Go Green: Sustainability Tips for Small Businesses
In a rapidly evolving landscape, sustainability has become more than just a niche interest—it's a sector in which your small business needs to invest to thrive. The evidence is clear: according to a survey by The Economist, there was a 450% increase in Google searches for sustainable products in the United States between 2016 and 2020. Additionally, 65% of consumers globally believe that brands bear as much responsibility as governments to create positive environmental change. This shifting consumer sentiment underscores the urgency for businesses to prioritize sustainability.
But how can businesses be more sustainable while still driving profits? The answer depends on your business, its size, what it provides, and countless other factors. But there are a few things nearly all business owners can do to lessen their company’s environmental impact. We break it down, plus reveal some of the things Optimum is doing to promote a more sustainable business, ahead.
What Is Sustainability?
Sustainability can refer to any practice that works to ensure the lasting well-being of a community or group. Being sustainable requires making environmental and economic choices that benefit future generations and won’t limit their ability to achieve prosperity, stability, or well-being.
For businesses, sustainability is a measure of how the products and services offered by the company impact the environment in the long run. Being a sustainable company involves conducting business operations in a way that minimizes negative impacts on the environment, society, and the economy while also ensuring the long-term viability and success of the business.
Moreover, sustainability is closely tied to the concept of the "triple bottom line," represented by the 3 Ps: People, Planet, and Profit. In this framework, sustainable initiatives prioritize the well-being of both individuals and the planet. They recognize the importance of conserving valuable resources and aim to generate profit without unnecessary waste.
There are many steps small business owners can take to make their businesses more sustainable. Improving supply chains can help to reduce carbon emissions, for example, while using eco-friendly materials in the manufacturing process can help to minimize industrial waste. Other sustainable initiatives include using energy-efficient technologies and implementing business-wide recycling programs. At Optimum, we take pride in investing in energy-efficient technologies like fiber Internet, which produces less waste than traditional Internet connections, and energy-efficient gateways and power supplies.
Benefits of Investing in Sustainable Initiatives
Embracing sustainability can benefit your company in several ways, from improving your brand image to enhancing the resiliency of your operations. Keep reading to learn about some of the key advantages of “going green.”
Positive brand association
By adopting sustainable practices, small businesses can build a positive brand image. Since consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental and social impact of their purchases, they are also more likely to support and trust businesses that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.
This reputation not only fosters trust but also attracts a growing segment of consumers who prioritize ethical and sustainable businesses. They view your brand as a contributor to a greener, healthier planet, and this goodwill can translate into customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.
A survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, for example, found that Gen Z and millennial consumers are 27% more likely to purchase from brands they perceive as conscious of their impact on people and the planet. This highlights how sustainability significantly influences purchasing decisions in younger consumer groups.
Sustainability initiatives often involve risk reduction. By conserving resources, minimizing waste, and diversifying suppliers, small businesses can become more resilient to market fluctuations and disruptions in supply chains.
Eco-friendly practices can also help mitigate legal and regulatory risks by ensuring compliance with environmental laws and regulations, reducing the potential for fines, legal battles, and reputational damage.
Positive relationships with stakeholders
Sustainable businesses tend to forge stronger relationships with stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, investors, and local communities. This can lead to better partnerships, more favorable terms, and access to environmentally-friendly materials or resources from suppliers.
Another benefit is that investors increasingly consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors when making investment decisions. A strong sustainability track record can attract ESG-focused investors and potentially lead to greater access to capital.
Sustainability drives innovation. When your small business embraces sustainability, it encourages creative problem-solving and the development of more efficient, environmentally-friendly solutions. Being a green business can also open doors to new markets and opportunities. For example, businesses that produce sustainable goods may find access to eco-conscious markets that are growing in demand. Additionally, sustainable practices can lead to partnerships with like-minded organizations, expanding your business network and potential clientele.
How Can Small Businesses Be More Sustainable?
There are several steps you can take to become more sustainable, including checking how your offices obtain and use energy, assessing the energy efficiency of your Internet connection, and reducing unnecessary inter-office travel. Keep reading to learn practical ways small businesses can become more eco-friendly.
