We are hearing an awful lot about sustainability and in so many different contexts that it can get downright confusing. At any point in time, we could be talking about sustainability relative to climate change, business, resiliency, social justice, corporate and social responsibility (CSR), environment and technology. You see my point? And that's just the beginning.
Let’s take a step back and presume we all want to be good citizens, good stewards of our environment. Most of us would raise our hands, I suspect. But where does sustainability come into play relative to my small business? Is sustainability merely a fad - here today gone tomorrow like vinyl go-o boots? My opinion is that sustainability is not fad and is most definitely here to stay and I would add, the importance of sustainability as a business issue has steadily grown over the past two decades. I can reach back, somewhat sheepishly, a little further than two decades ago when sustainability was then just the purview of leading-edge thinkers and zealous environmentalists. Today, we have come a long way from thinking of sustainability as something that's far more than just "way too far left" to make kind of good business sense.
Mega companies with a sizable global footprint such as Pepsi, Coca Cola, Walmart, IKEA, Apple and others have very quickly become steeped in sustainability because they see it as giving them an economic advantage over their competition. They also realize that they cannot afford to avoid such sustainability issues as stressed, nonrenewable resources, human rights violations in their value chains or taking steps to moderate their impact on climate change.
So now, if we think about sustainability, less in the mega corporation sense and more as a small business, perhaps a business case for sustainability can be made that could possibly give you a competitive advantage as well as helping build long-term value. According to Professor Knut Haanaes, "sustainability is built on the assumption that developing such strategies foster company longevity."
The purpose for this particular blog is to note that sustainability may not be everyone's cup of tea especially those small businesses, many of whom are literally fighting for their lives. I know this only too well. No one is asking you to tattoo "I care about sustainability" on your arm not because it would be a lot to tattoo but rather because by adopting small, meaningful practices you may well see some unexpected positive returns in your business and just maybe from your customers (for sure.) An article from Salesforce Essentials "6 Ways Small Business Can Fight Climate Change" sheds some particularly instructive in light on this topic. I will paraphrase, in part, its essence along with my own observations.
Think about building a "culture of awareness" - I don't mean for you set up a Pol Pot reeducation camp but rather suggest you find one or two in your company to look into "best practices" and that will serve as a staging point. Nothing is promised nothing is committed to.
Sensible waste recycling does have to be an exercise in shaming those who do not wish to participate. But trash is a major problem that we can all agree on so consider practical ways of reducing office waste "eliminate paper handouts, cut back on the office soda habit, and avoid too many take-out containers." There are others I am sure.
If you are thinking "big league" footprint, and not doing as others might say they do, maximize video conferencing Zoom, Teams and other platforms to the extent possible. As I have made the point elsewhere this web site, virtual marketing has made it easier than ever to connect with coworkers around the globe, but we recognize there are clearly limitations, so I am not rushing to judgement. Sanity as always, must prevail.
It should go without saying, which I why I am saying it, that energy conservation should rise to the very top of any small business sustainable strategy. To quote from Salesforce Essentials: "How many of your computers and appliances remain on when no one’s around? Careful use of technology and appliances not only saves energy, but it’ll also save you some coin when your monthly bills arrive..."consider installing smart thermostats, which allow you to set your thermostat remotely and create temperature schedules for various times in the day. Finally, LED light bulbs." I would add that the U.S, Department of Energy has more material on energy saving appliances large and small and their Energy Star program is second to none.
Let me save the best for last.
Once you have developed your marketing strategy you need to consider implementing your newly minted initiative to your benefit. Spend some time developing how best to roll out a targeted, public relations campaign. Use social media aggressively both from the professional angle and the community angle. You have a compelling story to tell it to everyone including your customers! Look to become a sustainable business leader in your community and among your professional peers. A well-executed campaign will a have a positive dividend for you and for your employees and also not only in terms of your bottom line but also in terms of repeat and (I promise) new customers.
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