Can Sustainable Businesses Also Be Profitable?

sustainable business profitability

More and more businesses are “going green.” But are sustainability practices actually sustainable for businesses?

For years, profit and social good were seen as conflicting ideals. Some companies were able to do both. But it seemed they were able to turn a profit despite their social efforts, and not because of them. After all, good intentions don’t lead to profits, do they?

Well, that attitude seems to be changing. From environmental concerns to other causes, plenty of businesses have found a way to partner profit with social good.

One such company is Green Floral Crafts (pictured above), a company that sources environmentally sustainable home decor. Owner Leia Tunnaye discussed with Forbes how focusing on social good can actually have a positive impact on profits:

“When we tell our customers we are a green business and our products are handcrafted by families in villages around the world, not only does it differentiate our products, but it makes our customers feel that they’ve made a good purchase both in terms of value, and contributing socially to others and the environment. Social consciousness is on the forefront of issues for today’s generation.”

Consumers today do seem to be more informed about their purchases. They know when they are supporting a business that supports a good cause. And often, they will even go out of their way to do so.

Small businesses like Green Floral Crafts are not the only ones showcasing the power that socially and environmentally conscious businesses can have. Larger companies like Toms Shoes and Seventh Generation have succeeded largely on a platform of social good. These success stories have even raised the bar for huge retailers like Walmart and Target, challenging them to put more emphasis on their corporate social responsibility programs.

However, there are companies that just stick a green label on their products or pledge a small amount of profits to a vague cause. So how do businesses honestly committed to environmental or social responsibility stand out from the rest? And how do cause-driven companies make sure their efforts are sustainable?

Having a clear mission is important, and can help to drive customers to a brand. But it’s difficult to do good without any money. So socially conscious businesses still need to focus on profits and make smart business decisions in order to be sustainable.

Image: Green Floral Crafts


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

6 Reactions
  1. The answer, Annie: Yes. Sure they can.

    The problem: There are still a ton of people who aren’t willing to pay…usually a lot more, for sustainable products.

    Until the price swing isn’t as noticeable, things aren’t going to change as fast as those who are selling sustainable products want.

    The Franchise King®

    • I agree. I would love to buy more sustainable products but it’s just not always doable because of the prices. I hope that is able to change soon.

  2. I think sustainable businesses can definitely be profitable. They, just like many businesses, have to find a market that’s interested in paying for their product or service, just like Green Floral Crafts has. Not to say that it’s easy though.

    • Yes, that’s just one more aspect of their business that they can use to target customers, provided those customers are willing to pay for it. Unfortunately that segment seems a little crowded since there are so many companies claiming to be green, even though not all are.