February 2, 2021 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
If there’s one thing that’s come out of the ongoing political debate around climate change or the Green New Deal legislative proposal, it’s a growing recognition of how important sustainability is as a business practice.
Individual action is certainly an important first step toward creating a more environmentally friendly global society, but it won’t be enough. Corporate contributions are also essential. To put it bluntly, the world needs across-the-board action from both individuals and businesses on sustainability.
Sound, practical actions that help preserve and protect our environment are good for the bottom line. A 2017 Nielsen survey showed that customers increasingly like sustainable brands and consider corporate environmentalism an important part of their purchase decision-making. A 2016 survey by Cone Communications found 64 percent of millennial respondents said they wouldn’t take a job at a company that didn’t display commitment to sustainability.
Sustainability is more than plopping a recycling bin in the copier and break rooms (although those are good starting points). It’s about a committed approach to building a different kind of culture and mindset throughout your company. Business owners should go beyond giving and green investing. Make your business a sustainable one by exploring these practical ways to reduce your company’s carbon footprint.
1. Recycle more than just paper
When it comes to initiating a sustainability program, recycling is often the first thing business leaders consider. It’s true that recycling is a key component of environmentally sound business practices. However, recycling isn’t just for printer paper.
In fact, many kinds of office supplies and equipment can be recycled. Consider initiating recycling programs for items such as printer/toner cartridges and ink, drink bottles, packaging, file folders and cardboard containers or shipping materials.
Then take this new sustainability initiative to the next level by learning how to dispose properly of electronic and digital equipment. Items such as computers and tablets, cell phones, appliances and televisions all require special disposal techniques. Look for responsible recyclers to take in your old and unwanted electronics and digital devices.
2. Partner with green vendors
No business operates in a vacuum. Your company needs vendors and other stakeholders to provide it with all the materials to help it function optimally. Each of those providers is a new opportunity to further your business sustainability efforts.
Examine your supply chain and inquire whether your vendors are using sustainable practices themselves. If not, investigate new options. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Some consumer product retailers are eschewing paper tags and box packaging for materials made from recycled plastics and fabrics.
Consider giving preferential treatment to local vendors and small businesses as well. Reducing carbon emissions with shorter or nonexistent shipping processes alone can offset higher costs and decrease environmental impacts.
In addition to following existing trends and technology, you can also come up with out-of-the-box ways to help build sustainability into your business model. Think of ways your brand can innovate its services and products to be more environmentally conscious but still build a competitive advantage.
A great recent example of this is Amazon’s new program of Amazon Day delivery initiative. This program offers Amazon Prime customers the chance to pick a single day of the week for all shipments to arrive, instead of having them individually shipped as soon as they’re available. Single-day shipments may reduce the greenhouse gas emissions created by Amazon’s elaborate shipping processes.
4. Reduce waste
Reducing waste is another crucial aspect of a corporate sustainability program. For instance, you can rely on digital marketing and product advertising as opposed to print catalogs and brochures to reduce paper and ink waste.
Two more corporate processes that offer significant opportunities for waste reduction and operational efficiency are packaging and product tagging. Environmentally friendly options exist, but you can also evaluate whether your existing packaging can simply be reduced safely without compromising on quality.
5. Stay current
Keep up to date on news and trends around sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Best practices in this field evolve as new technologies and business cases are developed and refined. That’s why it’s important to keep on top of trends, both specifically for your industry and for sustainable practices in general.
Be open to periodically evaluating new options for packaging, shipping and office tasks. Consider not just improved financial performance due to new processes or technology but also the positive impact on your employees’ well-being and productivity.