Written by: Lexie Lu
More than 90% of sustainably marketed products have outpaced sales growth in their respective categories between 2013 and 2018. On average, these products grow 5.6 times faster than conventionally marketed goods. Consumers want to support companies that show social and environmental responsibility — and they’re voting with their dollars. By building sustainability into the heart of your business, you can deliver on this demand.
Here’s how you can achieve it:
1. START WITH A CORE BELIEF
Weaving sustainable practices into your business’s core will make your sustainability efforts work in the long-term. Adding sustainability to your mission statement will show your team and customers you mean business.
Build sustainability into every aspect of your culture, from the top-down. Don’t shy away from bold, measurable goals. Zero emissions, zero waste or 100% biodegradable products may seem difficult to achieve. Yet, like diamonds, innovation thrives under pressure. Once you set a vision for your company, follow up with a road map and a dash of entrepreneurial spirit.
2. FOCUS ON YOUR VALUE PROPOSITION
A sustainable business needs to sustain itself, too. To survive in a competitive market, you need something better than all the rest. Sustainability can be a persuasive part of your value proposition in a society where consumers are concerned with the planet’s future. Across product categories, sustainable products had 15% sales growth between 2017 and 2018, while non-sustainable competitors only saw 3% growth.
Still, the products need to be worth something. Sustainable fashion needs to be, well, fashionable. A green cleaning company cannot sacrifice the spotless clean they promise customers. Carbon-neutral shipping needs to move fast and on-schedule. Whatever it is you do, do it well — and better.
3. PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
A sustainable company looks for ways to grow as it preserves the planet. Your sustainable practices need to be scalable. You can’t claim to have ethical labor practices because you’re the only employee. If fair labor is part of your mission, you need to consider how you will implement it as you grow your team and select suppliers and partners.
4. CONSIDER HOW YOUR RESOURCES ARE PRODUCED AND REPLENISHED
You also need to rely on renewable resources as your business expands. Consider what raw materials go into production. Farm products should be cultivated using sustainable farming practices that limit water usage and protect the surrounding ecosystem. Other raw materials should come from environmentally conscious manufacturers. The processes should try to limit water and electricity usage and reduce emissions.
5. CONSIDER HOW YOU OBTAIN AND TRANSPORT RESOURCES
Sourcing locally is an excellent way to limit your impact since raw materials travel a shorter distance to factories, warehouses and consumers. When that isn’t an option, consider the vehicles used to transport products. Remember that container ships, bulk carriers and oil tankers account for 55% of all CO2 emissions globally.
The transportation methods you choose should have a decent fuel economy and limit pollution. It’s also a good idea to consider carbon-offset shipping, which neutralizes the effects of transportation on CO2 emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects.
6. FIND A WAY TO GIVE BACK
Corporate philanthropy shows your customers what you are passionate about and how you are committed to your global and local community. Sustainable businesses give back as much as they take and look for ways to replenish the resources they borrow from the planet.
You can donate to organizations committed to finding new sources of green energy. You can engage in fair trade with suppliers and invest in groups that help businesses adopt green farming practices in the regions you source your raw materials. You might also incorporate volunteer days where your team plants trees or cleans up litter in the community.
7. MAKE YOUR OFFICE AND PHYSICAL LOCATIONS SUSTAINABLE
The impact of your office, manufacturing facilities, retail locations and daily work processes is vital. Installing low-flow plumbing and energy-efficient light bulbs are two ways you can save on operating costs and reduce your environmental impact.
Consider getting your buildings certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). LEED certifications are one of the highest honors a green building can achieve. It incorporates the adoption of sustainable practices, such as installing eco-friendly flooring and other building materials and using renewable energy.
8. EMBED “REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE” INTO YOUR PRODUCTS AND PROCESSES
When manufacturing your products and providing services, consider ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduce your contribution to landfills by eliminating material waste in your factories. Switching to digital files can reduce paper usage. Find more ways to reuse materials, such as producing and packaging products in post-recycled goods. Work with recyclable materials and start a program that rewards customers for returning and recycling their used products or packaging.
9. CREATE SUSTAINABLE AND FAIR LABOR CONDITIONS
Create a positive impact on the communities where you operate. In the 1990s, companies like Nike fell in hot water for their sweatshop labor practices in Indonesia and Vietnam. The company responded by increasing accountability and transparency for their factory conditions and labor practices. It’s now one of the most forward-thinking, sustainable and beloved brands. Fair working conditions create healthier, more sustainable communities around the world and are another way a company can give back.
10. ENGAGE EMPLOYEES IN SUSTAINABILITY
Innovation happens when people put their heads together. When your team commits to sustainability from the top-down, the environment becomes a priority. Everyone at your office can do their part through small acts like turning off the lights when they aren’t in use or recycling waste. Involving everyone in the process can also bring new ideas to the forefront. Encourage your team to bring forward innovative ideas to meet sustainability goals.
SHOW YOUR COMMITMENT TO THE PLANET
The demand for sustainability is changing the way businesses operate. Adopting green practices early on in your growth is the best way to keep the environment at the core of your philosophy. Sustainability is a market advantage, so be sure to show off your efforts in your marketing. Your consumers want to support your mission for good, and it will shine through when you commit to it on all levels.