Every brand, no matter its size or purpose, has a responsibility to effect positive environmental change. As a small business, you might think you don’t have the presence to make an impact, but if there’s one thing the last year has taught us it’s that all our actions count when the world is at risk.
Even the smallest change contributes to the greater good - and what’s more, sustainability is a growing priority for today's consumer.
Here’s three simple steps every business can take towards a more sustainable practice:
Consumer behaviour is constantly evolving, and in the aftermath of multiple lockdowns, it’s safe to say that the convenience of eCommerce has been wholly embraced. That’s great news for brands that operate in this space, but for the planet, increased deliveries mean increased carbon emissions.
This fact is not lost on shoppers, with surveys showing 73% of them want carbon neutral deliveries. Thankfully, companies like DHL and DPD offer just that, tracking the carbon footprint of each, lowering wherever possible, and offsetting remaining emissions by contributing to climate protection projects.
If you have the scope, you could offset your own emissions by tracking them yourself and funding a project of your choice - maybe even adding a voluntary offsetting charge to each customer purchase. A lot of consumers will be more than happy to contribute, and they’ll think more highly of you for your efforts.
One of the easiest ways to introduce more sustainable practices is to reduce waste by using recyclable or biodegradable packaging. This is another top priority for the consumer, with 82% saying they want product packaging made from recyclable materials.
But it’s not enough to just make the switch. For full effect you also need to educate the customer. Give clear instructions on how to dispose of packaging correctly, or better yet, encourage them to reuse it for whatever purpose might suit. A fantastic example of a company who utilise sustainable packaging would be everdrop.
We all know about the plastic waste crisis and the detrimental effects of fast fashion. It might not be as simple a practice to implement as the suggestions above, but the more brands that source low impact materials the better.
In the first case, it’s important to know what the environmental impact of your production is, so start with an audit. Then move on to exploring alternative, sustainable options. If you’re in the fashion industry, there’s no shortage of choices - linen, hemp, lyocell, sustainably sourced animal fabrics - they might be more expensive than non-organic cotton, but the more businesses that invest in these materials, the more accessible they’ll become.
For a little inspiration, here’s a look at some champions of sustainable business:
SHO is a brand committed to cutting out single-use plastics by offering a high quality alternative. Their range of reusable flasks, travel mugs and water bottles are designed to be convenient and aesthetically pleasing, encouraging consumers to ditch the take out coffee cups and bottled drinks.
We want every human on planet earth choosing to use reusable products rather than single-use items.
Founder of SHO
They also take their ethical business further by donating a proportion of their annual profits to Mary’s Meals, a charity that helps feed and educate children in need.
Apéro is an ethical fashion brand with an outstanding commitment to sustainability. They focus on timeless fashion rather than cheap, wear once and throw away design. They also source natural fibre fabrics like linen, and have recently committed to using 100% recyclable cotton in place of normal cotton, reducing their water and energy consumption.
With fashion being one of the biggest contributors to landfill, I believe it’s our responsibility to spearhead sustainability and responsible consumerism.
Laz Smith, Co-founder
The brand constantly reassess materials, logistics and other processes, also swapping out traditional plastic mailers for 100% compostable, reusable, zero waste packaging.
These moves have not come without cost, but it’s something they see as their duty. With a loyal customer base built through the Apéro Spritz club, they now work to educate consumers on the importance of sustainable purchase decisions.
It’s not cheap to invest in sustainability as a brand, however we have seen a huge impact in the behaviours of our customers towards being more mindful in their purchasing process when shopping with us, and hopefully in general.
- Laz Smith, Co-founder
The Non Plastic Beach ethos is to reduce plastic pollution by helping consumers remove one single use plastic item from their lives at a time. Their product range features everything from toothpaste tablets to compostable coffee filters, all of which are selected for their effectiveness, affordability and sustainability.
The stigma to sustainable products is if it doesn’t work as well or the same as your existing product then why would you switch. It's powerful for us as a brand for customers to read positive reviews for products. Having non-sponsored influencer endorsement has left good reviews of shampoos, customers see these and look up to it knowing it works for them etc they want the same.
- Gareth Dean, Co-founder
Non Plastic Beach
Their mission is to make a plastic free life more accessible for everyone by sourcing alternatives of the greatest value. In doing so, they take care not to shift the problem elsewhere, looking for additional sustainability benefits in all products sourced.
A brand selling uniquely crafted natural home furnishings, Maine Furniture adopt strict sustainability practices. All materials used come from ethical and sustainable sources, and they put reforestation at the heart of their supply chain, only buying from factories that operate under strict timber licensing.
In addition, their mantra is ‘Buy One, Plant One’ - for every piece of wooden furniture purchased a tree is planted, helping to restore vulnerable, critical forest ecosystems around the world.
Propelling cycling forward and using off cuts to create a new range that tackles sustainability and a no waste culture.
Consumers are looking to play their part by making more eco-friendly purchase decisions. Brands that intend to see continued growth need to appeal to this shift in behaviour and make sustainability a priority.
But more importantly, it’s what our planet needs. It needs us to remove harmful materials from our lives. It needs us to stop sending waste to landfill. And it needs us to lower carbon emissions. Be part of the change to fix the problems we’ve created - both your business and future generations will profit from your efforts.