4 Steps for Developing a Small Business Sustainability Plan

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sustainable small businessHave you ever considered the environmental impact your business has on the world around you? In the last decade, there’s been a big spotlight on how we consume energy and how to manage environmental challenges. As a small business owner, you may think integrating eco-friendly practices is about a certain personal belief system, but there is so much more to it! Here are a few reasons why many small businesses are turning to eco-friendly options for operations:

 

Reducing costs. Regardless of how you feel about your environmental impact, there is one goal that all small business owners can relate to: increasing profit. What’s one of the easiest ways to do that? Cut back on operational fees. Simple changes like transitioning to LED lightbulbs, telecommuting when possible or simply being more conscious of turning off the lights and other electronics can help reduce your carbon footprint and your electric bill.

Improve company culture. If you want to attract top talent (and keep it), you want to curate a positive working environment. Whether this means a fair break time or employee discounts, the perks you offer should make your employees want to work for you and hesitant to leave.  Millennials tend to prioritize company culture much higher than other aspects of the job. Businesses that integrate sustainability plan can help encourage that positive culture and make your employees feel like they are part of something important outside of just the business.

Positive branding. Attract green-conscious consumers. Even if they themselves do not recycle or are proactive about their consumption, they feel good purchasing a product or service from a small business that does. It reflects positively on your image by showing that you care about the community that you service and not just business.

It’s easy to make the case for a sustainability plan, but it’s another thing to put it into action. We’ve broken down the process into four easy steps so you can start making a difference in your small business (and the environment) today!

 

Step 1: Learn about sustainability and reflect on that relates to your business now.

Before you know where you’re going, you need to know where to start. Here are some great resources to help you understand the movement and how you can use it to improve the aspects of your business described above:

Once you understand what sustainability is, take some time to reflect on your small business and what practices you may already support or what you neglect. Here are some example questions to ask yourself:

  • How much trash does your business produce each month? Each year?
  • What is your ratio of recycling to waste? Is there room to improve?
  • How much water did you use this year? How does that compare to previous years?
  • How much electricity did you use this year? How does that compare to previous years?
  • How do you and your employees get to work? What alternative options are available?

 

Step 2: Identify the best areas of opportunity and establish goals.

Once you’ve had time to reflect on your current practices, it’s time to identify the areas of opportunity. What are some of the things you can change quickly? What are things that may take several steps to accomplish. Just like any other big goal, it’s best to break it down into smaller, more achievable parts to chip away at. Prioritize your goals by what will have the biggest impact.

 

Step 3: Take action.

Now that you have a clear picture of next steps, it’s time to put together some resources to help you accomplish your goals. Once of the best sources for support is your community. Use these questions to help guide your search.

  • What are other small business owners currently doing in your community to promote sustainability?
  • What eco-friendly initiatives outside of small business are currently in place in your community? These may be community/volunteer or government-based initiatives.
  • Are there Facebook or LinkedIn groups where you can connect with other sustainability-focused businesses for a more organized effort?

 

Step 4: Revisit and Reassess

Just like any good business initiative, take time every quarter to review and assess your progress. What was successful? What failed? What could you have done better? Identify areas of improvement and adjust your timelines/initiatives as needed.

Barbara Davidson

Babs is a content writer at Enova International, Inc. with a Bachelors in Cinema Studies and English from the University of Illinois (ILL-INI!). She loves binge watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos! Find out more about her on Google+.

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