4 Tips for Taking Your Startup's Sustainability to the Next Level
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Consumers love sustainability, and plenty of business owners would love to operate more sustainable companies. Getting from intention to reality doesn’t always follow a straight path, though, even for businesses that have already begun their journey.
Everyone, from solo teams to heavy hitters, recognizes the importance of smarter sustainability. Salesforce just put out a call for corporations to rethink their environmental impact, arguing the benefits of sustainability for both the companies that practice it and the planet on which they operate. No one can profit in a broken world, and it’s up to innovative companies to make the biggest changes.
Whether you’re about to start a sustainable business, looking to develop more earth-friendly processes or seeking inspiration to take your sustainability to the next level, these tips can put your company on the right track.
1. Create closed loops
Good conservation limits the amount of waste that leaves a system. Great conservation creates a closed loop in which all the resources involved in the creation process stay in play. That can mean reusable components or pieces that play multiple roles throughout their life cycles, but whatever form the loop takes, it shouldn’t need outside input to continue rolling.
Sustainable phone-accessory company Pela believes closed-loop systems will be essential to sustainable business in the years ahead and created its own recycling process for materials a couple of years ago, which allowed the business to close its production loop.
2. Get buy-in from partners
A little help goes a long way. You may not be able to change the world on your own, but by working with partners who share your priorities, you can add momentum to a movement and get your industry moving in the right direction. Choosing partners based on their sustainability practices magnifies your impact while setting up your business as a thought leader in a growing area.
Starbucks may have already reached the summit of coffee sales, but now the company wants to use its position at the top to transform coffee into the world’s first sustainable agricultural product. The company’s Farmer Support Centers help farmers learn sustainable practices and earn certifications, with centers doubling as agronomy research and development centers.
Starbucks alone could make a big difference. With a network of partners on its side, though, the coffee giant could change the world.
3. Transform your office into a green space
As you change your processes and challenge your partners to be their best, don’t forget about the place where you and your team work. Invest in your office as a green center to solidify your company’s commitment to sustainability. When curious consumers want to know whether you practice what you preach, you can proudly show off your environmentally friendly headquarters as evidence of your pledge.
Some companies go green by taking the office entirely out of the equation. GitLab, for instance, is the world’s largest all-remote company, with an employee presence in dozens of countries around the globe. Give employees credits for home offices and memberships to co-working spaces. Use the opportunity to find co-working partners who take sustainability seriously. Not only can you point employees to green places to work, but if you later decide you want an office, you'll already have a partner to help you get started.
4. Empower your customers to participate
Today’s consumers don’t just want to buy from sustainable businesses. They want to help, too. Give them the chance to do so by creating opportunities for customers to get involved in your sustainability initiatives, like REI does through its product-sustainability initiatives.
Any company can partner with its customers in the name of sustainability. Give customers bill credits for recycling products. Make it easier for people to repair instead of replace. If your business sells something unrecyclable, such as software, try other creative solutions. Sponsor a clean-up initiative, and invite customers and employees to volunteer together. Leverage your brand to make a difference and secure goodwill with your customers at the same time.
The world doesn’t need big corporations to figure out perfect sustainability: It needs thousands of small companies to do what they can to make things a little better every day. The sum of those efforts will create an expectation of sustainability that will not only guide the startups of tomorrow, but will also ensure they have a safe planet on which to innovate and grow.