Sustainability isn’t just a passing trend or buzzword. It’s a way of life, and it’s something that both consumers and businesses are striving for.
According to a study by IBM and the National Retail Federation, two-thirds of North American consumers prefer eco-friendly brands, and data from the Institute for Management Development (IMD) indicates that 62% of executives believe that sustainability is necessary to be competitive.
The data tells us that almost everyone agrees that businesses should embrace sustainability. The question is, how exactly can you do it?
Here to weigh in on this important question is Moji Igun, the founder of Blue Daisi Consulting. Moji offers sustainability consulting for small businesses, and she connects entrepreneurs with the resources they need to minimize waste and implement eco-friendly practices.
Moji has a wealth of knowledge on sustainability, and she has some interesting takes on what small businesses should do to help the environment.
Have a look at what she has to say below.
There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” sustainability strategy ✋
According to Moji, sustainability is “very personalized” to each company.
For some entrepreneurs, being sustainable could mean reducing their energy emissions and carbon footprint. For others, it could be adopting eco-friendly alternatives to their current supplies (such as using compostable packaging instead of plastic).
The point, she says, is that “there is no one right or wrong way to be sustainable. It really depends on your business.”
In the same vein, the benefits that you could gain out of your sustainability efforts can vary, depending on your strategy, customers, and products.
As Moji puts it, "the benefits can include saving money. It can include better brand positioning in the market to appeal to younger Millennial, Gen Z type customers. It can be brand loyalties, to help people keep returning over and over. It could be more efficient operations. There are so many different ways that sustainability can benefit you, it just depends on how you approach it."
It’s also important to note that sustainability isn’t a one-and-done activity.
“It's something that we practice over and over,” explains Moji. “And so that practice shifts and changes depending on our capacities, our resources, what we have access to.”
A 2-prong approach to getting started with sustainability 🚦
With so many different paths to sustainability, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start and how to do it right. According to Moji, she often sees entrepreneurs who feel that they need to do everything — or multiple things — to be more sustainable.
“The #1 myth around sustainability, especially for small business owners, is the notion that they need to do it all right away. Businesses may think ‘I need to figure out how to be zero waste, carbon-neutral, and save the bees all at once.’”
But this shouldn’t be the case at all.
She says, “Small business owners already wear so many hats. And so, what's really important is figuring out what sustainability means for you, what you have the capacity to control or impact, and starting there.”
An important step to being more sustainable, she adds, is defining what sustainability means for your specific business.
“It could be that you're carbon-neutral. It can mean that you are donating to an important cause. Sustainable means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And so your company should create a very specific goal — such as ‘We want to be a zero-waste company — that's it.’”
“From there, you can focus on executing on that one goal,” Moji adds.
The other approach is to figure out the most impactful thing you can do in your business to be more sustainable. This is where you have to examine your operations and identify areas that have the biggest environmental impact.
“Let’s say you’re a company that travels a lot and you do a lot of driving and air travel — and those things have a really big piece of your business. Ask yourself, how can you do that more sustainably? Can you think of ways to travel more efficiently? Are there any carbon offsets you can implement?”
Moji continues, “have a think about those key pieces of your business and how you can shift those things around. It’s about infusing sustainable thinking into your company’s DNA.”
Examples of sustainable small businesses ♻️
Implementing a sustainability strategy is completely doable if you’re a small business, and Moji names a few examples of SMBs doing it right. Consider the following.
With Intent is an apparel brand that sells pieces made out of organic cotton and free from toxic chemicals and dyes.
Moji loves the fact that each piece is made to order, which means the brand isn’t mass-producing products and is able to minimize waste.
As for the products, With Intent only uses organic cotton that's certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), so shoppers can rest easy knowing that they're buying products that are ethically and sustainably sourced.
Next up is Corvus Botanicals, a self-care brand that makes soaps, shampoos, lip balms, and other personal care items.
Moji says that the company’s founder, Stacia Thompson-Wrench, is incredibly conscious about how her products are produced.
“She studied environmental biology, and so she's really thoughtful about the ingredients that she puts into her products. So they're all non-toxic and she utilizes the CITES and INCI databases to ensure that the ingredients used in her products are sustainable from both an environmental standpoint and a socially-conscious one.”
There’s also Eco Collective, a wellness brand in Seattle, that encourages customers to care for both themselves and the environment.
“What I really love about them is they put “end of life” descriptions on all of their products. So if you don't know how to recycle something or where it goes once you're done using it, they have it right on their website because they think it's important to share that information with their customers,” explains Moji.
She continues, “they also have this really deep focus on self-care and because they believe that caring for ourselves and the people around us is just as important as caring for the environment, and so I really appreciate that messaging.”
Sustainability is never set in stone. It’s an ongoing process that means different things to different people and businesses. Recognize that your journey is different from other entrepreneurs, and figuring out the right steps requires looking at your operations, then coming up with a plan based on your current business practices.
Want to learn more about the work Moji is doing with small businesses on sustainability? Check out Blue Daisi Consulting's website.