Sustainability is a popular buzzword, but not taking steps to make your business more sustainable in this day and age doesn’t only make you look bad — it could be costing you customers. Between 2013 and 2018, there’s been more than a 50 percent sales growth in sustainably packaged goods, even though they only make up 17 percent of the market. If you haven’t started making these changes yet, here are some easy ways to make your company more sustainable.
It’s 2019 — why are you still using paper to run your business? One of the most straightforward things you can do to make your company more sustainable in the coming year is to ditch paper in favor of digital options. It might seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re used to buying printer paper and toner a couple of times a month, but it is a smoother shift than you might think.
Start by committing to going paperless and slowly make company-wide changes. Transition to digital contracts and communication, rather than printed versions. Use scanners to convert anything that remains in a physical format, so you can store them locally or in a secure cloud without having to worry about keeping paper copies around.
Choose Recycled or Sustainable Packaging
If you package products or ship items to remote consumers, the most significant shift you can make is to make the switch to sustainable or 100 percent recycled packaging options. It’s possible to make cardboard boxes or plastic containers from 100 percent recycled material. Avoid things that are more challenging to recycle, such as styrofoam packing peanuts.
Another way to make your packaging more sustainable is to invest in boxes designed specifically for your product. That way, you can be sure your items stay protected in transit, but you don’t need a ton of extra packaging to keep them safe. Of course, you’ll still want to stick to those recycled or sustainable packaging materials, but you don’t want to use any more than you have to.
Monitor Your Fleet
Having a fleet is often a necessary evil — you can’t complete your tasks without them, but they add to your company’s carbon footprint. While upgrading to your fleet to electric vehicles is the best way to make your business more sustainable, it isn’t always an option due to the cost of those battery-powered models.
Fleet management software can help make your fleet more efficient without any costly upgrades or replacements. Just using mapping software can reduce your fuel consumption by up to 8 percent every month, while allowing you to keep more accurate track of your schedules and encourage safe driving habits. You can also use software to monitor fleet vehicles directly, providing preventive maintenance suggestions that will keep your fleet on the road and preventing costly breakdowns and downtime.
Improve Energy Efficiency
If your business is in an old building, it’s probably not the most energy-efficient location on the block. While relocation isn’t always possible, you can take plenty of small steps to improve energy efficiency, from adding solar or other green power options to swapping out your windows for double-pane insulation or upgrading your equipment with Energy Star options.
You can adopt many of these ideas without too much of an investment. If you’re not sure where to start, consider hiring an efficiency consultant to help you figure out the details of your particular building and how you can improve without major remodels or investments.
Transitioning to full lean manufacturing techniques takes a lot of time and a lot of practice. Still, you can adopt some of the principles of this manufacturing style — specifically, working to reduce waste. That doesn’t only mean producing less manufacturing waste, though that is part of it. It also means cutting down on waste in the form of inventory shrink and even in lost time. There are eight total wastes when it comes to lean manufacturing:
- Defects or poor product quality
- Unused talent
- Unnecessary movement
- Extra processing
Look at your processes to see where these different wastes might be cropping up. You might be surprised by how much more sustainable your company becomes by working to reduce them.
Offer Supply Chain Transparency
The advent of the internet age means consumers are savvier than ever. You can say you’re making changes to be more sustainable, but if you don’t have quantifiable data to back up your claim, your tech-savvy customers will find out, and they will call you on it. That can quickly spiral into a massive PR disaster if you’re not honest about your changes.
Instead of letting it sneak up and bite you, offer supply chain transparency for your consumers. Surveys have found consumers are willing to pay between 2 and 10 percent more for products from companies that are willing to be transparent about their supply chain. It’s as simple as being honest with your customers about where your supplies come from and the steps you’re taking to be more sustainable. Make it easy to find — such as on a dedicated page on your website.
If you haven’t started making changes to make your company more sustainable, you’re already behind the curve. Sustainability is quickly becoming a necessity, but you don’t need to relocate or put yourself into massive debt to reach that goal. Start by making small changes, like going paperless and working on being more energy-efficient. Don’t try to tackle everything at once. Start small and work your way toward a more efficient and more sustainable future, one step at a time. Sustainability is no longer a “nice-to-have” option — it’s a must-have. You need to start making changes to make the future of your company a little bit cleaner.
By: Scott Huntington, BOSS contributor