Use fiber Internet
Switching to fiber optic Internet can be more energy-efficient than traditional broadband options. For those unfamiliar with this technology, fiber Internet is a high-speed Internet connection that utilizes fiber optic cables to transmit data. At Optimum, our fiber cables are made from silicone dioxide, which can be extracted from sand, clay, and rocks with little to no impact on the surrounding environment. The materials for traditional copper wiring, meanwhile, need to be mined—a labor-intensive process that can place strain both on the environment and local communities. Additionally, our fiber technology uses approximately ten times less energy than cable wiring to transmit data, which helps minimize carbon emissions for a lower environmental footprint.
The benefits for the consumer shouldn’t be overlooked, either. One of the biggest benefits of fiber is that it is less vulnerable to disruptions and interruptions than cable wiring, particularly in inclement weather. It’s also fast: Optimum’s Business Fiber Internet delivers speeds up to 8 Gig to keep you seamlessly connected. In short, investing in fiber Internet can help future-proof your business by ensuring you have the bandwidth necessary to support emerging technologies and online services in a reliable way while minimizing your environmental impact.
Encourage remote or hybrid work
Limiting unnecessary business travel can significantly reduce a company's carbon emissions. Consider using video conferencing and online collaboration tools to replace in-person meetings whenever possible. When travel is necessary, opt for more fuel-efficient transportation options, such as bicycles, electric cars, and hybrid vehicles.
Reduce waste where possible
Another way to make your small business more green is to implement waste-reduction practices such as recycling. Consider setting up a recycling program within your office or workplace, providing clearly marked bins for paper, cardboard, plastics, and glass to encourage proper disposal. You could also urge employees to go paperless by using digital documents, email communications, and cloud storage, rather than physical documents. Finally, if you sell tangible goods, opt for eco-friendly packaging options for your products. This helps reduce waste and appeals to environmentally-conscious customers. Opting for fiber Internet, if possible, can also help reduce waste: These eco-friendly connections last longer than traditional coaxial cables, and therefore don’t need to be replaced as often.
Source resources and materials locally
Food waste is a significant environmental issue, but small businesses can play a part in reducing it. Composting lunch leftovers is a practical step towards sustainability. By composting food and other organic materials, companies can substantially diminish methane emissions—a potent greenhouse gas—produced by the organic waste in landfills. Compost can also support reforestation and wetlands restoration while enhancing soil water retention.
Composting facilities: Set up an on-site or nearby composting facility for food scraps and organic waste generated in your workplace.
Partner with local farms: Establish partnerships with local farms or community gardens to take your compost and turn it into nutrient-rich soil for agricultural use.
Educate employees: Ensure your employees understand the importance of composting and provide clear guidelines on what can and cannot be composted. Make it easy for them by providing designated compost bins in the office kitchen.
Make other energy-efficient upgrades
Investing in energy-efficient technology doesn’t start and stop with the Internet. Here are a few ways to make your office space more energy-efficient
LED lighting: Replacing traditional incandescent or fluorescent lighting with LED (Light Emitting Diode) fixtures is a simple and effective way to reduce energy consumption. LED lights are long-lasting, emit less heat, and use significantly less energy than conventional bulbs.
Smart thermostats: Consider installing smart thermostats in your office space. These devices can adjust heating and cooling systems based on occupancy and outdoor conditions, optimizing energy usage.
Energy-efficient appliances: When purchasing or replacing office equipment and appliances, opt for Energy Star-rated products. The Energy Star is a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that sets energy efficiency specifications. These products are independently certified to meet strict energy efficiency standards. The EPA assesses the most economical strategy for energy management, empowering organizations to conserve energy, enhance profitability, and strengthen their competitiveness.
Solar panels: While undoubtedly a more substantial investment, installing solar panels on your building can generate clean, renewable energy and reduce your reliance on grid electricity. It can also lead to long-term cost savings and even generate income through energy production.
Low-flow fixtures: Upgrading to low-flow faucets and toilets can help conserve water, reducing the environmental impact associated with excessive water usage.
Power management systems: Implement power management systems that automatically power down electronic devices and computers when not in use. This prevents energy waste from idle equipment.
Sustainability is not only an ethical obligation but also a strategic move that can benefit small businesses in multiple ways. Each of these energy-efficient upgrades offers unique benefits in terms of reducing energy consumption, lowering utility costs, and lessening the environmental impact of your small business. By considering these measures and gradually implementing them, you can contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly workspace while simultaneously saving on operational expenses.