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6 Ways to Profitably Integrate Eco-Friendly Practices into Your Business Sustainability efforts can improve operational efficiency, increase customer demand and boost profitability. Here, we highlight six easy ways entrepreneurs and small businesses can capture the financial benefits of sustainability.

By Nicholas Leighton Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Over 40% of consumers admit they're more likely to buy from businesses that embrace sustainability.
  • Sustainability is not just for large corporations; small businesses can increase operational efficiency, consumer demand and profitability through eco-friendly practices.
  • Profitable strategies for small businesses include adopting energy-efficient solutions, sourcing materials locally, developing eco-friendly products and embracing the circular economy.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Today, consumers are increasingly prioritizing doing business with companies that can clearly demonstrate a commitment to improving the world around them. These drivers can range from supporting important social issues to providing eco-friendly products. In fact, over 40% of consumers admit that they are more likely to purchase products or services from businesses that embrace sustainability. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that nearly 100% of all S&P 500 companies have environmental and sustainability goals.

Within the small business community, there is a misconception that ESG (environmental, social, and governance) initiatives are something only large corporations can afford to implement. This couldn't be further from the truth. For small businesses and entrepreneurs, sustainability efforts can actually improve operational efficiency, increase customer demand and boost profitability. Here are six easy ways small businesses can capture the financial benefits of sustainability.

Related: How to Harness the Power of Sustainability in Small Business to Drive Profits and Capital

1. Implement energy-efficient solutions

Many businesses require a lot of energy to operate, especially if they have a manufacturing center. One of the easiest and most effective ways to embrace sustainability is by implementing solutions that reduce the amount of energy consumed by the business. These actions include upgrading to LED lights, installing smart thermostats, replacing fossil fuel vehicles with EVs and changing out appliances for energy-efficient models.

In addition to reducing energy consumption, businesses can also embrace clean energy generation by installing solar panels or purchasing renewable energy credits to help offset the use of fossil fuels. Ultimately, lower energy costs can directly reduce your operating expenses increasing your profit margins. Also, promoting your commitment to renewable energy is a powerful marketing tool to help attract environmentally conscious consumers and enhance your brand reputation.

2. Develop eco-friendly products

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the toll that consumerism plays on the world's natural resources. Cheap, disposable products like single-use plastic and fast fashion are quickly losing their appeal. Durable products, especially those made from recycled or sustainable materials, are currently in high demand.

Depending on the materials used, businesses can save money on raw materials by building eco-friendly products. Even better, some products could transition to entirely digital formats requiring no physical resources. For example, a small publishing company could move to eBooks rather than physical print. Another benefit is that consumers will often pay a premium for products that are sustainably produced.

3. Embrace circular economy principles

The circular economy is an economic system that is based on the reuse and recycling of products and materials. Designing products that use recycled materials is just scratching the surface. Additional circular economic practices include take-back schemes, refurbishment programs and refill systems. For example, a technology company can incentivize customers to return old devices for refurbishment, which reduces waste while encouraging repeat purchases. These old devices can then be resold at a discount on second-hand markets, creating a new source of revenue.

Related: How the Circular Economy of Consumer Electronics Can Change Sustainability

4. Promote remote work and flexible schedules

Labor is often one of the highest operating costs for small businesses. Many companies are embracing and promoting opportunities for their team to work remotely or switch to flexible, hybrid schedules. From an environmental standpoint, this can help reduce the company's overall carbon footprint by eliminating or minimizing greenhouse gas emissions from commuting.

From a business perspective, offering remote work can support employee well-being and productivity. It can also help the company save money on office space and salaries by allowing them to recruit employees from regions that have a lower cost of living.

5. Leverage lean manufacturing

Another effective strategy to cut costs and reduce resource consumption is by embracing lean manufacturing processes. By streamlining production processes and minimizing waste, businesses can improve their manufacturing timeframes and lower production costs. The savings associated with improved efficiency can then be applied to widening your profit margins or allowing you to offer better pricing compared to your competitors.

6. Use local suppliers

Consumers are tired of the same old, mass-produced products. Sourcing materials and products from local suppliers can provide the perfect balance between customer demands and sustainability. By working with local suppliers, small businesses can lower their carbon footprint by reducing transportation emissions and save on shipping costs while stimulating the local economy.

Related: I Use These 7 Methods to Make My Business More Eco-Friendly — Maybe You Can Use Them, Too.

Integrating eco-friendly practices into your business isn't just the right thing to do for the planet. It can also lead to significant financial benefits. By embracing sustainability, companies can deliver the services and products that consumers want while setting themselves up for long-term success.

Nicholas Leighton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Best-selling author, speaker & business owner executive coach

Nick Leighton believes that business owners should make more money and have more free time. He does this through his best-selling book "Exactly Where You Want to Be – A Business Owner’s Guide to Passion, Profit and Happiness," speaking and coaching. #ChampagneMoment.

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