Is Sustainability Part of Your Business' DNA?

Brands are feeling the pressure to be sustainable, but what does that really mean? And why is that important now?

By Joy Chen

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Each year around Earth Day, consumers and brands alike check in with their day-to-day activities, assess how their behaviors are impacting our planet and make public commitments to sustainability. More and more, consumers are choosing to support businesses with sustainable missions that lead with ethical and environmental values; in response, brands are feeling the pressure to be sustainable. But what does that really mean? And why is that important now?

As more brands claim that their products are "clean," "natural," "organic" and "sustainable," few provide insight into how they're using those terms and how those terms represent the company's values and commitments to sustainability. Sustainability and ethical production are not trends or buzzwords to simply stick on your packaging and check off of your to-do list; they must be commitments that start at your business' core and be woven through each decision you make thereafter. While sustainability is not right for every business across every industry, there are ways to cut back on your environmental footprint and to make your business practices more ethical. What follows is why sustainable practices are the future of business and how you can prioritize sustainability in your business operations.

Related: Earth Day: Here's How Starbucks Will Celebrate It

Don't just check the sustainability box

Sustainable business practices are crucial and can make your company more efficient and successful. However, you need to believe in these practices, understand why they're better for your business and ensure they are part of your brand's DNA. Sustainability should not be an afterthought, but rather should be embedded into every decision your company makes. So, take a step back and think about why — why sustainability is important for your brand, your customers and our planet.

Ideally, you'll be able to start with why and build your business from there. When launching Pure Culture, we knew sustainability would be core to our mission and values. From there, we made conscious decisions to ensure our choices and product offerings aligned with our mission and value, from committing to an ethical process of sourcing ingredients down to choosing the ink substrate used on our packaging. If these kinds of decisions aren't possible, figure out ways to cut down on energy production, excess consumption or waste, for example. If there's a way to build your product or deliver your service in a cleaner, more eco-friendly way, do it.

Understand why it makes sense for your business

Sustainable business isn't just good for the environment, but it's good for your business. You'll find that in building your business around sustainable and ethical processes, you'll create more motivation among your employees, reduce your costs, attract more customers and increase your profit margins.

Patagonia, Credo Beauty and Unilever are just a few brands that have been vocal about their purpose as sustainable and ethical brands. Their missions to look beyond profit margins and towards corporate responsibility has paid off in major ways. Unilever's 28 "sustainable living" brands, for example, amassed 75% of the company's growth in 2018.

If you commit to sustainability, you'll win over your consumers and likely attract more business. Increasingly, consumers are looking to support businesses whose values align with theirs (and their values are increasingly focused on improving the environment, minimizing their carbon footprints and reducing climate change). By aligning your values with those of your consumers, you'll demonstrate to them that you value their business and are serious about sustainability.

Through this work, not only will you win over consumers, but you'll develop stronger relationships with suppliers, manufacturers and partners. These relationships will be invaluable for your business in the short and long term.

Walk the walk, don't just talk the talk

Once you've figured out how and why sustainability will enhance your business, every decision you make thereafter must consider the impact on the environment and community and be communicated both internally and externally. Not only should you communicate these values and your vision on your website and product packaging, but they should be shared with employees and investors on an ongoing basis.

Explain your values and commitments to sustainability and how each subsequent business decision tracks back to them. This will ensure every member of your team knows your company values and will likely result in attracting like-minded talent and partners. What's more, these decisions can inspire other businesses within your industry to move towards more sustainable practices.

Related: Why This Sustainable Pet Food Company Believes Doing Good is Good for Business and the Planet

By committing to sustainability, you'll reduce costs, save time, gain consumer trust and approval, attract high-quality and like-minded talent and partners and increase your profits. By taking sustainability seriously, understanding why it makes sense for your business and your target consumers and then taking actionable steps to walk the walk, you'll earn a reputation as a purpose-driven brand and likely inspire others to follow suit. Committing to such business ethics and values will ensure business success while our planet not only survives, but thrives for years to come.

Joy Chen

Co-founder and CEO of Pure Culture Beauty

Joy is the co-founder and CEO of Pure Culture Beauty, which she developed in partnership with Victor Casale (former Chief Chemist at MAC Cosmetics and founder of CoverFX) to innovate the skincare industry and deliver a suite of products that meet consumers’ unique skin needs. Formerly, she was the Chairman and CEO of H2O+ Beauty and the CEO and Executive Board Director of Yes To. She has a strong record of driving sales and profit growth by scaling businesses, transforming retail and marketing landscapes to online and digital, and building innovative brands. She remains an active board member for nonprofit organizations and startup businesses. Joy received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard University.

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