It is impossible for a planet with finite resources to support infinite growth. While the largest companies are, by far, the ones most responsible for pollution, that doesn’t mean that small and medium-sized businesses have no option but to follow in their footsteps. In fact, small and medium-sized businesses are the perfect candidates to start establishing systemic change.
Reconsidering your business model so that it is more in line with the environment doesn’t have to cause a direct hit to your profits, either. There are many options that can help you boost profits and, if not profits, customer loyalty. With many people more environmentally conscious and happy to make the switch to a quality alternative, now is the time to make a stand.
By aligning your business model with eco and socially responsible practices, you can help your small to medium-sized business stand out, especially against large corporations. There are so many great ways to do this, from adding a bulk food section to your independent grocery business to offering additional services like repair or rental. In the first example, offering a bulk food section immediately lets you serve great products like organic spices from Olam Spices in quantities customers need. Since you aren’t paying for the packaging or the brand name, you can pass on the savings to your customers and still get a healthy return.
There are many ways that you can align your business with the environment and improve your profit margins. While there won’t be infinite growth, you can use the following tips and tricks to appeal to more customers, help your business stand out, and even lower costs.
Start with Your Utilities
One of the best ways to start making your business more environmentally friendly while also reducing costs is to look at your utilities. How can you use less energy? Is there an investment you can make now that will drastically reduce your operating costs? If you can lower your overhead significantly by investing in a solar panel roof, for example, you can put those savings towards your profit margins and R&D. Don’t immediately pay for such an upgrade out of pocket. Check first to see if your area has a tax credit or grant system in place to help those looking to invest in a solar solution.
This is just one example. At a minimum, all businesses can go into their computers and equipment and optimize their energy-saving features. Turning off computers and all the lights after hours is another simple and effective way to reduce operating costs. For those that struggle with their heating bills, try to relocate staff to fewer rooms or use a smart system to optimize heating usage.
Packaging is a massive waste and is causing quite a scandal. While the coronavirus pandemic ushered in a lot of single-use waste, we’re back on track for ridding ourselves of it once again. India recently banned many single-use plastic products in an attempt to curb pollution. Packaging design plays a huge part in marketing products, and actively reflecting on your new design is a great way to market your product and have it stand out on the shelf. With so many plastic, modern-looking designs, a classic plastic-free item is going to stand out.
The other option is to do away with packaging entirely. Instead of shipping large products in disposable boxes and packaging, for example, you can use reusable options and have your delivery specialists return those items to your warehouse after the delivery has been made.
For smaller stores like groceries, opt for bulk food options. Not only can you actually help customers by giving them the ability to buy just what they need in terms of volume, but you can also upsell. Have a variety of containers, from free containers your customers dropped off (and you cleaned) all the way to premium containers for those who want to upgrade the look of their pantry while they’re at it. This way, you can offer quality bulk spices and add to the final purchase price by offering spice jars crafted by local artisans. Everyone benefits and you help the environment.
Work with Innovative Developers
When it comes to raw materials, look to the new emerging businesses that are creating materials out of recycled items. There are so many exciting new products out there that you can choose from. While some items, like sheets of plastic made from recycled desks, aren’t the perfect solution, they can be a good option if you need plastic for, say, outdoor furniture. By working with these innovative developers, you can advertise not just the product but the production and craftsmanship behind it all. Once again, this is a unique way to market your business and help your items stand out. Not only that but working with recycled or circular materials lessens the strain on the planet.
Working to make your operations more environmentally friendly and zero-carbon is a great way to market your business and bring in a great new collection of customers. What many companies don’t consider is how it will help them keep their business evergreen. Though not as quickly as environmentalists and scientists urge we need, countries all over the world are setting commitments and standards to reduce emissions and make each country greener.
By committing now, you can slowly integrate options and smooth out your new supplier list. You can work towards those top certifications, such as Organic or B-Corp. Making the changes necessary to be one of these companies can take time and cost. Starting now means there’s no time pressure, so you can smooth out the kinks and find the best partnerships, suppliers, and methods of business that benefit your company before the legislation comes down and forces your hand. The best part is that, since you’re doing this before you have to, you can position your company as one for the people. While not everyone will have the budget if you put your prices up to accommodate these changes, those with the money will prefer your business to those that have continually let them down in terms of operations, environmental impact, and social responsibility. Be the shining light, bring in new customers, and work to establish your business before legislation requires you to. All of this will help you stand out.