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6 tips for small business sustainability

With 83 per cent of consumers in Australia and the Asia Pacific region concerned about companies’ environmental initiatives, small business sustainability makes business sense as well as environmental sense.

Consumers increasingly see businesses and brands as primarily responsible for their environmental impact, with air and water pollution the two biggest consumer concerns. Consequently, monitoring and improving in this area is a growing priority for most companies.

While large corporations may have more resources, small businesses can also implement sustainability plans that have a significant impact, especially given that they account for 97 per cent of all businesses in Australia.

As well as the obvious effects on the natural environment, adopting sustainable practices can lead to cost savings and an improved reputation, as well as help businesses to meet their legal requirements.

Here are 6 ways small businesses can have a positive impact on the environment.

1. Education

As with most things, education is critical for both understanding small business sustainability and for getting employees on board with new workplace initiatives. Many local and state governments in Australia offer workshops, resources, incentives and schemes to encourage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to adopt sustainable practices. This can also help small businesses ensure that they are meeting current environmental regulations.

For business owners and managers, it’s also necessary to lead by example with any new programs as this creates the expectation that employees will do the same. It may be useful to appoint someone in the office to monitor environmental impact and oversee the implementation of your sustainability plan.

2. Rethink your waste

Managing waste effectively is important both from an environmental perspective, as well as a cost-savings perspective as everything thrown away has already been paid for - and must be paid for again to be removed.

By conducting a waste audit, and identifying and separating the different types of waste produced, businesses can more effectively manage their waste. This could mean implementing a corporate recycling program, teaming up with other small businesses to manage waste together, buying environmentally friendly products, and selling or giving away unwanted materials instead of disposing of them.

3. Remote work

Making allowances for employees to work from home as needed, or even designating a ‘work from home’ day for the whole office each week can have a significant impact on a business’ environmental footprint.

Working from home minimises petrol consumption and transport-related carbon emissions and air pollution, while also reducing overall energy and fossil fuel consumption as homes typically have lower usage rates than offices. Plastic and paper usage is also reduced due to remote workers favouring electronic communications and cloud-based software, as well as their own dishware and cutlery instead of takeaway equivalents.

As an added bonus, employees are likely to be more productive and happier, while your office expenses will drop.

4. Sustainable supply chains

Prioritising a sustainable supply chain may seem like a big job at the outset, but it’s likely to be easier to get visibility on processes for small businesses than it is for large corporations with complex and unwieldy supply chains.

Creating sustainable supply chains involves both considering the internal processes of the business and the external impact of suppliers. Small businesses should start by mapping out their supply chain and making internal changes, such as adopting the other practices in this blog, in order to lead by example.

Once a sustainability plan is in place, you should communicate with their suppliers about their current environmental performance and how it aligns with your business priorities. This could mean helping suppliers to improve their supply chain or looking for alternative suppliers that share similar values.

5. Using smart technology to reduce waste

Technology has a significant impact on the environment throughout its lifespan, from production to energy usage and onto eventually becoming waste. However, there are ways to reduce this impact without giving it up entirely.

Choosing long-life, energy efficient products with minimal wastage of consumables, while also emphasising a sustainable supply chain, can reduce the impact on the environment. An action as simple as choosing a cartridge-free printer can significantly reduce the number of consumables making their way into landfill and as a result, enhance small business sustainability efforts.

6. Digital cloud technology

Moving towards becoming a paperless office is another way to shift to a more sustainable business plan. By implementing a document management system and using managed print services to make smarter printing choices, small businesses can limit their paper waste with eco-friendly technologies, as well as smart monitoring and management of print in the business.

Sustainability will be an important measure of success for workplaces of the future. Download our Green Office Guide to learn how to improve your environmental impact, while also reducing business costs and boosting efficiency.