Five Tips to Boost Your Small Business' Sustainability

Making just a few sustainable and energy-efficient changes can pay off literally and for the good of the planet.

Solar panels with a city skyline in the background.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Small businesses have a huge economic impact in the United States. Today, they account for 99.9% of all companies, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As such, they’re major contributors to the economy. However, it’s not always easy to be a smaller player. When you’re the head of a small business, you’re constantly consumed by the need to steward your finances. One way to trim unnecessary spending for the long haul is to adopt more energy-efficient operating measures.

Lowering your energy costs doesn’t just promise a fixed benefit either. Becoming more sustainable can improve your company’s cash flow in a variety of ways. Take consumer appeal, for instance. A recent McKinsey & Co. study found that ESG-focused products outperformed less sustainable counterparts’ by 1.7%. That’s not an inconsequential number by any means and shows consumers are motivated to patronize green-leaning businesses.

When you’re known as sustainable, you may find it easier to attract and hold on to employees as well. Per Gallup research, nearly seven out of 10 job seekers consider an employer’s environmental record before accepting an offer. Many are willing to trade higher salaries to work with companies interested in greener practices.

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Again, this doesn’t mean you need to become 100% sustainable overnight — or ever, for that matter. Making just a few changes can pay off literally and for the good of the planet. Below are a few suggestions for sustainable and energy-efficient initiatives and improvements.

1. Conduct intelligence on your competitors.

You are not the first small business to engage in the move toward environmentally friendly endeavors. Rather than starting from scratch, spend time evaluating what your biggest competitors are doing. This type of due diligence is going to be your financial friend. It will also leave you updated regarding the latest trends happening in your sector’s eco-conscious space.

You don’t have to apply every energy-efficient practice to your business, of course. Some may not apply to your core operations. Nevertheless, take everything into consideration. Additionally, be sure to note any missteps your competition has made. With your intelligence, you can move forward with more confidence.

2. Tap into solar power.

Do you own your business or a series of properties as part of your operations? You may be in a good position to bypass all or some of your need for fossil fuels. Adding solar panels to your roof can net you several benefits.

You could start saving immediately once your solar system has been installed and activated. From that point onward, you can save on your monthly energy costs and in many states sell electricity back to the grid. If you don’t have access to capital to purchase solar panels outright, you could lease them instead. Leasing means you won’t own them but could still recapture savings on your electric bills to reduce your annual expenses.

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3. Find like-minded supply chain partners.

Another method to green all aspects of your company is to work only with like-minded partners and vendors. This makes certain your entire supply chain is transparently sustainable. Or, at least, as transparent as possible. Remember: Your customers are watching what you do. Being able to show them that you’re serious about tightening your supply chain can improve their loyalty.

Reevaluating your supply chain yearly is a smart idea anyway. It gives you the chance to renegotiate your contracts and review alternative ways to get or send items. Ultimately, you’ll be less likely to waste your money if you’re monitoring your partnerships carefully and systematically.

4. Reduce your reliance on paper.

Your small business may not be as paperless as you think. Are your workers printing documents on energy-consuming equipment? Jotting messages on notepads? Using paper flipcharts for brainstorming sessions only to destroy the flipcharts? These are all places for you to cut down on your paper spending. Paper not only costs money but either needs to be stored or discarded.

Ask your team members to take a complete look at how much paper they come in contact with. Then, think about ways to digitize everywhere you can. You may have already gone digital during the pandemic, as 71% of surveyed small and midsize businesses told Salesforce they did. However, you can’t go wrong by taking another look at your paper use.

Be sure to consider any product packaging, if this applies to your business. Reducing your packaging materials can have a seriously positive effect on your bottom line. Plus, it’s one more sustainability measure you can talk about on your website, blog and social media pages.

5. Replace all your lights with LED models.

Obviously, it would be great if you could make use of natural light in your business whenever possible. That’s not always feasible, though. But you don’t have to choose lights that gobble up electricity and put stress on the grid. LED lights are both economical and environmentally sounder options.

LED lights last about 25 times as long as other kinds of lights and require less energy to operate. Consequently, you likely won’t have to keep running out to buy replacement bulbs every few weeks or months.

There are countless ways your small business can both save money and become more sustainable. These measures can help you showcase your commitment to protecting the earth as well as protecting your assets.


The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.

Angela Ruth

Angela Ruth is Co-Founder of Due, a financial service helping people plan retirement on their terms.