As consumers become more aware of the environmental impact their dollars have, they’re choosing to take those dollars to businesses that align with their personal values. That means sustainability initiatives can have a huge impact on small businesses.
Why is sustainability so important to consumers?
Brands are no longer just brands. Gen Z and Millennials have less disposable income than previous generations, and they’re spending it more carefully. As consumers, these generations tend to spend with brands that align with their personal values. Ethical business standards, pro-social messaging, and sustainability all matter to this young generation of consumers and as their influence expands, they’re pushing brands to keep up with their sustainability demands. Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that 66% of consumers said they would spend more on a product if it came from a sustainable brand. A similar report from Shelton Group found that 86% of consumers now expect brands to stand for social issues.
It’s become common for large corporations like Amazon and Microsoft to release reports about their sustainability practices. Big businesses have the money and staffing to easily create those reports and back sustainability initiatives. For small businesses, the time and money it takes to do the same can seem daunting, but the data is saying that consumers are taking notice.
How can my small business develop a better sustainability practice?
Implementing sustainability isn’t always easy for small businesses, but it’s hugely important. It’s not about making the biggest impact possible right away. By starting small you can show your customers that you care about the same things they do. Every small business has different needs and abilities when it comes to environmental impact. Even small practices can make a difference, and your efforts can pay off big for your brand and the planet.
The EPA suggests starting with these practices in their Smart Steps to Sustainability Guide:
- Realize the impact your business has on the environment
- Understand the political and regulatory forces that are encouraging sustainability practices
- Explore opportunities to help your business become more sustainable
- Develop and implement a strategy to minimize your impact, and share those efforts with your customers
Rake in the green by going green
Not only can being more sustainable impact business sales, but there are organizations and funds that want to help make it happen. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers grants and loans for businesses putting in the effort to go green. And many states also offer incentives to businesses that want to have a positive environmental impact.
Building sustainability into a small business can be a large undertaking. But in the end the effort is worth it for the future of your business, and our world.