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Sustainable business. It is a topic that receives a lot of press and interest from individuals, organizations and governments. In fact, one UC Riverside Study from 2021 indicates that nearly three-quarters of CEOs prioritize sustainability.
Still, you may wonder if sustainability is relevant to your startup or small business. It turns out that it is. By embracing sustainability holistically, you can make your business more competitive. Sustainability can be a more important asset than you may have assumed.
Of course, it can seem like sustainability is just ‘one more thing to do’. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. The secret to making sustainability feel less like an add-on is to make it a guiding organizational goal. For example, you could challenge all employees to consistently look for more sustainable solutions. This guideline ensures that they hold sustainability in high esteem and see it as part of your culture and brand.
Related: 3 ways you can bring sustainability to your workplace
But that leaves the bigger question: what concrete benefits will sustainability bring to your company? Below are a few that can positively impact your finances, reputation and recruiting efforts.
1. Buyers use sustainability as a yardstick
When it comes to consumer behavior, buyers are guided by green companies. Nearly eight in 10 US shoppers say they are happy to patronize eco-friendly businesses. Even if prices are higher for the sustainable products they want, 64% are happy to pay a premium.
This shows that you can still make a profit while going greener, and in some cases your costs won’t even go up. Take the food and agriculture industry, for example. PURIS, a leader in sustainable food supply, notes that plant-based products are interesting started climbing in 2020. As a result, total plant-based food sales should reach $85 billion by 2030. Why? Consumers are eager to buy and use eco-friendly, sustainable protein alternatives.
Therefore, if you don’t want to improve the durability of your product because of the price, reconsider your concerns. You can generate interest in new markets by making your product range greener.
See also: It’s official: customers prefer sustainable companies
2. Young employees want to work for environmentally conscious companies
The labor shortage is a real phenomenon and it affects your ability to find and hire great people. One way to set your business apart from everyone else is to show your eco-conscious side. Greener ideal notes that 61% of millennials cited sustainability as a deciding factor when choosing a place to work. Likewise, about 60% of Gen Z employees not applicable to workplaces with a non-green reputation.
How can you let candidates know about the steps you are taking towards sustainability? First, make sure your job descriptions contain sustainable, environmentally friendly words. Next, look at your website and social media footprints, because you can be sure that serious applicants will too. Do you both show and tell how and why you are sustainable?
Finally, discuss your actions towards sustainability during interviews and onboarding. Discuss plans and make sure incoming employees know how they can be part of your company’s green future.
Related: How the ‘Change Generation’ motivates companies to commit to sustainability
3. Many private investors finance sustainable startups
Getting investors interested in financing the growth of your business can be hard enough. Why make it more difficult by not having any kind of sustainability vision or initiatives? When asked by EY, 78% of investors believed organizations should prioritize sustainability over short-term profit. The majority responding to EY seemed more interested in sustainability than early benefits.
You may not be looking for investment money today, but don’t assume you won’t later. Many companies that started up during the start-up phase enter into more formal investor relationships later on. You may find that attracting investors is the fastest way to scale up, develop a different product or enter a market, and potential investors may want to see your sustainability metrics.
Not sure how to measure your sustainability? Try using percentages. For example, if 5% of your packaging is recycled now, aim for 10% or 20% in six months or a year. Then track your progress. Raw but real numbers help point you to your seriousness about sustainable efforts.
Related: ESG, sustainable investing and impact investing: what’s the difference and what’s best for your portfolio?
4. The world craves green opinion leaders
As the founder or CEO of your company, you have a huge influence on the strength of your brand. So if you become an opinion leader in the sustainability movement, your company’s credibility should follow. This allows your organization to shine in a way that can increase your visibility and confidence.
Consider how this has worked for someone like Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. He recently announced that he was giving away his company to highlight his passion for climate change solutions. The move garnered a lot of attention for the company and its half-century mission. It also solidified Patagonia’s position as a true disruptor in the sustainability movement.
You are not required to place your business interests in a trust, as Chouinard has done. Nevertheless, think of ways to stand out by doing good in visible, innovative ways. You improve your reputation as a sustainability advocate and that of your company.
It can be a challenge to know where to start when it comes to sustainable business. One thing is clear: you can’t reap all the benefits of being green if you don’t start the process.