Sustainable business isn’t a trend or a fad anymore. With the threat of climate change looming, it’s becoming a necessity. However, many companies haven’t started to make that change, although we’ve got less than 12 years to reduce our global emissions by 45%.
The ultimate goal is to be a zero-emissions planet by 2050, but to reach that goal, everyone will have to do their part. With that in mind, what are the most important aspects of sustainable business in 2021?
1. Water Conservation
The majority of our planet is covered by water, but less than 3% of it is fresh and drinkable. Of that amount, two-thirds is frozen in the planet’s swiftly melting polar ice caps. With a population that’s expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, water conservation for businesses and individuals is becoming a necessity. On a business level, start with a water audit. Have your facility and use inspected to see where you can cut back and start conserving. You might be surprised how much water a leaky tap or an old toilet can waste.
From there, you’ve got a few options. If your building is full of old-style toilets and sinks, consider replacing them with low-flow alternatives. These provide the same amount of water pressure while using a fraction of the water. A standard toilet uses 3.6 gallons of water per flush. A low-flow option works just as well, while only using 1.6 gallons.
The exterior of your building may also be a point of contention, especially if your landscaping includes non-native plants that require regular irrigation to keep them alive. Switching to local plants won’t just help you conserve water — it can also reduce your upkeep expenses.
2. Sustainable Supply Chains
Consumers are changing the way they make purchasing decisions. They are happy to switch companies and even spend more money if a business makes it a point to improve its carbon footprint and become more sustainable. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ensure your supply chains are as environmentally friendly as you.
The best way to start going about this is to take the time to map out your entire supply chain. Many companies haven’t bothered with this step, figuring that if it works, they shouldn’t mess with it and risk something breaking down. By mapping out your supply chain, you may find that some of your suppliers aren’t focusing on sustainably, which damages your image as well.
Once you know where the problems are, you can take steps to fix them.
3. Going Paperless
It’s 2020 — why are you still using paper instead of digital alternatives? Going paperless is probably one of the easiest ways you can make your business more sustainable in 2021. You may have things you need physical copies of, but nearly everything can be done digitally today. This reduces your need for paper, ink, printers and copiers.
Going paperless isn’t just good for the environment — it can also help reduce your operating costs. On average, you can save $80 per employee every year. If you’ve got 1,000 employees, you can potentially cut $80,000 from your annual operating costs. That’s no small feat, especially for businesses that might be struggling to stay in the black. Getting rid of printers and copiers also reduces upkeep costs.
4. Recycling Programs
If you’re struggling to figure out how to make your business more sustainable in 2021, why not start with a famous adage from your childhood — reduce, reuse, recycle. Set6 up a recycling program that includes your employees and will make them feel like they’re working for a company that really cares about the environment.
Start by reaching out to your local waste management company to see what your options are for a recycling program. Depending on where you’re located, there may be city programs available, or you may have to collect and deliver your recycling to the center. You can even ask an employee to do this task in exchange for mileage or other incentives.
Set up recycle bins throughout the facility and encourage employees to use them. You’ll still need trash cans for non-recyclables, but they should see less use if people are disposing of their recyclables in the proper receptacles. You can even set up a compost bin for organic waste and use it to start a community garden that workers can tend on their breaks.
5. Renewable Energy
We have more options for green and sustainable energy for businesses than ever before, from solar and wind to hydro and geothermal — and even wave energy in some places. One of the best things you can do to make your business more sustainable is to make the switch to renewable energy.
Look at where your business is located. This will play a huge role in what kind of sustainable power you can utilize. Areas that get a lot of usable sunlight will likely benefit most from solar panels. Places that don’t see a lot of sun may be better off using wind or other forms of green energy.
Switching to green energy will lower your utility bills while reducing your carbon footprint and improving your relationship with the public.
6. Aim For Zero Waste
Waste disposal is getting more expensive, and it’s difficult to run a sustainable operation if you’re generating more garbage this year than the one before. Try becoming a zero-waste business. This means that ideally, you won’t send anything to the landfill. Recycling programs, composting bins for organic waste and even recycling greywater to irrigate your landscape are all part of becoming a zero-waste business.
This might be the most challenging step toward creating a sustainable business. However, once you create a plan to reduce your waste to zero, it becomes one of the easiest ones to maintain. This isn’t a change you’re going to make overnight, though. Start with easy changes like recycling programs or going paperless and work up to the more difficult ones.
Sustainability in business is a necessity in 2021. Refusing to make these changes will cost you money as well as customers that switch to more sustainable competitors. We all need to work together to preserve the planet for future generations, and becoming eco-friendly is one of the best ways to do that.