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How to Make Your Business Environmentally Friendly, for Happier Customers, and a Healthier Planet

It’s been six months since climate scientists issued a frightening “final call” to save our planet from climate catastrophe. Since then, global warming has become an increasing concern for people the world over, with large protests happening in major cities across the globe.

Millennials and Gen Z seem particularly motivated to cut carbon emissions, with both groups buying more consciously than ever before. Research shows 75% of Millennials are willing to pay more for a sustainable product, with Generation Z close behind at 72%1.

As long as climate change remains in the public consciousness, there will continue to be a market for sustainable products. For businesses targeting younger consumers, listening and adapting to their needs is crucial to gaining a competitive edge.

Finding the balance between purpose and profit is essential. Clothing company Patagonia2 has increased its sustainability efforts in recent years via initiatives such as ethical material sourcing, environmental activism, and an in-house repair service. Over the last decade, this has helped quadruple Patagonia’s revenue, while tripling their profits, all thanks to a concerted push towards sustainability. A number of global businesses, including Etsy, Google, and Lyft, are also starting to benefit from similar efforts.

The trend is clear: concerted sustainability efforts can be a step towards business growth, as well as a healthier planet. Here’s a few ways to get started:

1. Sourcing your products

Whether manufacturing your own products, or dealing with suppliers, much can be done to increase their sustainability.

If you’re a manufacturer, you might consider looking for locally sourced materials, to reduce pollution from transportation, not to mention saving on transit costs. You might be surprised by what’s available in your ‘backyard’. Transport emissions can also be reduced by knowing what product volumes you’ll need in advance. This allows you to place bigger orders and reduce the need for multiple deliveries.

Think about ways to refine your products—can any materials be replaced with sustainable alternatives, such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, plantation timber, PBA-free hemp, or something else? Ask questions of your existing suppliers. Where and how is everything sourced? If they’re dismissive or vague, it’s time to shop around for a supplier that’s better equipped to meet your sustainable objectives. Promoting your sustainable business practices is great, but unless you set the same standard for your supply chain, it becomes little more than a token gesture.

2. Enhancing your operations

Day-to-day business operations can have a substantial environmental impact. The good news is, there’s plenty of potential for improvement.

Waste is a key area for scrutiny. Can you minimise the amount of material thrown away? Koala, for example, donate returned and unused mattresses to women’s shelters.

Similarly, run an investigative eye over your order processing—are you using an appropriate amount of packaging for each order? Are you printing the correct-sized sticky labels (or do you go at them with scissors)? Reduced waste is reduced cost, not only in terms of material, but also the time you save on recycling. This focus can also be applied to your entire office space.

Our planet is being strangled with plastic. Using sustainable materials for your packaging can make a huge difference, particularly if you’re a high-volume business. Carbon neutral courier Sendle recently trialled compostable satchels, sparking overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers.

For materials that don’t break down easily, top-notch recycling is a must. Without sounding too preachy, you can politely encourage customers on the best ways to reduce, reuse, and dispose of their own recyclable waste. By engaging customers with realistic, tangible ideas for sustainability, you can often reduce the space between brand and consumer, while humanising your company’s reputation.

To reduce power usage, consider getting a professional energy audit, to identify which physical areas of your business can be improved. Common suggestions include installing or replacing roof insulation, and fixing ‘leaks’ around draughty doors and windows. Energy audits can create a playbook for potential financial and CO2 savings.

On the subject of power, do some research into your energy provider to work out how much of their energy is renewable. Many energy companies now offer green plans, with some even offering 100% renewable energy. It’ll be more expensive, of course, but it could form the basis of a genuine sustainability model.

3. Sustainable shipping

Transport has a big role to play in addressing climate change. How much effort does your chosen shipping courier really put into reducing their CO2 emissions?

Sendle is a great example of a company that cares about the environment, offering 100% carbon neutral parcel delivery, by offsetting every single parcel that they send. If your business is serious about sustainability, it’s worth doing the homework on all your partners to ensure they’re similarly aligned.

Sustainability goes beyond just the finished products you sell. It’s an ecosystem that starts with sourcing the raw materials and carries on right through until the package arrives on your customer’s doorstep.

The climate crisis isn’t going away. We all need to do our part to make meaningful change. Far from being an inconvenience, sustainability presents a great opportunity for brand building, creative customer service and, ultimately, growth for your business.

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References

  1. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2015/green-generation-millennials-say-sustainability-is-a-shopping-priority.html
  2. https://www.fastcompany.com/40525452/how-patagonia-grows-every-time-it-amplifies-its-social-mission

Photo by Lacey Williams on Unsplash