day? Small changes, such as a garbage-free lunch room, are easy to implement and will likely be appreciated and supported by employees as well.
3. Go paperless. The mass of paper and waste that many companies accumulate on a daily basisis unnecessary. Take a stand and use your business as an example of how green business can be done. If an item can be saved on the hard drive of your computer, it doesn't need to be printed. If bills can be processed electronically and online banking is an option, take advantage of these small opportunities to go green.
4. Stay current and educate. Staying current on your businesses' environmental mandate is part and parcel of being a successfully sustainable small business. As your customers may not have the time or resources to do the research that keeps your business running green, make an effort to keep on top of the latest developments and best practices in corporate sustainability. When you find out something new, share your research with your customers. Doing so will not only build a trusting relationship between you both, but will provide you with the ongoing incentive to be on top of the latest developments.
5. Environmentally friendly team. The easiest way to get buy-in for your staff is to hire team members who share the company vision. Look for employees that are committed to a green philosophy and it will be much easier to put sustainability efforts into place.
6. Be a leader. Once you have identified the environmental cause that your business will support, be a leader in that movement. Create initiatives that will build awareness as well as potential solutions. Donate your time and support your employees in doing the same. If you are able to, share your profits with environmentally-related causes. Actively lead by example.
7. Don't be a hypocrite. If you are asking the public to live a healthy, environmentally friendly life, than you must lead by example. Remember to show your employees and customers that you practice what you preach.
8. Support and collaborate. There are plenty of like-minded businesses, individuals and organizations that will share the same motivations as you. Seek them out, partner with them, ask their advice and support their endeavours. A lot more will be accomplished by working in unison.
9. Regulate. "Green Washing" has become a common practice in this day and age. Because of the very limited and poor regulations surrounding environmentally focused companies, many organizations have jumped on the bandwagon while having no true sustainability efforts as part of their businesses. There are, however, very legitimate private organizations that have formed to eliminate 'green washing'. Seek out these entities that will accredit, regulate and provide seals of approval for truly sustainable companies.
10. Inspire. Inspire existing and potential clients to live a healthier, more environmentally friendly life by talking about the benefits of working with your company. Stay positive, keep negativity at bay and keep the environmentally sustainable business model forward.
Melissa Gunning is the founder and president of Wean Green, an environmentally-sustainable company that provides chemical and additive-free baby products. You can find out more about Melissa and Wean Green by going to www.weangreen.com