Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Being Eco-Friendly Is Hard. Here, 6 Business Leaders Explain Their Most Effective Strategies.

You don't need to be a giant company to make a difference to the planet.

This story appears in the October 2022 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Image Credit: Pete Ryan

1. Think big, and small.

"The aviation industry is one of the most challenging sectors to decarbonize. So we created Alaska Star Ventures to invest in emerging technologies that can accelerate our path to net-zero, like advanced air mobility and green energy. But there are smaller ways to improve, too. Replacing single-use plastic bottles with Boxed Water, for example, removes 1.8 million pounds of plastic from our aircraft over the next year." — Diana Birkett Rakow, senior vice president of public affairs and sustainability, Alaska Airlines

Related: 4 Ways to Make Your Business More Eco-Friendly

2. Map out the journey.

"There were many things we were able to change to become more sustainable, like shipping our products in bags made of biodegradable corn. But as a small company, there are still some things out of reach. So we're signing on with an organization that will determine our carbon footprint and provide a five-year roadmap to improve every area of the business." — Elyce Arons, cofounder and CEO, Frances Valentine

3. Identify the root problem.

"Sustainability is a core value of ours, but it means so much more than packaging or ingredients. Is my team's workload sustainable? Is our churn rate sustainable? Whether it's prioritizing regenerative farming practices, or hiring when my team's workload is beyond capacity, sustainable choices cost more money. Startups with exclusively women founders receive 2% of all VC investments, so that's the hurdle." — Lauren Haynes, founder, Wooden Spoon Herbs

Related: Examples of Environmentally-Friendly Business Ideas

4. Decide the future is worth it.

"One of the biggest impacts we can have is ensuring that our products last many more years than most garments. We invest in eco-friendly and durable performance materials and construction methods, and we reinforce major stress points on all of our garments. These materials are more expensive, and the reinforced stitches require expert work. Our customers also buy less, since our garments don't wear out as often." — Danny Charbonnet, founder and CEO, All Citizens

5. Innovate now to win customers later.

"We searched for a recycling program that accepts bras, one of the most complicated garments to break down and recycle. Nothing existed, so we worked with sustainability experts to devise our own program and found a partner who could reliably help us recycle all components of our products. We pay a fee for each piece, but we've found that our customers love this offering, and are more loyal because of it." — Jenna Kerner, cofounder and co-CEO, Harper Wilde

Related: 3 Ways You Can Bring Sustainability to Your Workplace

6. If the answer doesn't exist, build it.

"Given the beauty industry's history of waste and irresponsibility, making sustainable choices has often meant there's no path to follow. But that ended up being a gift, because it forced us to develop our 'Full Circle' process — partnering with farmers to source organic ingredients, ensuring our formulations use the zero-waste extraction process, and creating our own in-house recycle lab." — Lena Korres, cofounder and brand president, KORRES

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks