Most small businesses now view sustainability as socially responsible and believe it can offer a competitive advantage—their instincts are right. According to many surveys, including the Tork Green Business Poll conducted by Harris: 78% of American consumers say they purchase sustainable products and services that are healthier and do less harm to the environment.

As this trend continues, businesses are discovering going green can have cost saving benefits and opportunities for business growth in the future. While this is encouraging news, moving forward can raise many questions about how to best place sustainable practices into their operation.

Growing into sustainability takes time.

Planning for green initiatives can be challenging. It doesn’t have to happen all at once and a certain amount of expense is involved but it’s not as time consuming or expensive as imagined. Unlike the earlier years of the green movement, today there are many environmentally friendly products and services to assist.

Industry specific resources are also available at the state and national level to help plan strategies and find incentive grants. Also, technology advances offer new opportunities to reduce waste and recycle. Managed Print Services (MSP) for example, are helping customers both replace old printing devices with more advanced energy efficient machines as well as reduce their carbon footprint by reducing overall monthly machine counts.

One MSP vendor for a large central Wisconsin school district implemented automatic queue based printing that cleared print jobs after a set period of time. Two months after this change, the entire school district saw savings. One high school alone saved 30,000 pages of paper during that period—a savings of 3.5 trees worth of paper along with savings in energy and toner.

Use these key planning steps to ‘successful’ sustainability.

  1. Broaden the view beyond environmental issues: Think about how implementing sustainability will positively impact your employees, customers, suppliers and your community. Those relationships are connected to creating a successful sustainability strategy.
  2. Clearly define sustainability and why it’s important to your business: Your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) should be connected to your business strategy. Tie in the opportunity to make a profit or people won’t understand why you’re doing it.
  3. Get everyone’s buy-in: Sustainability is long-term and will help secure your future success. Customers, employees, investors and suppliers need to understand their role in making this commitment.
  4. Use available help. Search your industry and you’ll find many initiatives to help small businesses understand sustainability issues and find grants and other resources.
  5. Think small steps. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and neither are sustainability programs. Small changes, like going paperless, duplex printing (printing on both sides of paper), and being more efficient with electricity, can make a big difference in savings and build confidence in the long-term success of your efforts.
  6. Measure success along the way. Profit isn’t the only measure of success. Check the intangibles like the growth of trust in your business, a rise in greenness of your supply chain and management/employee growth in enthusiasm for the program.

Sustainability is good for business.

According to the World Economic Forum small and medium size companies around the world focused on eco-innovation are growing compared to their competitors. These companies are:

  • Developing new markets and expanding old ones.
  • Attracting investors.
  • Staying ahead of environmental regulations rather than being reactive when regulations change.
  • Increasing profitability by adopting sustainable practices.

Sustainability and making a profit can be done simultaneously. Companies, no matter how small, are seeing the benefits of implementing eco-measures. Gaining this perspective is good for the earth and good for its people.

Astronauts who walked the moon have the most ‘unique perspective’ on earth’s beauty. It’s a stunning sight from 230,000 miles away and small businesses are doing their part to keep it that way! Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchel had this to say about seeing earth from space.

Earth“Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in a long, slow-motion moment of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth…home.”