Finding the Right Sustainability Initiatives for Your Business

Kelly Spors

Friday, March 8th, 2013

It’s easy to feel intimidated with sustainability. Once you address the basics—installing energy-efficient light bulbs and stationing recycle bins around the office—you may not know how to proceed.

How do you determine which sustainability measures will ultimately pay for themselves and be the best investment for your business?

It doesn’t have to be such as monstrous, stressful endeavor. In fact, it can be a very rewarding journey that ultimately pays back in multiple ways by lowering your environmental footprint, improving your bottom line and bolstering customer and employee loyalty.

So, where do you start?

Here are four steps to finding sustainability initiatives that make sense for your business:

1. Identify Measures That Aligned With Your Business

Often the most powerful sustainability measures are those that align closely with what a business does or sells. Think about the grocery store that donates excess inventory to a local food bank, an accountant that sends tax documents electronically or helps businesses assess the paybacks of sustainability initiatives, or apparel makers that focus on using sustainable, non-toxic fabrics and dyes.

These initiatives are so closely tied to what they do that it’s easy to feel passionate about them and discuss them with customers.

2. Take a Customer Perspective

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What would help them reduce their footprint when using your products? An olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette store near where I live gives customers a discount for returning and refilling their used bottles. They decorate their recycled paper bags as gift bags when people ask, so customers don’t need to re-wrap it themselves.

Considering what happens to your products once they leave your business can help you figure out how to reduce your total footprint even more.

3. Form a “Green Team”

Have employees? Get them involved in helping identify sustainability initiatives for the business. Chances are, your employees most passionate about the environment will volunteer to serve on a green team. (Learn steps for starting a green team.)

And they will eventually become ambassadors, helping other employees reduce their environmental footprint while at work.

4. Relax, Take it Slowly

Becoming a “green business” isn’t an overnight process. Yes, certain measures require some research and analyses. But start with the low-hanging fruit—the things that you know will help the environment and save you money. Take advantage of services available to your business, like free or low-cost energy audits from your utility companies. Write a basic sustainability plan with goals that are achievable.

Consider joining a local business sustainability group, so you can network with other business owners striving to be greener and share ideas.

Once you start realizing how these initiatives lower your footprint, you’ll likely want to keep doing more.

Courtesy: Small Biz Trends

About Kelly Spors

Kelly Spors is a former small-business reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal and has also freelanced for Yahoo! and The New York Times. She is now communications and outreach coordinator for Energy Smart, a Minnesota nonprofit helping businesses save money through energy efficiency.