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How SMEs can approach sustainability

Have you ever felt frustrated as a small company facing unique challenges when it comes to sustainability? We understand it. With limited resources and budgets, it can be difficult for SMEs to implement environmentally-friendly practices and meet sustainability goals. No worries: there are plenty of ideas of things you can implement to make a positive impact on the environment: read below to get a few tips.

The challenges of being more sustainable as an SME

If you’re working at a startup, you'll probably have your hands in your hair: MVP, fund raising, people management, work-life balance. For SMEs - small and medium enterprises - it’s not that different, as scaling raises even bigger challenges: staying afloat in a fluctuating economy, learning to pivot along with the changing tides and the needs of consumers, managing expansion, and the rising costs of goods.

It’s sad to say but for SMEs sustainability slips down the to-do list. And while a sustainable mindset is key, it’s not enough to make it happen. And there’s no silver bullet when it comes to saving the planet.

Alongside the skilled resources and the investment for implementing sustainable practices, which is not something SMEs usually have in spades, adding these practices to an organisation comes with complexities. The effort needed to decipher which initiatives, partners and areas to focus on usually requires someone with the knowledge of both the specific business and the sustainability insights to choose the right ones.

But all of this isn’t to say that it can’t be done to win the challenges of being more sustainable. Becoming a sustainability Doer, not just a Dreamer is possible. We’re here to help with a few tips that you can adjust to your business.

8 ways SMEs can approach sustainability

Use clean and efficient energy

Becoming more energy efficient can include simple actions such as turning off lights and equipment when not in use, using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and implementing a recycling program. Or, if your business has a bit more to spend, it could invest in renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power to offset your carbon footprint: there’s plenty of options nowadays.

Switch to sustainable sourcing and production

If your business produces products or requires materials that need to be sourced, you could do an audit of your current sourcing and production methods, as well as the companies that provide the supplies and assess their own sustainability efforts and practices. If you’ve found that the companies aren’t that forward-thinking when it comes to the planet, you could switch your suppliers.

This could include sourcing more sustainable packaging and materials and implementing a “closed loop” production process where waste is minimised.

Additionally, you could invest in your own technology and equipment that is more efficient and produces less waste.

Less flying, more cycling

If you or a lot of your employees travel a lot either to your company premises or as a means to expand your business, it’s always worth looking at the carbon footprint of this and how it could be cut down. This can include encouraging employees to carpool, bike, or use public transportation, as well as implementing a remote working program.

If a lot of employees fly around the world, why not put an assessment process in place which details whether the trip is necessary in order to conduct the business required. If it is, you could add a carbon offsetting budget to travel budgets.

If you have extra investment to spend, you could also add electric or hybrid vehicles or bicycles to your fleets.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

How sustainable are your business operations?

Some simple things you can do around your premises are implementing a recycling program, using environmentally-friendly cleaning products, and encouraging employees to reduce their waste and reuse assets.

If you have the means, you could invest in supplying the office using only sustainable companies, such as green office supplies and sustainable IT solutions.

Sustainable marketing

If you’re making a lot of changes to your business, you’re likely a) learning a lot in the process and b) changing your organisation’s strategy in order to pair profit with people and planet.

If this is the case, then this is the perfect opportunity to bring your community along for the journey with you. This can be done through sustainability marketing and communication.

Another thing to consider if you still rely on things like paper flyers, sending physical letters and putting on events for your marketing efforts, is how you can make these more sustainable. This can be done through switching to online methods, social media and switching to more sustainable materials.

Reporting and certification

If you’re committed to becoming more sustainable, obtaining certificates and reporting on your strategies can guide your plans and boost your investment opportunities. SMEs can use third-party certifications, such as ISO 14001, to provide a framework for ongoing improvement.

Or you can select one of the possible ESG scores and programs to guide you on building a roadmap. Make sure you select just one, to avoid extra complexity, and that you choose the easier to implement, to start with, or the most widely recognized certification.

You could look at becoming a B Corp. This process usually involves a complete overhaul of your strategy, processes and practices and ensures they’re all geared towards a more sustainable planet.

Start with quick wins

If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely gathered a list of things that you think you could do in your business to help the planet. One solution to set you on your path to making an impact as quickly as possible is assessing what you’ve chosen and implementing the easiest ones.

Solutions like Pure Air Zone, which is plug-and-play is a great example. If you know you want to improve the air quality in your environment, this solution helps you make an impact almost immediately once it’s been installed and it gives you visibility and recognition world wide.

Set out a roadmap

There’s a saying ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’, so no matter what your path to sustainability looks like now, it’s always a good idea to sit down and have a think about what you’re actually trying to achieve.

From there, you can set out the steps and a timeline of how you’re going to get there. This now only helps you streamline your sustainability strategy but usually always throws up more ideas for your business to implement.

From frustration to flourishing and winning

If you’re an SME, YOU’RE very important. And you have a lot of power in the economy!

Small and medium-sized enterprises like yours are vital employers and key to creating jobs: they account for 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide. In emerging economies, their contribution to GDP can reach 40%. So by implementing these eight tips, you can make a huge impact on the planet.

In a few years, those who are left in the market will all have implemented a sustainable growth plan. Including SMEs. Preceding them means gaining a key advantage now.

If you’re interested to learn more, let’s have a chat about your sustainability goals and how we could help.

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