Is Sustainability A Smart Choice For Your Business?
Beginning in the 1980’s eco-awareness grew from the growth in pollution during the 1960’s. Today growing consumer demand has brought sustainability into the main stream in business practices.
Sustainable strategies have grown in popularity with consumers, and recognizing their benefits companies have embraced the concept of sustainability. Responding to consumer demand, many companies are riding the popularity of sustainability and reaping the benefit’s by publicizing their “Green Practices” to their targeted customers.
Sustainability’s Competitive Advantage
Sustainability concepts and practices must produce visible results to be embraced by both business and consumers. Many companies have found that a competitive advantage can be accomplished through a balance between economic progress, social responsibility and environmental protection.
Using this formula more companies have been willing to implement sustainability concepts.
Sustainability Gains Acceptance
Sustainability Grows in Popularity
With the growing popularity of sustainability, it is not surprising that the trend is also growing in popularity among entrepreneurs. Sustainability entrepreneurs are a new breed of entrepreneur that work to combine the social, economic, and environmental aspects of sustainability.
These business owners are leading the trend, starting their companies from the ground up in a way that produces an immediate advantage in their respective industries.
Entrepreneurs Embrace Sustainability
Sustainability entrepreneurs have an alternative approach to doing business that also assists them in building their advantage. In common practice, the primary strategy of businesses is to do whatever it takes to earn a profit.
While profit is key to the success of any business, it is not the primary concern of the sustainability entrepreneur. Instead, these business owners focus on environmental health and social concerns.
These owners are more likely than the traditional entrepreneurs to focus on reducing their companies’ carbon footprint and keeping their employees happy.
Sustainability Entrepreneurs Balance Business and the Environment
Entrepreneurs Become Ecopreneurs
Sustainability entrepreneurs, by definition, show a concern for society, the economy, and the environment. However, another group of entrepreneurs is known for their ability to combine an environmental focus with their for-profit business.
These entrepreneurs have been called Ecopreneurs, by definition they are entrepreneurs who combine their business activities with an environmental awareness in order to shift the basis of economic development towards a more environmentally friendly basis. These Ecopreneurs are at the forefront of leading the way towards “going green.”
Sustainability may not work for every business
Sustainability is a good choice for companies, the environment, and society. These strategies have numerous benefits for everyone. However, sustainability strategies may not be feasible for a number of companies.
Small and medium sized companies face a number of challenges at start-up and throughout the life of the company. These challenges include barriers to entry, high operating costs, and small customer base.
All of the challenges affect a company’s ability to spend money. With tight budgets, it can be difficult to convince managers to pursue an often costly move towards an environmental focus or social concern strategy.
Sustainability Must be Affordable
Research of small and medium sized businesses in the U.S wine industry, concluded that this particular group and size of businesses did show favorable acceptance of environmental practices. Some aspects of the data they gathered they found could be applicable to other industries.
The wine industry study found that any environmental plan needs to be appropriate for the size of business. Also any successful environmental plan needs to be modest and affordable.
Grand-scale plans for solving environmental concerns are appealing, they lack financial feasibility for most small and medium sized companies.
Voluntary Sustainability Not Legislated
Sustainability Must be Voluntary
An important part of most research findings is that they suggest that environmental plans must be voluntarily adopted and implemented by an industry’s trade association. This discovery is key to understanding how businesses identify trends that they may want to associate with, such as implementing favorable environmental practices.
Sustainability Must be Scalable
Small companies often feel pressured to implement favorable environmental practices. While they might agree that the practices are good for the environment, they may not be financially good for their company. It should be noted that environmental plans that are composed for large companies cannot be simply scaled down for a small business.
Instead of scaling down a plan to fit a small business, a new plan needs to be specifically developed for small companies. It must be realistic in it’s approach to be implemented by small companies with their unique company structures.
Sustainability Implementation Factors
What are the other critical factors that play a part in small businesses being able to implement environmental plans. We can identify several factors that affect small business managers and their choice to implement environmental plans.
The first factor to be examined is why there is a gap between the attitude small business managers have about environmental practices and the actions they take towards implementing environmental plans.
The second factor is how the gap between small business attitude and small business action can be narrowed or if it can be narrowed. Companies need to look to several identifiable driving forces to environmental practices. A majority of small business only implement minor improvements to their environmental practices.
The third factor we must examine is whether or not small businesses can be convinced to pursue environmentally friendly practices. While it is important that methods exist that can be used to help small companies use environmentally favorable practices, these methods are useless if these companies cannot be convinced to use the methods.
Implementing Sustainability Perspectives
In additional to the factors about implementing sustainability there are also three perspective approaches which must be considered.
The first perspective is the ethical perspective. This perspective believes that small company managers can be influenced by their ethical and moral beliefs to pursue favorable environmental practices.
The second perspective is the economic perspective. This perspective is at center of the debate about small companies using environmental practices. This perspective assumes that the decision to use environmental practices is affected by the economic conditions faced by the company. If the costs of implementing the environmental strategy can be justified, then the company will move forward.
The last perspective is the management perspective. This viewpoint examines changing management’s thought process. Management must change their values and align them with environmental values.
Sustainability is a Choice
Is Sustainability the Best Choice for Your Business
Many studies show that small businesses can choose an environmentally friendly way of doing business. While changes require effort, several approaches that have been identified that can make the change possible.
With changes possible and advantages quantifiable, there is still debate about whether or not sustainability strategies produce long-term economic benefits. The most common belief is that changes made for a company to “go green” are more costly than the company’s current cost structure.
Following this reasoning, it makes sense that a company must see a strong economic benefit before implementing environmentally friendly processes. However some believe that a company can form a long-term relationship with consumers by adopting a “green advantage” perspective.
Consumers are beginning to realize more and more that environmental practices cannot be overlooked. That “green practices” are essential to the health of our planet.
With this in mind, companies can feel safe moving towards green practices because consumers will come to expect green practices from the companies they choose to patronize.
Businesses Move to Sustainability
The study of green practices will definitely be the topic of interest and research going forward. As companies discover the competitive advantage they seek through green practices, more will embrace sustainability and enjoy the financial reward offered by green practices and sustainability.
Embrace Sustainability, Protect the Environment
The thinking of business managers is shifting from traditional profit-obsessed business strategies to a more holistic sustainability strategy. In order to make this transition, it is likely that changes will be more to business education and the training of future business leaders.
This “rethinking” concept will need to start in training in order to make a solid transition.
Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
If you would like to calculate your Carbon Footprint, follow the link to the free carbon footprint calculator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.