Sustainability has been a national conversation in recent years, and with political discussions about environmental issues heating up, the time is right for leaders in sustainability to help demystify the issue. As politicians argue about policies, incentives, and ways to legislate sustainability, many businesses have already started to take action.
A common misconception is that sustainable operations will increase costs and eat away at profits. The concern is that contributing funds to overhauling existing processes just to make them more eco-friendly will have an adverse impact on the bottom line. In many cases, however, the opposite is true: sustainable actions lead to better profits.
Edelman’s Good Purpose Study found that 73 percent of consumers said they would switch brands to find one that was closely tied to a cause they found to be important or meaningful. Since environmental issues are important to many consumers, it is a great hot button cause to attach to brand development.
Additionally, there are real operational benefits to making processes more sustainable. Take energy for example. The Department of Energy found that the average American creates $3,052 in energy expenditure on the grid every year. When it came down to commercial use, the number was daunting. Nationwide commercial energy consumption reached 18 Billion BTUs. Businesses that can move some of that consumption off the grid to solutions like solar or energy storage often avoid rising costs during peak demand.
The good news is more and more startups are emerging to help businesses and consumers find sustainable solutions to existing operations without significantly increasing costs. Yoav Lurie, CEO of Simple Energy, an online marketplace for utilities explains, “Sustainable technologies are creating competition in energy markets in a way that benefits energy consumers.” This kind of competition tends to create lower costs for consumers and better products for everyone.
Utilities Market Being Disrupted
Any given area is run by a very small number of utilities that have a significant amount of control over the industry. Dominance and lack of competition like this tends to breed a certain degree of complacency. Lurie points out however that many are starting to make major upgrades to that approach. He shared, “Countless utility companies are realizing that updates to the business model can be beneficial, and in some cases, essential for survival.” Startups are helping drive that change, making it easier for existing energy and utility companies to upgrade processes to better match demand. Utilities catering to demand is better for business because it will help businesses that are not able to switch to sources like solar or energy storage remain cost effective.
Preventing Fluctuating Expenditures
While the utility market is evolving, it is important to note that there are natural events that cause fluctuations in energy pricing all the time. Take California’s drought for example. If the drought had continued much longer, prices for large use of water would eventually have increased, meaning businesses that were not water-wise might have experienced significant unexpected costs. Similarly, any area that experiences rolling blackouts due to heat or problems with efficiency may see a negative impact on budgets. Providing alternatives that allow users to find the best service may help mitigate some of these costs.
Avoiding Public Reactions
While it may seem a bit less tangible than some of the other reasons listed, public opinion is a powerful force that can have a serious effect on any business. BP, Exxon, and countless other companies are all too familiar with what happens when public opinion turns due to issues related to sustainability. While most corporate giants recover from shifts in opinion, small to midsize businesses usually cannot afford extended periods of public upset. Therefore it is vital that brands maintain a clean record on sustainability.
Sustainability and Small Business
While sustainable energy providers are still evolving, it is clear that small businesses need to be thinking of ways to engage with sustainable alternatives. Lurie shares, “Everyone needs to adapt to the ways the market is changing to remain relevant during disruptive periods.” Those that do are bound to find new opportunities and secure competitive advantage in their respective markets.
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