Including Sustainability Goals in Small Business Strategy

csr principles sustainability May 24, 2024

Sustainability has become a ubiquitous buzzword in recent years.

Daily doom and gloom reporting on the impacts of resource consumption and habitat destruction on the environment can make us feel as though we are too small to make a difference. We explore sustainability on a global scale, then, we will break it all down for you to understand how to make your small business more sustainable.

 

Small Business and Sustainability: An Overview

Globally there has been a huge shift in consciousness towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles. These principles outline how organisations are expected to operate to benefit their employees, customers, the community, and their key shareholders.

Image Source: Depositphotos

Many organisations are committed to reducing their environmental impact by applying the UN 2030-initiated Agenda for Sustainable Development. This roadmap was adopted by all United Nations members and helps organisations determine and report on their sustainability efforts. The Agenda comprises 17 Sustainability Development Goals that businesses can work towards.

Image Courtesy of https://sdgs.un.org/goals

You can check the 17 goals out in more detail here.

 

Businesses that previously viewed sustainability as an afterthought, are now seeing it as a key strategic objective to secure stakeholder loyalty.

This shift in thinking has resulted in the development of new job sectors and roles, with the C-Suite expanding to appoint Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs). Many are also hiring HR sustainability teams whose roles are to implement and drive sustainable strategy and reporting.

 

How Does This Affect Small Business?

Okay, so you might be thinking, “But small businesses don’t have to report on sustainability efforts, nor do you we have the budget for a CSO”, and you’re right.

However, we can learn a lot from the implementation of these practices and adopt some into small business to gain a point of difference among competitors and improve brand equity.

Building sustainability into your business model now is smart business. Some form of sustainability reporting will likely trickle down to small businesses in years to come.

So how do you become a sustainability pioneer and apply these principles to your own business? And, why should you?

 

Why Does Sustainability in Small Business Even Matter?

“But I went paperless years ago, use a keep cup and recycle…”

Okay, so as a primarily online business, it's likely you don’t have an abundance of fixed assets like trucks, car fleets, warehouses, or multiple brick-and-mortar storefronts/offices. These types of assets are energy-intensive and will likely increase the carbon footprint of any business pretty quickly.

But, as the saying goes, every bit counts…

 

Sustainability and Brand Equity

Besides the more practical side of sustainability, there are business-related benefits to going green. For instance, brand equity!

Essentially, brand equity is a measure of overall consumer perceptions of your brand. Positive brand equity leads to greater interest, engagement and profitability. Negative brand equity leads to a loss in sales revenue, customer loyalty and brand confidence.

 

Consumer Driven Expectations

More and more people are making conscious choices around the brands they support and align themselves with. Sustainability has become a part of this consumer decision-making as we are often bombarded by the disadvantages of buying fast fashion or single-use plastics.

By implementing and declaring your sustainability efforts, however small, you can increase consumer trust and build your brand equity. However, the greater the effort, the greater the outcome.

 

Sustainability Benefits in a Nutshell

  1. Builds brand trust and loyalty with the growing segment of environmentally conscious consumers
  2. Differentiates your brand as a leader in social responsibility
  3. Attracts top talent who want to work for ethical companies
  4. Reduces operational costs over time due to decreased energy usage and increased resource efficiency
  5. Mitigates regulatory risks from growing environmental laws
  6. Creates new product/service innovation opportunities
  7. Increases investment appeal for sustainability-focused grants
  8. Enhances word-of-mouth marketing
     

Brand Implications for Not Acting on Sustainability

With the consumer-led drive towards more sustainable business practices, not prioritising environmental sustainability poses major risks in terms of brand equity erosion. It also puts you at risk of losing to competitors that do implement eco-practices and report on their sustainability efforts.

 

How Can Small Businesses Incorporate Social Responsibility and Eco-Friendly Initiatives?

There are many ways to think about sustainability and developing more responsible business practices.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Consider how your business practices impact the environment, and the people and community is a great place to start.
  2. Do a self-appraisal of your everyday operations to help you identify areas for improvement in your sustainability efforts. You can then leverage these efforts to increase brand loyalty.
  3. Let us help you conduct a Small Business Eco-Audit.

 

Enquiry Prompts:

How is my business giving back and/or adding value to the community?

What actionable changes can I make to better serve my customers and community?

What changes can I make to reduce waste and be kinder to the environment?

