It’s no secret that consumers respond well to — and want to support — businesses that not only value their bottom line, but also prioritize the planet and its people. In a global survey, 84% of consumers say that they are more inclined to be loyal to a brand with values similar to their own.[1]

Using purchasing behavior as a gauge, sustainability expectations for organizations have been rising over the past decade. Approximately 72% of consumers say that sustainability is an important purchase consideration.[2] And in the past five years, 85% of people worldwide have shifted purchase behavior toward making consciously sustainable choices.[3]

As consumer interest in sustainability increases, small business owners may want to implement more sustainable practices — here's how to get started.

Small Steps to Improve Sustainable Practices

Sustainability doesn’t have to require a total business overhaul. It also doesn’t have to mean higher costs, less profits, or making sustainable changes to processes. In fact, incorporating sustainability into your small business model often has the opposite effect: lower costs, increased profits, and streamlined processes.

There are many choices a small business can make — even with limited financial and personnel resources — to become more sustainable. For big results, consider these small changes.

1. Print less and go digital when possible

You can digitally create and manage a variety of documents, from invoices and paystubs to agreements and expense reports.

Shifting this paperwork to digital processes eliminates the need to spend time on filing, organizing, printing, mailing, and searching for documents. It also saves space and money, and it makes it much easier to share information internally and externally.

2. Prioritize energy-efficiency upgrades

When it’s time to replace or update a system in your office, take energy usage into account. This could include anything from lighting and occupancy sensors to office equipment. Your local utility may offer free or inexpensive energy audits to help you pinpoint which systems and processes use the most energy so you can make adjustments accordingly.

Prioritizing energy-efficiency upgrades can not only reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability, but also decrease operating costs and utility bills.

3. Select sustainable sourcing

Your sustainability efforts can stretch beyond your business walls when you work with suppliers and partners that also prioritize energy efficiency and environmentally friendly initiatives.

Creating a sustainable supply chain can reduce waste and your environmental footprint while also keeping costs in line. More than 90% of an organization’s greenhouse gas emissions, along with 50% to 70% of operating costs, can be attributed to supply chains.[4]

4. Seek out sustainable shipping and delivery options

If you frequently ship goods to consumers or other businesses, then green delivery services can help improve your environmental impact. Utilize options that prioritize the reduction of carbon emissions and optimize packaging and delivery routes.

Sustainable delivery options can be found through many shipping carriers, as well as through crowdsourced options, such as Roadie or DoorDash, which allow you to tap into existing hybrid or EV vehicle fleets to get your products to customers.

5. Educate your team

Letting your employees know how their actions at work make an impact on the environment can be one of the most cost-effective practices you can deploy. It costs nothing to encourage workers to do things like print less, turn off lights, conserve water, avoid altering programmable thermostats, use video calls instead of business trips when possible, and recycle or donate office e-waste.

Understand the Power of Sustainable Practices

The benefits of sustainable business practices go far beyond meeting consumer demand. Large and small brands alike have seen growth among products that make ESG-related claims.[5]

When small businesses implement the right green strategies, they can experience many benefits, including:

  • Higher sales revenue
  • Lower operating costs
  • Improved reputation
  • Reduced environmental impact

Communicate Your Commitment

As you integrate more sustainable practices into your small business, be sure to communicate your sustainability initiatives. Consumers, employees, and other stakeholders will likely want to know about the changes you make.

As you share your progress, creating a clear mission statement about your green practices can get everyone on the same page by confirming your priorities and establishing the foundation for green policies.

Responsibly Grow Your Business

As you improve sustainable practices, you'll likely see lower costs, increased profits, and streamlined processes.

See how PNC approaches corporate responsibility and learn more about our Business Banking solutions.