4 Reasons Sustainability Will Benefit Your Business and Satisfy The Growing Trend of Green-Hungry Customers

Should you make corporate sustainability a goal for your company? Absolutely -- and you can't afford to wait for your competitors to get a green jumpstart.

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By Kimberly Zhang • Dec 12, 2022 Originally published Dec 12, 2022

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Corporate sustainability. It's a topic getting plenty of press and interest from individuals, organizations and governments. In fact, a UC Riverside survey from 2021 indicates nearly three-quarters of CEOs are prioritizing sustainability.

Still, you might wonder if sustainability is relevant for your startup or small business. As it turns out, it is. By embracing sustainability holistically, you can set your company up to be more competitive. Sustainability can be a more significant corporate asset than you may have assumed.

Of course, it can seem like sustainability is just "one more thing to do." It doesn't have to be that way, though. The secret to making sustainability feel less like an add-on is to make it a guiding organizational goal. For instance, you could challenge all employees to seek more sustainable solutions consistently. This directive ensures they'll keep sustainability top of mind and see it as part of your culture and brand.

Related: 3 Ways You Can Bring Sustainability to Your Workplace

But this still leaves the bigger question: What concrete advantages will sustainability provide for your business? Below are just a few that can positively affect your finances, reputation and recruitment efforts.

1. Buyers are using sustainability as a yardstick

When it comes to consumer behavior, buyers are swayed by green companies. Nearly eight out of 10 American shoppers say they like to patronize eco-friendly companies. Even if the prices are higher for the sustainable products they want, 64% are fine with paying a premium.

This shows that you can still make a profit while going greener, and your costs might not even go up in some cases. Take the food and agricultural industry, for example. Sustainable food supply leader PURIS notes that plant-based product interest started climbing in 2020. As a result, overall sales of plant-based foods should reach the $85 billion mark by 2030. Why? Consumers are eager to purchase and use planet-friendly sustainable protein alternatives.

Consequently, rethink your worries if you've held back on improving the sustainability of your product because of price. You may snag interest from new markets by greening your lineup of offerings.

Related: It's Official: Customers Prefer Sustainable Companies

2. Young employees want to work for eco-conscious businesses

The labor shortage is a real phenomenon, and it's affecting your ability to source and hire great people. One way to differentiate your company from all the others is by showing your eco-conscientious side. Greener Ideal notes that when surveyed, 61% of Millennials listed sustainability as a deciding factor on where to work. Likewise, about 60% of Gen Z workers won't apply at workplaces with a non-green reputation.

How can you let candidates know about the steps you're taking toward sustainability? First, make sure your job descriptions include sustainable, eco-friendly verbiage. Next, look at your website and social media footprints — because you can be sure serious applicants will, too. Are you both showing and telling how and why you're sustainable?

Finally, discuss your actions to move toward sustainability during interviews and onboarding. Discuss plans and be sure incoming workers know how they can be a part of your corporation's green future.

Related: How the 'Change Generation' Is Motivating Businesses to Commit to Sustainability

3. Many private investors are funding sustainable startups

Getting investors interested in funding your company's growth can be hard enough. Why make it harder by not having any type of sustainability vision or initiatives? When asked by EY, 78% of investors felt that organizations should put sustainability above short-term profits. The majority who responded to EY seemed more interested in sustainability than early gains.

You may not be looking for investment money today, but don't assume you won't down the road. Many companies bootstrapped during the startup phase enter into more formal investor relationships later. You may find that attracting investors is the quickest way to scale, develop another product or enter a market, and potential investors may want to see your sustainability metrics.

Are you unsure how to measure your sustainability? Try using percentages. For instance, if 5% of your packaging is recycled now, aim for 10% or 20% in six months or a year. Then track your progress. Raw but real numbers help you point to your seriousness regarding sustainable endeavors.

Related: ESG, SRI and Impact Investing: What's the Difference and What's Best for Your Portfolio?

4. The world is hungry for green thought leaders

As the founder or CEO of your company, you have tremendous influence over your brand's clout. Consequently, if you become a thought leader in the sustainability movement, your company's credibility should follow. This allows your organization to shine in a way that can increase your visibility and trust.

Consider how this has worked for someone like Patagonia's founder Yvon Chouinard. He recently announced he was giving away his company to emphasize his passion for climate change solutions. The move garnered significant attention for the company and its half-century mission. It also solidified Patagonia's position as a true disruptor in the sustainability movement.

You're not obligated to put your business interests into a trust as Chouinard has done. Nevertheless, think of ways to stand out by doing good in visible, innovative ways. You'll improve your standing as a sustainability supporter and your company's standing as well.

It can be challenging to know where to begin when it comes to corporate sustainability. One thing's clear: You can't get all the benefits of being green if you don't start the process.

Kimberly Zhang

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Chief Editor of Under30CEO

Kimberly Zhang, president and editor in chief of Under30CEO, has a passion for educating the next generation of leaders.

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