Profitable and sustainable business isn’t an oxymoron; it’s the future
Far too many people see sustainable business as the opposite of profitable business. Prevailing wisdom tells us that those who want to protect the planet and those who want to make money are at odds with each other. However, reality continues to challenge this idea. As such, there are many ways to make your business both profitable and sustainable.
1. Understand The Profitability of Sustainability
Before you can start making your business an eco-friendly money-making machine, you need to first realise that it is possible. First, there are the business benefits of sustainable attitudes towards the use of water and deforestation. The logic is painfully simple: more efficiency means less expenditure (which is good for business) and less waste (which is good for the planet).
Second, there is the fact that sustainable business is a growing sector which is opening up new jobs and, therefore, new business ventures. According to figures from the US Department of Energy, solar energy employs more than twice as many people as gas, oil, and coal energy — combined. What’s more, employment across the whole sustainable energy sector is increasing at a much faster rate than in the fossil fuel energy sector.
Add all that together and it’s no surprise to discover that companies who factor tackling climate change into their business models have an 18% higher ROI than businesses who don’t.
2. Teach Your Staff The Value of Sustainable Business
“Company values” and “company culture” sound like airy expressions, but it’s a fact that different businesses value different things. If all businesses valued the same things, then all businesses would be the same.
As a result, to create a more sustainable business, you need to start with your staff. They are the lifeblood of your business and, according to Richard Branson, they should come before your customers. Once you get your staff on board with the idea that sustainability is important, the rest will fall into place.
Training is a great way to do this. Let your employees know from day one that you are a sustainable business, that this is something to be proud of and that supporting the company in its mission to be sustainable will be rewarded.
3. Think Long-Term Investment, Not Short-Term Savings
Short-term thinking is the enemy of sustainable business. Buy things cheap and throw them away when they aren’t needed anymore. Do things the old way because changing to the new way will cost money — and never invest in change. All of this may save you money — but only in the short-term. In the long-term, your business will continue to lose money as your competitors take advantage of the investments they’ve made.
Using reusable cutlery (or perhaps biodegradable cutlery) in your canteen, going paperless in your office, even investing in eco-friendly septic tank upgrades: all of these things will cost money short-term. Equally, though, they will all save your business money in the long term. If you want a business with a future, then you need to plan for that future.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Sustainable business is a tricky thing. It’s a new industry and one that’s always changing, so there are risks. What might seem like an eco-friendly solution one week might, under scrutiny, wind up costing more and damaging the environment more, too. Such is the nature of an industry which is filled with innovation. After all, reinventing the wheel is always going to be a bit of a gamble.
With that in mind, it’s worth simply asking other business owners their thoughts. Don’t be afraid to get an outsider’s expert opinion on what’s working (and what’s not) in your business. It’s a great way to network and it saves you the hassle of going through the trial and error yourself.