November 28, 2014

Finding the Right Sustainability Initiatives for Your Business

sustainability initiativesIt’s easy to feel intimidated with sustainability. Once you address the basics—installing energy-efficient light bulbs and stationing recycle bins around the office—you may not know how to proceed.

How do you determine which sustainability measures will ultimately pay for themselves and be the best investment for your business?

It doesn’t have to be such as monstrous, stressful endeavor. In fact, it can be a very rewarding journey that ultimately pays back in multiple ways by lowering your environmental footprint, improving your bottom line and bolstering customer and employee loyalty.

So, where do you start?

Here are four steps to finding sustainability initiatives that make sense for your business:

1. Identify Measures That Aligned With Your Business

Often the most powerful sustainability measures are those that align closely with what a business does or sells. Think about the grocery store that donates excess inventory to a local food bank, an accountant that sends tax documents electronically or helps businesses assess the paybacks of sustainability initiatives, or apparel makers that focus on using sustainable, non-toxic fabrics and dyes.

These initiatives are so closely tied to what they do that it’s easy to feel passionate about them and discuss them with customers.

2. Take a Customer Perspective

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What would help them reduce their footprint when using your products? An olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette store near where I live gives customers a discount for returning and refilling their used bottles. They decorate their recycled paper bags as gift bags when people ask, so customers don’t need to re-wrap it themselves.

Considering what happens to your products once they leave your business can help you figure out how to reduce your total footprint even more.

3. Form a “Green Team”

Have employees? Get them involved in helping identify sustainability initiatives for the business. Chances are, your employees most passionate about the environment will volunteer to serve on a green team. (Learn steps for starting a green team.)

And they will eventually become ambassadors, helping other employees reduce their environmental footprint while at work.

4. Relax, Take it Slowly

Becoming a “green business” isn’t an overnight process. Yes, certain measures require some research and analyses. But start with the low-hanging fruit—the things that you know will help the environment and save you money. Take advantage of services available to your business, like free or low-cost energy audits from your utility companies. Write a basic sustainability plan with goals that are achievable.

Consider joining a local business sustainability group, so you can network with other business owners striving to be greener and share ideas.

Once you start realizing how these initiatives lower your footprint, you’ll likely want to keep doing more.

Olive Oil Gift Photo via Shutterstock

7 Comments ▼

Kelly Spors


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

7 Reactions

  1. Great points Kelly. Many businesses today are using on-line point based incentive programs for user friendly ease of operation and maintaining an eco- friendly environment.
    Tai Aguirre

  2. Nice job, Kelley.

    Like most people, I install the good stuff-the energy-efficient bulbs etc, but get stuck after that.

    I want to do the right green things.

    Thanks for the tips.

    The Franchise King®

  3. A great book about this topic I read recently was “Sustainability Strategies: When Does it Pay to be Green?” from Renato Orsato.

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