Sustainability is the kind of investment where everyone wins. Becoming more efficient in the way we use our resources and generating less waste saves money in the long run — even counting upfront costs.
In the digital age, with consumers hyper-aware of social and environmental issues, the lines between marketing, public relations, and sustainability are becoming blurred. Corporate social responsibility initiatives make for attractive selling points for businesses, and a commitment to sustainable practices boosts business objectives — even customer acquisition.
So what are three ways that you can make sustainability a business priority and improve the world around you while becoming more efficient and profitable? Some of the biggest impacts come from small organizational changes!
This is the sustainability practice that’s getting easier and easier to implement with each year. In fact, cloud-based services that perform many filing and data analysis functions pop up all the time, and the hardware that does digital filing becomes more potent with each passing year.
The upfront costs of going paperless can be daunting. After all, it’s a big change, and a lot can go wrong when switching to a new system, especially because your files contain sensitive data about the business, and maybe customers as well.
The fact is that the money you save in man-hours, efficiency, and materials make any upfront cost associated with going paperless, however, are completely worth it. Switching to digital filing systems is a net gain. Ink and paper aren’t the only costs of paper files as a lot of working hours are used up filing and retrieving paper documents, and this only gets worse as your business grows.
Giving paperless options to your customers for billing and other communications is a great way to provide a subtle indication that you’re moving to a more sustainable model. Highlighting the process on social media could make for a fun PR campaign. It’s a win-win.
Energy Efficiency and Preventative Maintenance
Reducing the carbon footprint of your business can be as simple as making sure your utilities function correctly and that you’re taking steps to reduce energy and water waste.
Replace fluorescent bulbs with LEDs (your employees will thank you for that one), make it a company-wide policy to turn things off when they’re not in use, and make sure your worksite maintenance is caught up. Maintaining and updating water pipes to prevent hidden leaks is a great way to make sure you don’t suffer a surprise on your water bill and ensures that your water usage isn’t inflated beyond what is necessary.
Replace grass on your premises with gravel, and landscape with drought-resistant plants and trees that don’t need much water. If you’re feeling wild, look into getting solar panels installed on the roof.
Reducing water and energy use reduces your overhead at the same time as your environmental footprint, so any of these expenses are a long-term investment in the health of your business.
Build a Culture of Longevity
Prioritize the repair of things and the lasting value of people. This one is pretty simple, but can be difficult to implement: stop replacing as much as possible.
If you create products, realize that many consumers are wise to, and sick of, planned obsolescence. Think about using sustainable materials and production practices, of course, but one of the simplest ways to reduce environmental impact is to make things that get thrown away less. Sustainability starts with design, so start there, because that’s the best place to begin thinking about materials, production, and distribution as well.
Around the office, commit to maintenance and repair rather than replacement. On the other hand, replace legacy technology that is no longer efficient with longer-lasting, more efficient alternatives. It’s about knowing where the balance lies and making sure that when you do replace things you’re choosing sustainable options.
The same principle applies to people. Investing in internal training, external schooling, and findings ways to make current employees more successful is a much more sustainable practice than running a company with a high turnover. Employees that feel valued and supported, and who gain more skills as they work for you, are much more motivated to buy into your culture and help to achieve the company’s goals. Keeping employees for longer also provides more stability for the local community around you.
Going green and creating a sustainable business doesn’t have to happen all at once, and you don’t need to do expensive overhauls on everything right away. Simple physical changes and changes to the company culture can kick-start the process and get you motoring in the right direction.
Indiana Lee is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who enjoys writing about personal finance, social justice, and politics. You can find more of her work at on Contently at indianaleewrites.contently.com.
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.