 

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”— Robert Swan

 

CSR and Sustainability Plan For Small Business: 10 Easy Actions You Can Take

  1. Install a recycling station in your home and place of business, and incentivise your team to reduce carbon emissions in the workplace
  2. Recycle office materials correctly (used ink cartridges, power cords and electronic waste can be properly recycled at most Officeworks locations)
  3. Invest in more eco-friendly inks, paper, office materials and packaging.
  4. Go paperless wherever possible.
  5. Conduct sustainability reports that detail the business's initiatives, progress, and challenges.
  6. Develop website pages on brand values to document your sustainability efforts publicly.
  7. Implement sustainable supply chains
  8. Foster an inclusive, diverse and supportive company culture
  9. Invest in employee training, development and growth opportunities
  10. Switch to energy-efficient hosting solutions for your servers and cloud-based platforms

 

Make it Relevant

Small businesses can make sustainability efforts more relevant via initiatives that provide social value and have a direct impact on your local community.

For example:

  • Collaborate with a local community group or initiative that aligns with your business objectives and value proposition. You can volunteer or fundraise to support them to raise awareness.
  • Donate a percentage of profits to a local charity or organisation that speaks to you.
  • Offer reduced product or program prices to vulnerable community members
  • Team up with local educational institutions and offer internships and work experience
  • Fund industry-relevant scholarships for young people in the community.
  • Start your own industry-specific non-profit.

 

What BMS is Doing to Build CSR and Sustainability Principles into our Operations:

Having a conversation around sustainability with your employer or team is the first step. An recent initial audit of our own processes helped the team recognise the action steps we still need to take to embed these principles into our business model. Recognising the gaps is the first step towards positive change. Sustainability is not a destination, it is a continual process of self-appraisal and accountability. BMS is committed to learning and growing when it comes to this field.

Here are some of the things we're currently practicing:

  1. BMS makes every effort to recycle in the workplace and at home
  2. Many of our team members compost food waste and eat plant based to reduce carbon emissions
  3. Being a virtual team, we are entirely paperless
  4. BMS uses eco-friendly and/or recycled inks, paper, office materials and packaging
  5. We've installed indoor plants to improve air quality and create a healthy home-office environment
  6. We offer team training sessions on topics like sustainability, mental health and work wellbeing
  7. As a virtual team we generate zero emissions commuting
  8. We are advocates for diversity, inclusion and we foster a healthy workplace culture and promote a healthy work-life rhythm
  9. We generate local job opportunities
  10. We support the local economy by investing in Australian small business growth
  11. We upskill local talent by providing professional development opportunities for our team

 

Our Sustainability Goals over the coming year:

  1. Regularly donate to an aligned local charity
  2. Launch a sustainability small business audit to further support business owners in this area.
  3. Hire more local talent to support the local job market and economy to keep virtual roles in Australia
  4. Continue to educate our clients and community on practical tips for small business sustainability and conduct eco-audits to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

As Busy Made Simple learns more about sustainability and social responsibility, it is committed to rolling out new initiatives to directly benefit the community it exists within and the people it serves.

 

Sustainability Services for Small Business at BMS

Incorporating more ethical practices into your business strategy and operations takes a little setting up.

Here are ways we can help:

  1. Perform and review your sustainability audit
  2. Develop a plan for easy switches to help you transition to a more sustainable business model.
  3. Develop a marketing campaign and resources to communicate your commitment to sustainability and the business's sustainability initiatives
  4. Gather customer insights into brand perceptions and use these insights to develop your sustainability objectives.
  5. Conduct market analysis around what your specific customer segment looks for when it comes to sustainability and buyer decision-making
  6. Recommend and transition to more sustainable supply chains, packaging and freight options where relevant.

By gaining support from your OBM, you are more likely to achieve better results without an increase in workload.

An Eco-Warrior OBM can provide valuable guidance and expertise to help identify areas of improvement and implement simple changes. Ultimately, incorporating sustainability into your business strategy with the help of an OBM can lead to improved brand perception, increased customer loyalty, and a positive impact on the environment.

 

 

Image Artist: Nicole Harvey

Key Takeaways:

In summary, sustainability is a broad concept that requires us to adopt a more mindful approach to business. We don’t have to be perfect, but if we make the effort to do better not only will we feel like we are part of the solution, but we can improve our brand equity in the process.

Making informed decisions that balance social, environmental, and economic factors can reduce long-term energy costs, attract and retain more eco-conscious consumers, and improve brand reputation.

Acting now will future-proof our planet's resources, ensuring the next generation will grow up in a society that respects and protects the resources we rely upon to survive and thrive in business and life.

 

Written by Jessica Zohs, OBM.

 

A note from Kirsten: Our Sustainability Services

Jessica Zohs is one of our passionate OBMs who loves working with eco-conscious clients who are ready to make a difference. Her specialty lies in educating teams on the benefits of incorporating sustainability practices into small business strategy, conducting small business sustainability audits and supporting small business owners to implement practical changes that make a difference to people and the planet.

If you’re interested in building greater brand equity whilst saving money and the planet, talk to us today about how our small business sustainability audit can get you there.

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