A recent study found that 81 per cent of millennials “expect companies to go beyond generating profit and serve as drivers of change and become active in their communities”.
Millennials represent a new breed of consumers: ones who are more demanding of the products they consume. If this younger audience – the future of all consumers – want to see more environmentally responsible businesses, it’s up to businesses to deliver. Meeting increased expectations will not only drive more customers, but contribute to long-term efforts to protect the environment for future generations. Climate change and environmentally friendliness has never been more top of mind for consumers and businesses alike. Consumers are increasingly more likely to support brands that take their environmental footprint seriously. Almost 66 per cent of consumers are willing to pay extra for products and services that come from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.
Here are a few ways that small businesses can do their part to be more environmentally responsible and communicate these actions to consumers.
First, assess your current impact on the environment. Where do you create waste?
- Are you using plastic bags?
- Do you waste electricity with too many lights?
- What are your take out boxes, cups, straws like?
- Do you waste a lot of water?
- Do you recycle?
Once the key areas of waste have been identified, you can implement a plan for reduction. Get everyone in the company involved. Have a way for employees to suggest ideas to help your business help the environment. Making employees feel involved will make them more inclined to contribute to the programs.
Find out how environmentally friendly the items you buy from suppliers are: do they have excessive packaging? Do they contain substances which are harmful to the environment? Are you suppliers able to reuse any packaging, perhaps at a discount to you? It many cases, it’s better to pay more but source products that are better for the environment. Sustainable purchasing is a great option to show your company is committed to the environment, especially if you’re finding it difficult to implement detailed environmentally responsible programs in your business.
Think about where you can make changes with office supplies and/or stationary
- Stock the office with reusable pens: ones which simply have their inks refilled;
- How necessary are those pads of sticky notes?
- Do you send out a lot of mail? If so, use recycled envelopes and keep packaging to a minimum;
- Are people encouraged to recycle non-confidential documents rather than throw them out?
- Introduce a company-wide recycling program for items such as pop bottles and cardboard containers;
- Remove paper cups for beverages and encourage people to bring water bottles and travel mugs for coffee from home;
- Remove ‘convenience’ coffee from the office – you know, the ones that take pods or capsules of coffee and require one-push to make one cup. Single-use items that end up in the landfill are not good for the environment;
- Compost kitchen waste like leftover foods. Most cities have some kind of composting schemes in place.
If you must print, use recycled paper and print on both sides where possible, using eco-mode if quality is not important. Recycle all used ink and toner cartridges.
Online marketing is much more environmentally friendly than offline marketing like direct mail or printed ads, and often much cheaper! Online marketing is a low-cost alternative and produces no printed waste. Many businesses, however, rely on printed coupons sent in the mail to drive business. Other options include building a database of emails for a monthly newsletter and sending coupons that way, or look into marketing solutions like an app such as GetintheLoop that takes care of your marketing for you, delivering your marketing message and offers to the palm of people’s hands, on their phones. No printing and no wasted materials!
- Install water-efficient taps;
- Fix leaking taps;
- Avoid washing dishes under running taps’
- Install water-efficient dishwasher;
- Wait until you have a full load before washing;
- Scrape, rather than rinse, dishes prior to washing;
- Replace single-flush toilets with dual-flush toilets
- Regularly check for leaks and fix immediately;
- Install rainwater tanks for yard and plant watering’
- Water produce and plants early in the morning or in the evening.
Where possible, source local products.
For restaurants, this can increase prices, but depending on your audience, diners may be willing to pay more for locally sourced products that support local growers and producers. Even better, grow your own produce.
Order in bulk to cut down on the amount of deliveries you need to receive.
Recycle old furniture, computer equipment etc
Keep as much out of the landfills as possible. According to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, over two million tons of electronic waste is disposed of every year in the U.S., and only 27 per cent is recycled. Many computer manufacturers like Dell and HP have equipment recycling programs, or you can contact local charities or schools to see if they have any need for the items.
Reduce the amount of electricity you use
Replace all light-bulbs with energy efficient LED bulbs, or even invest in solar panels.
Turn off lights, shut down computers, and turn down heat/AC at the end of the day.
It may seem like some of these suggestions are very small and won’t have a big impact on the environment. However, if every business took small steps toward being more environmentally friendly, it would add up to a one big step that could really make a difference. Consumers are demanding that businesses assume responsibility for a more positive and sustainable future.
Communicate to your customers how your business is environmentally friendly so they can make an informed decision to choose you over your competitors
- Add messaging to your social channels that talks about your commitment to sustainability. Instagram is a good platform for using imagery to show what your business is doing behind the scenes;
- Create a page on your website about your commitment to sustainability.
- Tell stories in your blog. Does your supplier have an interesting story about how they have incorporated sustainability into their products?
- Promote your commitment through your product messaging, whether online, in store, on menus, etc.: “made with 100% locally-sourced ingredients”
- Add signage In the public bathrooms: “save water, don’t flush unless necessary”
- Carry your messaging through into all forms of communications. For example, at the bottom of email signatures you could write, “please do not print this email unless necessary. We are an environmentally friendly business.”
Keeping our planet alive and healthy is everyone’s responsibility and consumers, especially millennials, are becoming more demanding of businesses to be environmentally-friendly. Take steps within your organization to really have an impact on the environment. Decide how you are going to measure the impact and commit to making it an integral part of your business operations. Then, and only then, should you communicate it to consumers.
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