In a world bursting with almost 8 billion fellow citizens, sustainability has become all of our responsibility.

But sustainability has other benefits outside of benevolence – using sustainable practices often helps reduce overheads and provides a new way to promote your business and connect with modern customers as well.

Sustainability is not just about the environment  – Business sustainability also concerns social responsibility and financial thriftiness.

1) Packaging

Being both careful about our use of resources – and choosy about which resources they are is an important part of being sustainable. Many green businesses are already practicing sustainability through packaging changes from toxic non recyclables to green alternatives.

Not only is this fantastic for our rapidly deteriorating environment, but it is also what customers want.

“Recycling, packaging, businesses are changing all of those things because that’s what consumers want.” – Jerry Greenfield, Co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

If you produce or resell physical goods have you looked into ways to reduce waste or use more environmentally ethical products? Can you use bamboo instead of plastic? Is your paper sourced responsibly from recycled products? Can you swap your packing and shipping material?

This kind of exploration is not only going to make you a more ethical and sustainable business but can also do wonders for branding. By advertising your switch to greener packaging – you also gain a market edge.

2) Electricity

The obvious one – but have you made meaningful changes in your business? Really?

Firstly, the majority of your power probably goes to heating and cooling – as with most businesses and households this sits around 40%.

  • Have you checked the energy ratings on your heating and cooling system?
  • Are there ways to reduce its use while maintaining comfort?
  • Does it operate without people in the office?

What about your lighting which also accounts for a significant portion of a business’ power useage?

  • Are you using the latest energy saving bulbs?
  • Can you use movement sensors to reduce unnecessary lighting?
  • Can you be creative with white spaces, windows and mirrors to maximise light?

3) Solar is a game changer

While on the topic of electricity – what about strategic use of Solar?

This ,will of course depend on your business and its location, but you could be surprised how easily you could integrate solar into your operations.

Home based businesses can get a massive dual benefit from adding solar panels to their homes and even use business tax benefits for home office expenses.

People operating market stall, coffee stand or food truck can also make use of simplified solar solutions to power their sites.

What are some primary business benefits?

  • Utility savings: Solar’s greatest advantage, whether residential or commercial, is that it can reduce or eliminate electric bills.
  • Storage/Resale: With extra panels and a battery you could be storing energy for later use and even selling it back to the grid – making you money!
  • Solid ROI: With government incentives, rebates and possible tax relief – installing solar is an excellent business move with both long term savings and immediate paybacks.
  • Green Reputation: Make sure your customers know you run their services on sustainable solar. Keeping your audience informed boosts your brand equity and gives your business a competitive edge.

4) Ethical products

If you are a retail operator who is involved in selling and buying goods, there is a lot you can do to ensure the business you are involved in is based on sustainable and ethical practices.

Ethical in this sense can mean both social and environmental.

A prime example of unsustainable and unethical practices would be the debate over Palm Oil. Palm oil is used in a huge variety of consumer products, however in recent years many have boycotted the practice as it involves burning huge swathes of rainforest, destroying habitat and involves  accusations of child labour and wage slavery in the supply chain.

What about people? If a product is produced by slave or child labour, you should be aware  – there are no excuses in the age of the internet.

What you should be doing is examining your supply chain and your use and supply of products. Do some elemental research and discover whether people, animals or delicate environments being exploited on your business’ behalf.

5) Tell People!

Keep in mind that you could and should be advertising your sustainability efforts in your marketing material and throughout your general branding.

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your actions, as long as they are genuine, and it is even better to be rewarded by your customers.