Any small business owner or entrepreneur knows that SMEs and start-ups are hard enough without having to worry about sustainability, but embedding sustainable thinking in your business from the start is worth it for many, many reasons. Here’s hoping we can convince you to think about the impact your business is having on the environment sooner rather than later!
What are the key benefits of thinking sustainably?
Here’s the thing, the sooner you start making sustainable business practices and integral part of your company the better, because the larger you get, the harder it becomes to change. Think how quickly you can turn a small dinghy (just by dipping one oar in the water) compared to redirecting a large ocean liner!
How can thinking sustainably save you money? Well, one of the key principles of sustainability is ‘doing more with less’. Creating less waste and using less resources will save you money because almost all resources cost money. Think about publishing a magazine for example. If you designed it so that the pages fit perfectly on a standard sheet of paper when printed, then you wouldn’t be paying for paper that got trimmed off the edges and ended up as waste! Using less power in your operations will obviously save you money on your electricity bill, but it will also mean less power needs to be generated upstream – an environmental saving. Now, think of the environmental savings made when banks stopped printing statements and posting them to us every month … And then think how much they’ve saved in costs of paper, envelopes and postage! Here’s another one - How much cheaper would it be for you to source secondhand office furniture? Again, it’s the best thing to do environmentally, but it also makes cents.
How can thinking sustainably help you attract people? There are now numerous studies that show most consumers would prefer to purchase sustainable products (like this one and this one), so being a sustainable business is a major plus in your quest to attract them. They also expect business to be helping fix some of the world's most pressing issues. Increasingly, employees too want to work for companies that are doing their best not to have a negative impact on the planet. People care and they want their workplaces to care too.
What should you consider when creating a sustainability plan for your start-up/SME?
Here are some of the top things to consider when building a more sustainable start up.
- Culture – Sustainability needs to be part of your culture, something people believe in and act on, knowing that it’s also what the company sees as important too. Your people will be the best source of sustainability ideas and will be responsible for weaving it through all decision-making processes. And culture comes from the top – so you need to walk the talk! No walking into the office carrying a disposable coffee cup and then wondering why no-one seems to care about the sustainability initiatives you’re trying to implement!
- Product – How your products are made and what they are made from will have a large impact on your business’s footprint. Are they made to last? Are they made from recycled and recyclable materials? Is there a lot of waste and or pollution generated in their production?
- Operations – Do you carry out your business with as low impact as possible? Do you consider how you ship (air freight vs sea freight), are you conscious of how you travel and how often, how do you package your goods, do you minimize and recycle your waste? These are the questions (and more!) you need to be asking.
How can you measure startup sustainability?
The one consistent measure of sustainability is a business’s Carbon Footprint and it can certainly be measured relatively easily with a number of calculators online. One we’d recommend is the Climate Action Toolbox which offers you tools to Measure your Emissions and/or where you can make impact and create your emissions reduction plan.
Does Sustainability mean Profitability?
Sustainability does not necessarily mean profitability unless we’re talking about a broader definition of ‘sustainability’ because of course for a business to sustain itself in the long run, it must at least break even! For now, let’s assume we’re discussing environmental sustainability. Sustainable practices can certainly lead to cost savings as explained above, but it can also cost more e.g., sourcing certified materials and making high quality products that last will generally come at a higher cost. While it might be easy to think, ‘We can’t afford to be more sustainable’, but we’d challenge you to instead ask ‘But can we afford not to?’.
Here at Better Packaging, we design revolutionary, customised packaging solutions for the new eco-nomy – a circular economy in which generating waste is not an option and the earth’s resources are not treated as infinite. Find out more About Us here.