Your customers influence the products and services you offer, and their attitudes toward sustainability and eco-friendly offerings shouldn’t be an exception. In fact, a recent study found that 73% of Americans consider how environmentally friendly a purchase is when deciding whether to make it.
Finding ways to appease your customers’ concerns about the environment while promoting your own product is a great way to encourage loyalty and boost sales. Plus, sustainable options are not regulated to any specific industry — there are environmentally friendly choices you can make in just about every sector.
Here are seven ways your business can start implementing sustainable practices.
1. Review Your Sources and Products
One surefire way to make your business more sustainable is to take a look at your sourcing. You may need to do a little more research, but if you can, choose to buy from suppliers with sustainable shipping or production practices.
You can also look for more eco-friendly substitutions for products you already sell. It might cost a bit more upfront, but don’t let that be a deterrent — 55% of customers are willing to pay more for products that are sustainable or eco-friendly, according to a recent survey.
2. Incorporate Sustainable or Biodegradable Packaging
Whether you ship items or bag up purchases for in-store customers, consider switching to sustainable or biodegradable packaging. This can include the products you use for shipping, takeout food containers, coffee cups, and more.
It takes one plastic cup 450 years to break down, all the while releasing plastic and chemicals into the environment. Instead of ignoring the environmental impact of the packaging you choose, you can opt for materials that break down quicker or can be recycled.
3. Opt for Green Transportation
Whether it’s a personal car you’re using for business purposes or a dedicated company vehicle, consider investing in an electric vehicle. While pricey upfront, electric vehicles save approximately $800 to $1,000 in gas each year, according to a study by Consumer Reports. Plus, you can apply for a federal tax credit for up to $7,500 per vehicle.
Looking for a cheaper way to fight carbon emissions? Consider installing a bike rack for employees who opt for peddles over gear shifts, or look into offering pre-tax commuter benefits that encourage the use of public transportation.
4. Eliminate Extra Waste Your Business Produces
One way to minimize your business’s impact on the environment is to eliminate the amount of waste your business produces in the first place. (Bonus: Eliminating physical waste can also save you money.)
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends first examining what waste your business generates. Check trash cans, consider what regularly goes down the drain and examine your energy consumption to get a better idea of how much waste you’re producing.
Once you do that, you can identify preventative measures, like adjusting purchasing policies or substituting new products, that can alter the behavior of your company and employees. Then, set realistic goals for your business, like cutting paper consumption or increasing your recycling by a target amount.
5. Build a Green or Sustainable Building
The physical building where you run your business can be made more eco-friendly by opting for renewable energy, improving insulation, and purchasing energy-efficient appliances and technology. Some additions, like solar panels, can even increase the property value.
Tax credits, like the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, are also available to companies that choose renewable energy resources for their offices. Make sure to check out N.C. State University’s DSIRE database, which identifies tax breaks (for both businesses and individuals) by state.
While retrofitting your building might be one of the more costly changes to make upfront, it could save your business significant money in the long run (while having a positive impact on the planet). But as always, before making a big change, calculate the cost versus benefit before taking on debt.
6. Go Paperless
Limit the amount you print and mail by moving your paperwork and other printed materials online and sharing documents digitally. The average office employee uses 10,000 sheets of printer paper per year. That is a huge cost to your business and to the environment.
If your business regularly sends mail to customers, make going paperless the default setting so they have to opt in to receive their correspondence as a hard copy. Not only will you save money on paper and ink, but you’ll also save money by not mailing as much. Finally, encourage your customers and employees to recycle the paper that does need to be used.
7. Utilize Composting and Recycling
In 2018, 35.3 million tons of food waste went into landfills, according to the EPA. If you don’t already, add composting and recycling to your waste bins at your business and educate your employees and customers on how to properly use them.
If you have a kitchen or you’re in the restaurant business, look into ways of composting food that’s gone bad and donating leftovers. Available programs will vary by state, so make sure to check with your county government for more information.