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Tips for Starting a More Sustainable Business

Starting your own business can be an exciting and rewarding experience. You have the opportunity to operate on your own terms, pursuing entrepreneurialism through your unique lens. It also means you can approach your company operations in a way that boosts the elements and values you hold close. For a growing number of new business owners, a meaningful commitment to sustainability is among these priorities. 

It’s also important to remember that environmentally conscious operations are more than good for the planet. You’ll find there is a direct link to your business trajectory. Indeed, researchers from DeVry University recently posited that a focus on making a difference, particularly from the standpoint of sustainability, is one of the primary needs for building a successful business over the next decade. Alongside relevant skills development and technological applications, putting this type of social responsibility first in your business model is instrumental in building a positive reputation, impacting the community, as well as being profitable. 

So, before you launch into your enterprise, it’s worth reviewing what you can do to make your path more sustainable from the outset.

Consider Different Models

The good thing about considering sustainability before you actually get into the weeds of creating your business is your options are wide open. You don’t need to find solutions to tack onto your current approach or put additional investment into going back and making changes. As such, it’s worth taking a moment to consider business models that have an in-built element of sustainability.

Some of these include:

●      Ecommerce

If you want to focus your efforts on sales, you may find having a physical establishment is not necessarily the most sustainable model. Online sales, on the other hand, can help you minimize your impact on the environment. If you’re operating from your own home, you won’t have the same energy and resource consumption that you would in a store. Not to mention many ecommerce entrepreneurs are minimizing their impact further by utilizing shared warehousing or dropshipping services.

●      Green Goods

It is more accessible than at any other point in recent history to build your company around only providing products that are sustainably produced and sourced. There is increasing emphasis on raw materials made from reusable or natural products — plastic waste gathered from the ocean, bamboo, and pinatex (plant-based leather) are all options here. If your entrepreneurial intentions involve manufacturing, look to working around these materials.

●      Consultancy

Some of the most sustainable businesses are those that require very little in terms of external premises, equipment, and personnel. As such, consultancy can be an inherently green model. The minimal nature of this can be made even more sustainable by utilizing tools such as coworking spaces rather than renting an office, online conferencing rather than traveling to meetings, and even focusing on niches like sustainable events planning.

Think Holistically

Your business won’t be truly sustainable just because you sell some green products. It’s not about having a single aspect that makes your business seem eco-friendly. Indeed, if you’re purporting to be eco-conscious as part of your brand identity but there are various elements of your operations that don’t meet high standards, this might be considered a form of greenwashing. Therefore you should aim for holistic sustainability.   

It might seem overwhelming to have to keep your whole business sustainable, but this isn’t necessarily a complex matter. It’s mostly about taking each element of your operations — or intended operations — and reviewing them to see how they can be made more environmentally sound. In manufacturing your products are there ways you can reduce waste or electricity? Can your marketing efforts rely more on digital rather than physical media? Can you arrange a carpooling situation so employees aren’t driving individual vehicles every day? 

Remember, acting holistically isn’t just about what happens inside of your business, though. It’s also about the influence your efforts have on the community. Starting an earth-friendly business means engaging with the regulations and processes in a meaningful way and committing to supporting overarching sustainability in the industry. This should include your backing of tighter restrictions on non-renewable resources and engagement with certification programs like Green Seal and the USDA National Organic Program. By visibly interacting with such initiatives, your business is playing a role in pushing legitimately green agendas.   

Seek Resources

Don’t make the mistake of thinking because you’re a lone entrepreneur, you need to pursue sustainability on your own. The responsibility doesn’t rest entirely on your shoulders. This means there are methods of assistance and resources around today that can help support your efforts.

There are programs at both the state and federal levels designed to encourage small entrepreneurs to adopt environmentally sustainable practices. If you install energy-efficient heating and cooling systems in your business premises, you may be able to qualify for tax credits, and there are often grants and loans available to help fund alternative energy upgrades. Indeed, if your small business is geared toward creating green innovations, you may also qualify for Department of Energy subsidies

Your resource seeking here should also extend to your suppliers. If you’re not fully aware of the green options available to you through the packing materials you outsource or your shipping services, reach out to them and have a conversation. Things are changing all the time and they are likely to have insights into what the current innovations are. This can also be a way to build mutually supportive relationships, where you and your supply chain work together to develop sustainable practices.


Businesses today not only have an ethical duty to be sustainable, it is also an essential element of success. When you’re building your enterprise, it’s important to take the time to consider all your model options and map out operations in a way that allows you to make informed, holistically beneficial choices. Remember you’re not alone in this endeavor; make use of the knowledge, resources, and relationships at your disposal.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash.