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Making Your Business Sustainable and Eco-friendly
Author: Stephanie Taylor Christensen
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The start of a new year is a prime opportunity to focus on actionable ways to make your business more sustainable and eco-friendly. Though it may not sound like a traditional New Year’s Resolution, the steps to move your business towards a more sustainable model are similar to other goals you may set to make positive lifestyle changes this year. Here’s why.

Make a list of exactly what you’d like to address.
Sustainability can apply to multiple aspects of your business—whether through internal programs that encourage you and your employees to bike, walk or take mass transit to work, replacing bottled water you keep on hand in the office with boxed alternatives, or adapting packaging to reduce waste. In fact, the more elements of your business you work to apply sustainable practices to, the more impactful the shift to sustainability will be.

Though the possibilities for sustainability in a handmade business are vast, specificity is key to your success. Start your shift to sustainability by making a list of all the ways you’d like to adapt your business to greater focus on it. Then, apply the popular goal-achievement acronym “SMART” (which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-framed) to transform your ideas into actionable initiatives.

Create a road map for action.
Your move towards sustainability will be marked by several small, but important, steps along the way.  For each goal on your list, create a road map for how you think you may get from that proverbial point A to point Z. The very first step towards sustainability may be simply to research what other companies in the handmade industry have an eco-friendly model that you’d like to emulate. Step two may be to connect with the founders of those companies to learn how they incorporated sustainability into their own business. You may not implement sustainable packaging until step 15 on your plan--but the combination of measurable and attainable action steps will eventually lead to your goal.

Remember that sustainable goals that involve employees in some way will typically be most successful when executed from top to bottom: The founder of the company who champions sustainability is more likely to have a team who will embrace it to the extent that it becomes a core part of the culture. Similarly, changes to products, ingredients, packaging or fulfillment tend to be most successful with a “beginning to end” approach.

Identify how you’ll measure your progress.
A goal to eliminate all wasteful packaging is certainly noble, but becomes attainable when you determine how you’ll measure your progress.  For each goal on your sustainability list, establish quantifiable objectives that can be measured over time. In the case of packaging, a first step may be to use 10% fewer materials in the shipping process. You can become more aggressive with your goals over time, but you’ll have a realistic place to begin, and a defined end point to work towards. Over time, findings from all of your “mini-goals” empower you to move deeper into implementing your vision of a sustainable business model.

Establish deadlines.
No matter your financial or operational resources, you can make your business more sustainable in a reasonable time frame and little investment. Even small adjustments like sourcing at least one item you purchase regularly from a local supplier by March 1, or moving 30% of your accounting processes from hard copy to digital files by May 2018 can contribute to improved sustainability, in short order.

Make sustainability part of your business mission.
Some shifts in your current processes may require that you make additional investments before you’ll see the benefits of sustainability. Embrace sustainability as part of your businesses’ culture and mission. Eventually it will become a guiding principle behind all your decisions, strategies and new pursuits.

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