Many business owners today want to become more sustainable. They want to become a greener business. They know it’s good for business. In fact, their customers may demand it. Employees often demand it. But it’s not always easy. There are serious sustainability challenges that are stopping many business owners from becoming a green business. What are these challenges and how can they overcome them? I recently discussed this topic with GoDaddy, the world’s largest web services and hosting platform for entrepreneurs and small businesses. This video has the highlights of the top 5 challenges and how to overcome them.
Click on the video above to watch or you can also read a synopsis of the interview here below.
Small Business Sustainability Misconceptions
People often ask us at Green Business Bureau, “What is the big misconception small business owners have about making their business more sustainable?”.
There is one popular misconception – that they can’t do it themselves. That they need to hire someone internally to focus on sustainability or hire an external sustainability consultant. That’s absolutely not true. Business owners and executives at small companies just need a little knowledge, a sustainability plan template and some help from their own employees, who by the way would love to help out and make an impact beyond their day to day role. If you’re an owner or executive who needs some help getting started, think about joining an association like Green Business Bureau or B-Corp. They can provide the guidance and online tools you need.
Top 5 Sustainability Challenges
Becoming a sustainable business does require some investment in time and money. There are challenges in implementing a sustainability program but all of them can be overcome with the right strategy, tactics and approach. The top 5 sustainability challenges we see:
- Lack of Funding
- Lack of Time
- Employee Push Back
Sustainability Challenge #1: Lack of Funding
The most common concern we hear is lack of funding – “I want to go green, but I don’t have the money”.
Going green actually doesn’t cost that much. In fact, being greener is often about being more efficient, lowering energy usage and reducing waste, all of which can save you money! You can start small, with recycling, eliminating plastics , composting, efficient lighting, more efficient appliances, Then move on to bigger projects, going all electric, using green energy, upgrading your building, going solar, using EVs.
In some states, you can get tax credits or grants to offset your costs. Some states even provide free green products and services like LED lights. Money is not an issue.
I often hear that hiring an expert is too expensive. You don’t need to hire an export. There are tons of online resources to help. In fact, joining an organization like Green Business Bureau gives you access to Online EcoAssessment, a library of EcoPlans including tips and guides. Your current employees can quickly get up to speed and help drive the cause. Don’t make funding an excuse.
Sustainability Challenge #2: Lack of Time
The 2nd common concern you typically hear from small businesses is lack of time – “I want to go green, but I don’t have the time”.
Going green does not have to be time consuming. Rome was NOT built in a day, it is a journey, but just a few hours per month dedicated to green initiatives can make a huge difference. Eliminating plastic is just a change in your purchasing decisions. Going to green energy may be a s simple as changing your energy provider or signing up for a green energy program or offering.
The journey is not just yours. It’s the entire business including your employees. So spread the workload. Which brings us to the 3rd challenge. Employee pushback.
Sustainability Challenge #3: Employee Push Back
Employee push back is the 3rd common concern you typically hear from small businesses? We often hear from leaders, “I don’t want to put more stress on my employees”.
I understand that you might not want to give employees more work or put more stress on your employees. Most employees don’t view green projects as work. In fact, most employees see green projects as a break from the everyday stress, a chance to do something impactful, a chance to protect the environment. In most cases, the employees will be the ones actually pushing business owners to do more related to environmental and social responsibility.
Going green and becoming sustainable is actually a chance to improve the culture and build morale. It’s a chance to engage employees. We have some companies that gamify their sustainability program by keeping an EcoScorecard or tracking their carbon footprint.
A sustainability program is also a chance to recognize employees and give them shout out for their impactful contributions and accomplishments.
Sustainability Challenge #4: Prioritization
Prioritization is the 4th common concern you typically hear from small businesses – “Where do I start? How much do I do? Where can I make the most impact on the environment and on my business?”
This is where online resources or joining a green business organization can help. There are tons of getting started guides, tips, sustainability plans, that already exist. Here are a few tips:
- Take the time to create a quick green mission statement for your business
- Put together a green team if you’re not a sole proprietor
- Kick it off with a review of a Getting Started Guide, there are dozens of small initiatives related to your business operations, office space, travel, energy that you can begin implementing.
What you’ll find out is that there are dozens of low cost, low effort initiatives you can complete that will make a big difference. The Green Business Bureau organizes green initiatives and Ecoplans of Level of Effort, Cost, and Impact. So it’s easy to find the low hanging fruit,
Sustainability Challenge #5: Greenwashing
The 5th common concern you typically hear from small businesses – “Customers don’t believe me, or worse employees don’t believe me”)
For sure, you don’t want to greenwash, in other words lie or exaggerate what you’re doing or have done. It’s super important to walk the walk and actually be greener. But you should also have your accomplishments verified by a 3rd party. For example, a certification from the Green Business Bureau is included in their membership. They are a trusted 3rd party and their seal will give you the benefits and credibility you’ve earned.
Sustainability, Good For the Planet, Good For Business
If we had one to come up with just one sentence to share with small business owners about this topic, it would be this:
“In today’s world, to be a great business, you have to be a green business.”
Green and good business go hand in hand. The journey can be exciting and fulfilling. Engage your employees, let them drive the cause. Protecting the planet and fighting climate change is not just the responsibility of the major corporations. Working together, millions of small businesses can make a big difference. They can help create a greener, more sustainable and socially responsible business world.