Five ways you can grow a sustainable (and profitable) business

Running an ethical and a financial successful company don’t have to be mutual exclusive choices. Read five ways you can grow a sustainable and profitable business.

Business growth and sustainability have traditionally been viewed as mutually exclusive, with one coming at the expense of the other.

However, as consumers become more environmentally-conscious, sustainable business strategies are now offering great potential for growth. 58% of customers consider a company’s environmental impact when purchasing a product or service, and businesses that practice sustainable habits are becoming the preferred norm.

Take Unilever as an example. In 2018 its most sustainable brands grew 46% faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70% of its turnover growth. Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) may have a smaller budget, but they also have the power to be nimbler and more responsive than larger corporations.

Five ways you can grow a sustainable (and profitable) business

All businesses – big and small – can be greener. From reducing waste and energy usage to integrating sustainability into the very core of your business model, the benefits extend far beyond protecting the environment and growing the bottom line to skyrocketing employee happiness and your long-term reputation.

Here are some tips for building sustainability into your business growth from Aidan Bell, co-founder of sustainable materials company Envirobuild.

1) Reduce waste

Minimising waste in the workplace is one of the easiest ways you can become more sustainable, while simultaneously economising on costs.

Going paperless wherever possible and printing double-sided cuts down on paper and cartridge ink as well as printer energy. Companies like Dell and HP have introduced technology recycling schemes where you can trade-in used equipment in exchange for credit and charity donations.

Aim to cut down on packaging as much as possible, make it recyclable or even better, reusable. For example, Birchbox, a monthly subscription service, send customers their cosmetics in attractive boxes that double-up as stackable makeup drawers, allowing them to be repurposed while minimising waste.

2) Work flexibly

Many companies nowadays are making use of readily-available Cloud computing. As well as decreasing paper usage and protecting files more securely than traditional filing systems, it also allows a more flexible approach to work environments.

Video conferencing software, such as Skype, has made working from home easier than ever, with meetings able to be conducted whenever and wherever.

As well as eliminating commuter-related emissions, remote working also cuts down on costly travel expenses and reduces the need to heat and light an office space, making it an economical and environmentally friendly option.

Green coworking spaces, which can be rented from as little as 4 days per month, maximise sustainability in the workplace while also fostering an environment of collaboration and creativity -undoubtedly a significant upgrade from the local coffee shop.

Whether at home or in a coworking environment, giving employees greater freedom in the way they work can positively impact on productivity as well as overall wellbeing.

3) Become more energy efficient

Becoming more energy efficient in your workspace will positively impact the environment as well as helping to control the purse strings. For example, a well-insulated building reduces the need for as much heating and maximising natural daylight within the office space helps to cut down on artificial lighting.

Unfortunately, not every company is lucky enough to be able to construct their own office from scratch, so a cheaper option would be to install a smart metre to keep track of your energy usage. One that displays the daily cost of energy consumption is a simple way to make employees more energy-conscious.

Just as you wouldn’t walk around your home in a t-shirt in the middle of winter with the heating cranked up to full, turning the thermostat down a degree or two and wearing a jumper in the office is also an economical solution.

Small steps, such as reminding employees to properly turn off their computers at the end of the day and installing more energy-efficient light bulbs, can have a huge overall impact when adhered to regularly. Equally, it is very easy to switch to green energy providers, a small change that can have a big environmental difference.

4) Use ethical sources

Investigate ‘green’ procurement to see if your product(s) can be made without substances that are harmful to the environment, with reusable materials, are recyclable and so on. Consider every stage of the process, including delivery, and source locally wherever possible.

Sustainably-sourced office snacks – such as nuts, fruit and vegetables – are again not only environmentally beneficent but also aid productivity, helping to prevent that mid-afternoon slump.

5) Create an ethical company culture

Any of the above strategies would be pointless if they were not also enforced by those at the top of the business. Management should lead by example and bosses must strive to cultivate a positive, green atmosphere among employees and lead the way by example.

Tracking how much waste is produced in the office and setting goals with incentives will help to make employees more aware of their own impact. Some companies may choose to appoint a ‘Green Team’ to take charge of this.

The government’s cycle to work scheme allows employers to loan bicycles and safety equipment to employees as a tax-free benefit. As well as being an entirely green way to get to work, healthier employees should lead to a reduction of sick days.

Incorporating sustainability into you business can have far-reaching impact

Sustainability can bolster a positive brand reputation and environment which is attractive to customers, potential employees and investors alike.

By integrating innovative, sustainable business models, a feeling of trust is built into the business which encourages greater brand loyalty. Similarly, a modern and flexible approach to work undoubtedly creates happier employees and increases retention levels.

As a result, whether on a smaller or larger scale, incorporating sustainability into the core of your business can have far-reaching impacts that reach way beyond the environmental and economical.

Aidan Bell is the co-founder of sustainable materials company Envirobuild.

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