Studies show that global consumers have become “greener” in recent years. What's more, over a third of shoppers say they will pay extra for more eco-friendly alternatives.
Sustainable business practices are clearly a win-win; they’re good for the environment and for your business. But what does sustainability actually look like when put into practice?
In this article, we’ll help you understand what it means to be truly sustainable and highlight examples of practices that you can adopt and adapt to help your business thrive - without sacrificing the planet in the process.
Sustainable Business Practices: More than a Buzzword
Nowadays, sustainability is a buzzword that’s thrown out all the time. We see it in advertisements and read it in mission statements. However, while the vast majority of corporate executives (90%) say that sustainability is important, only 60% of companies actually have a sustainability strategy or policies in place. Although many companies claim to value sustainability and “talk the talk,” sustainable business practices aren’t truly sustainable unless they’re actually put into practice.
What Are Sustainable Business Practices, Exactly?
The term “sustainable business practices” is one that is ever-evolving, becoming more clearly defined as businesses and consumers place more and more importance on sustainability. According to the Center for Sustainable Business Practices, the term refers to practices that are socially responsible and environmentally friendly, yet still economically viable; practices that minimize negative impacts on the environment but still allow a business to earn profit. This is a delicate balance to strike, one that requires values that are shared and understood by the entire team and policies that are intentionally woven into the overall business plan and strategy.
Why Sustainability in Business Matters
First and foremost, sustainability in business matters because it’s an ethical and moral responsibility. Corporations are a leading contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions and a major driver of climate change. While consumer choice is certainly an important piece of the puzzle, businesses and corporations hold much more power and responsibility to mitigate this environmental crisis. With each passing year, corporate sustainability is becoming more and more imperative to our survival.
Fortunately, sustainability is also good for business. Sustainable business practices can benefit your business in many different ways:
- Improve your brand image
- Generate positive media coverage
- Provide a competitive advantage over similar businesses
- Gain customers who value sustainability
- Attract employees who value sustainability and boost morale among existing employees
- Become a preferred supplier
- Help reduce your energy and utility costs
- Open up opportunities for loans or grants
- Create opportunities for tax rebates
With all these benefits in mind, sustainable business practices should be a no-brainer for large corporations and small businesses alike. The challenging part is not agreeing on the importance of sustainability, but actually coming up with practices and policies that are viable and truly sustainable.
Examples of Popular Corporate Sustainability Practices
If you’re struggling to put sustainability into practice, there are tons of businesses leading the way and countless examples of sustainable business practices out there. All you need is a bit of research, creativity, follow-through, and commitment. Here are a few popular practices to get you started:
- Invest in renewable energy. This will minimize your ecological footprint and save you money on the cost of utilities in the long run. Depending on your location, adding solar power or a green roof to your building can even qualify your business for local or state tax credits.
- Implement a recycling program. This is a low-cost solution and helps your employees and customers feel like they are doing their part. It can even boost morale and improve company loyalty.
- Conduct an energy audit with the help of your utility providers. They can help you identify areas for improvement and offer up specific ideas, such as upgrading to energy-efficient LED light bulbs or using programmable thermostats to reduce your energy consumption.
- Audit your purchases and suppliers and see if you can find more environmentally-friendly products and partners. Shop local whenever you possibly can– and support small businesses and artisans rather than large corporations– to minimize the environmental costs of transportation and give back to your local community. Think about any packaging you use too; ditch the plastic and upgrade to natural and biodegradable materials.
- Offer commuter passes to your employees to encourage them to choose public transportation. Better yet, add bike storage and a locker room to encourage them to bike to the office.
- If you give gifts to your employees and or customers (welcome gifts, holiday gifts, etc.), find a sustainable corporate gifting partner to help ensure you’re gifting practices are environmentally-friendly.
- Develop clear sustainability policies and communicate them to your team members. Offer regular sustainability training to your employees to engage them in your efforts and improve compliance. And ask team members to share their ideas and help identify areas for improvement. After all, it takes a village!
For even more ideas, check out these 10 easy and effective ways to run an eco-friendly business. We also urge you to consider hiring a professional sustainability consultant to help you develop specific strategies and practices that align with your business model and goals.
Sustainable Corporate Gifting with Bestowe!
Here at Bestowe, sustainability is one of our core values and we take our impact on the environment very seriously. We only partner with vendors and artisans whose missions align with that of a sustainable and ethical process. We use all-natural, biodegradable materials and shippers and zero plastic. We’re conscious of the fact that our carbon footprint goes beyond our in-house practices, so we also ask our vendors to do the same when shipping to us. We even partner with One Tree Planted to do a little something extra and give back to the environment with every order we receive.
Overall, we do everything we can to ensure our carefully-curated gifts are ones you can feel good about giving. Consult with one of our corporate gifting professionals to explore how we can help make your corporate gifting more sustainable!