Make your small business more sustainable

November 30, 2021

Thanks to Bonnie, from Words by Bonnie, for her thoughts in this guest blog post. Below, you’ll find some great ideas on things you can do to make your small business more sustainable.

Across the UK, businesses are trying to make much needed changes to their operating practices and talking about them. H&M has launched a new sustainability initiative to ‘close the loop’ of fast fashion. Oliver Bonas is making changes from their warehouse to their shop floor. Marks and Spencer has a successful range of vegan food – Plant Kitchen – and have made a start in their sustainability journey. Sainsbury’s is the UK’s greenest supermarket and IKEA is challenging its fast-furniture reputation with a whole host of sustainable policies.

Sustainability is the balance between the environment, equity, and economy

UN World Commission on Environment and Development

People want sustainable brands

Big brands aren’t becoming more environmentally friendly for the fun of it or because they suddenly care about the planet. They’re doing it because it makes them money. Small Business Trends reports that 71% of consumers are more likely to buy from a business which aligns with their values. You can’t look at social media without seeing articles on climate change and environmental responsibility. Recently, COP26 and the IPCC report have been all over the news. So, it’s not a surprise that living sustainably has become more and more urgent in the public’s consciousness. People are prepared to change their behaviour to be kinder to the planet: they want to buy sustainable products from sustainable businesses.

So, making your business more sustainable – and publicising it – isn’t just good for the planet. It’s good for your sales too. After all, 76% of 18–34-year-olds like it when CEOs of companies they buy from speak out on issues they care for. If you can do something to appeal to more customers, why wouldn’t you?

Small business owners juggle a huge amount: marketing, admin, creating, family life and self- care (ha! When?!). Don’t beat yourself up if making your business sustainable is at the bottom of your list. In fact, 9 out of 10 UK small businesses are not measuring their carbon footprint. What’s more, one in five businesses admit they don’t fully understand the term ‘net zero’.

If you’re interested in cutting your carbon footprint, here are four ways you can drastically cut it and make your business more sustainable.

Web Hosting

Whichever platform you use to host your website, you’re renting a tiny bit of space on a physical server. The server is where all the data for your website is stored so it appears in your website visitors’ browser. These servers need a huge amount of energy to run and they’re predicted to be as polluting as the air travel industry. Switching to an ethical web hosting service limits your impact on the planet. You could check out Green Webhost, Green Hosting or Kualo.

If changing your web host isn’t an option right now, you can offset the impact of your site with Blue Beagle. You can even display their logo on your website to show your customers you’re making a difference.

Packaging

If you’re a product-based business, the packaging you use has a massive effect on the environment. You can make changes straight away by packing the boxes full with as little wasted space as possible and by grouping orders together. Once you’ve used up your current packaging, it’s time to get a new, eco supplier. You can buy recyclable packaging from Eco Packaging Solutions, or Eco Craft.

Whichever way you go, shout about it. Get the news of your new eco packaging in your email newsletter, talk about it on social media, post pictures and reels. Let your customer know what to expect (especially if they’re repeat customers) and tell them all about what you’re doing to become more green.

Subscribe to Ecologi

Ecologi is an environmental organisation and social enterprise originally founded in Bristol, UK. There are different packages you can sign up for and they use your monthly subscription to offset your business’ carbon footprint. Ecologi uses your money to plant trees around the world. You can even track your own forest growing on your profile. The company also invests in environmentally friendly projects, such as:

  • The distribution of approximately 8,000 domestic fuel-efficient cookstoves to households within the Anesba district in Eritrea
  • Providing rural Vietnamese farmers with a way of producing clean renewable fuel from animal manure
  • Repairing damaged boreholes, and drilling new ones, to give access to safe, clean drinking water in Dowa, Malawi
  • Collecting and using of landfill gas in Chile for the generation of electricity

You can also share your profile with customers so they can track your tree planting progress too (like Melissa’s which you can find here).

Keep it local

Have a good look at your suppliers. If you can, use a local supplier. You’ll cut down on the energy used (and pollution generated) when items are shipped to you. If you can’t find a local supplier, you may be able to find an environmentally friendly option somewhere else in the country. Alternatively, if you have a long relationship with your current suppliers and really don’t want to use new ones, why not have a chat with them about changes they could make to make their business more environmentally friendly? Win win for both of you and for the planet.

Now, let’s talk freelancers. Take an hour to look at the policies of people you already work with (or perhaps just email them to ask). What is your accountant’s environmental policy? Can you work with a vegan VA? Is your copywriter ethical? If not, do a shout out on social media asking for recommendations of environmentally savvy freelancers. As well as getting a list of freelancers whose work can be vouched for by people already in your community, you’re also making your customers aware of your sustainability goals.

Over to you!

However you move forward to make your business more sustainable, what’s important is to make it simple, achievable and specific to your business. A few small tweaks can be the difference between eco-friendly and eco-foe. Perhaps, most importantly, make sure you publicise your changes. Not only will you inspire others but you might also inspire new customers to make their purchases with you.

Bonnie Harrington is a copywriter and content writer from Bristol, UK. She loves writing for creative small businesses, ethical brands and agencies who pay their invoices in a timely manner. Meeting new clients and chatting about their passion is one of the best parts of her job. If she’s not reading, you’ll find her writing for clients or posting blogs on www.wordsbybonnie.com

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Please be aware, I do not work with the fossil fuel industry or PR agencies that retain fossil fuel clients.

If that's you, please look for support elsewhere. Thank you.