With a new business, sustainable and eco-friendly has become more than buzzwords, they’re now the bedrock that business should be building themselves on. Because let’s face it, in the current climate of minimalism, zero waste and sustainable supply chains, do you want to be the guy with a business that doesn’t adhere to this?
If you’re setting up a business and you’re looking to cement your eco credentials, there are things you will need to consider. Because just saying you’re eco-friendly and sustainable doesn’t necessarily mean you are…
Check your supply chain
It might sound obvious but before you can consider using the term ‘sustainable business’ or ‘eco-friendly’, you’ll need to make sure your supply chain is as green as can be. If you’re a manufacturer or importer of products this is going to mean checking the processes at your source, including the supply of raw materials.
Even factories in places like China will provide certification or details about the origin of materials and factory performance. If you supply a service instead of a physical product, there are plenty of ways that your business can ensure it earns a green stamp of approval, including some of the green-focused initiatives on this list.
Some businesses build their business around a sustainable supply model, such as using organic materials and local factories. One of the best examples of this is Baabuk, an ethical shoe company whose focus is in the use of sustainable wool and a minimal distance from supply to factory. Their USP in this regard is that all the materials used in the production of their shoes in Portugal must come from no more than a 200-kilometer radius from their factory.
Even if your business can’t quite draw from a supply chain
as local as this, you can still check the credentials of your factory on
Check your local suppliers too
Your environmental impact goes beyond product inventory.
Choose green energy suppliers, aim for zero waste in the office, use recycled
or upcycled furniture and install smart sensors to control the climate in the
office and avoid using excess heating or A/C.
A great example of this is WeWork, who are aiming
to be completely carbon neutral by 2023. They’ve ditched disposable
plastic cups in their offices, using only compostables, and they encourage
anyone who works in a WeWork to follow a whole range of environmental
WeWork also offers regular free food and drinks to their subscribers but have made the decision to supply only vegetarian and vegan food in all their in house events.
Get B Corp registered
Certified B Corporation is used by many eco-focused companies to benchmark their own business against around 200 best practices for sustainable business. By completing the quick assessment, you’ll be able to view a whole range of metrics about how your company performs in terms of sustainability against 30 of the best practices.
If you want to get certified you’ll have to do the full impact assessment and then apply for certification. To get certified is a one-time payment of $500 but you’ll need to have a score of at least 80/200 on the full assessment.
One of the most famous examples of a B Corp is Patagonia who is aiming to make their entire supply chain sustainable and zero waste. Although it isn’t a prerequisite to get B Corp registered, you’ll be able to showcase your eco credentials and build trust. And with such a huge demand for sustainable business, being B Corp registered shows you take the environment and local community seriously.
Single-use plastic has had a good run, but its time is definitely up. Plastic cling wrap, disposable plastic containers, and cardboard boxes might be essential for the presentation and distribution of your product. But if it serves a single use and can’t be recycled then you’re going to need to stay away from it to be considered an eco-friendly startup.
Using recyclable material is a good start. But when you
consider that barely 10% of recyclable material is actually recycled, you’ll
understand that even providing packaging of any sort is still part of the
Many food producers and supermarkets are now turning to
biodegradable and compostable packaging. But if you’re in an industry where
packaging is an essential component how can you make your packaging more
Using less packaging and only when it’s essential will be a
major step towards a sustainable approach. Avoid plastic fill, cling wrap,
fancy inserts or lots of use of dyes.
Secondly, using recycled cardboard or paper means less paper
The money issue
Let’s be honest here. The eco-friendly alternatives still tend to be the most expensive and when you’re getting your business up and running, every penny counts. Everything from mass-produced food ingredients, to cheaply produced plastic items or bulk purchased viscose clothing from the Far East will be much cheaper than the sustainable alternative.
But the whole point in the sustainable movement is just that; it’s sustainable. Big businesses are moving over to sustainable produce en masse, so you can get one up on them by being eco-friendly from the get-go.
And as sustainability goes more mainstream the price is
coming down too. So although in the short term it might seem that the
alternative is more attractive to your cash flow, choosing to go with the green
option is going to pay dividends in the long run.
As an example, sourcing products from closer to home might be a more expensive option. But when you factor in transport costs, import duties and damage in transit/quality control issue the more sustainable local product could actually win out.
Winning with local initiatives
They say charity starts at home and that’s especially true
with business. Creating a program of local support means you’ll be able to give
something back to your community, build trust with your peers and even get some
good press and marketing buzz on the side.
Although it might be hard in the early days to factor this
aspect in, it can’t be overlooked as a positive in your business model.
Anything from providing support to local education or health, or working with
other businesses to plant trees or other ways to give back to your local
environment. Many companies try and give back to the communities that support
them in the long run. But making it a cornerstone of your business model from
the outset is a good way to ensure your business becomes an integral part of
In house sustainability
Another way to support your local community is by encouraging your employees to be the most sustainable they can be. Avoid printing by using cloud-based services and DocuSign software. Make sure it’s easy for your team to recycle everything and even give them a food waste bin to contribute to local composting.
Take it a step further and develop a cycle to work scheme,
or give colleagues incentives to jog to work, carpool or use public transport.
Being an eco-friendly business means looking closely at your whole business model. From distant factories or farmers that you might never meet, all the way up to your in house departments, there is plenty of scopes to minimize your global impact.
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