Business purpose

How to get sustainability right in your small business

- June 5, 2023 4 MIN READ
sustainability green business

Sustainability has become quite the buzzword for business in recent years, and as World Environment Day (June 5) and World Oceans Day (June 8) roll around, it’s a great time to consider the impacts your business is having on the local and global environment.

This year’s World Environment Day theme is #BeatPlasticPollution, and the WED team have shared some shocking statistics to back up their calls for businesses large and small to do better.

For example, did you know:

  • Approximately 36 per cent of all plastic produced is used in packaging?
  • Plastic used in the consumer goods industry causes an estimated US$75 billion in environmental damage per year?
  • Only 9 per cent of plastics are recycled correctly?

To learn more about what small businesses can do to reduce their environmental impact, we asked four purpose-led Australian businesses how they are implementing sustainable practices – and how you can, too.

green energy options

How do sustainable practices help businesses succeed?

Anaita Sarkar, founder of compostable packaging brand, Hero Packaging, says her strong sustainability focus has been paramount to the success of her business.

“We started by selling sustainable packaging,” says Anaita. “As the business evolved, we also prioritised handpicking suppliers with ethical production, offsetting our operational carbon, and donating money and products to like-minded charities, including OzHarvest and Children’s Ground. These steps have increased customer sentiment and trust in our brand.”

Amy Winsley, owner of A Decent Cup Of Tea, operates her tea business online and in local farmers’ markets where she can reach and support local communities.

“We believe sustainability is not just essential for the survival of our business but also for living a good life,” says Amy. “Customers are increasingly aware of the environmental and social impact of their purchases, so our commitment to sustainable packaging and selling only loose-leaf tea aligns with our customers’ desires and our philosophy. Our approach not only benefits the environment but also promotes local commerce. This strategy has been successful in enhancing our reputation and brand image, sustaining us over the years.”

Paige McInnes, founder of reusable children’s colouring sets, Little Change Creators, says consumers are becoming more discerning about greenwashing and false eco claims.

“Many shoppers now consider the materials products are made from and the type of packaging they come in,” Paige advises. “They’re also getting better at spotting brands that are greenwashing. Customers choose to buy from us over our competitors because they value our synthetic-free packaging, FSC-certified card stock, vegetable inks and a carbon-neutral printing process. Plus, our packaging is specifically designed for repurposing to minimise waste. It’s these thoughtful little elements that our eco-conscious customers love.”

Founder of beeswax wraps company, ApiWraps, Freyja Tasci says, “As a purpose-led business, our metric for success can look a little different to others. We run annual audits on all of our suppliers (an arduous task as a manufacturer!) to make sure that we’re compliant with our high-priority goals (waste reduction, chemical contamination reduction, modern slavery objectives). While our financial success is perhaps limited by these alternate metrics, they’re key to our purpose-led business – and our customers confirm for us that this is what they come back for.”

Hand holding card with green recycling symbol

What environmentally-friendly measures should small businesses take?

“There are so many little steps that can make a big difference,” says Freyja. “From switching packing tape for recyclable paper tape, to conducting a due diligence effort to choose suppliers who support sustainable ideals – whether that’s making sure your suppliers have a Modern Slavery Statement or are reducing their own impact in some way.”

Freyja also suggests reducing the environmental effects of regular tasks in your business.

“If you have a one-off task to complete and it’s not great sustainably – that’s no big deal,” she says. “But if you have a repeating task that doesn’t have an end date? Well, that’s something to really consider carefully. Is there a way to make it more sustainable? To change something, or to look into options and alternatives? A repeating task left to spiral out of control is going to have a far bigger impact in the long run than that one time you had to fly to an event instead of zooming in.”

Anaita agrees that sustainability starts with reducing waste in the business. “Look at the food waste, packaging and printed paper usage and reduce that as much as possible,” she advises. “Replace all single-use plastic products with reusable and refillable products or compostable products. Having multiple bins for glass and paper recycling and composting is also a quick win, and getting Terracycle bins allows you to recycle plastic. Allowing staff to work from home can also reduce carbon emissions and making sure all laptops are shut down at the end of every day is a great way to not only be more sustainable, but can save a lot of costs too.”

Paige shared a very helpful checklist of things small businesses can implement to be more sustainable:

  1. Implementing energy-efficient technologies
  2. Reducing power and water usage
  3. Opting for minimal and recyclable packaging
  4. Choosing synthetic-free materials
  5. Switching to digital alternatives
  6. Using eco-friendly printing options
  7. Supporting local brands and businesses
  8. Decreasing air freight
  9. Repurposing and recycling materials
  10. Adopting a circular economy approach

“If businesses prioritise our environment and adopt a few simple changes, they’ll soon create a future where sustainability is second nature,” Paige explains. “I believe businesses need to show they care about the world we live in and the communities we’re part of – not just the profits they generate. If they get this right, sustainable businesses can improve their reputation, build trust among employees and stakeholders and win over new customers. This may spark ingenious product ideas, technologies, and ways to make a positive impact. It’s all about staying ahead of the curve!”

“Sustainability directly affects the quality of life for human beings and animals in the future and the longevity of this planet,” Anaita concludes. “As one business, we can’t save the world, but if all businesses make sustainable choices, huge changes can occur. Within ten years, we can actually start reversing the damage we have caused, but we need to do it together.”


This article was first published on Kochie’s Business Builders, read the original here

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