Three Strategies for Small Businesses to Develop Sustainability
At a packed sustainability break-out session during the recent Inc. 5000 conference in San Antonio, that was the recurring theme among panelists. Among the panelists were Al Subbloie, CEO of Budderfly, Iain Forsyth, general manager of vans marketing and product management at Mercedes-Benz USA, and Sergio Castillo, president and CEO of Eco BCG.
It should be clear that these businesses have different perspectives on sustainability because they are all involved in different industries. All of them concurred, though, that a solid plan begins and ends with your team. Al Subbloie, CEO of Budderfly, stated that “leadership wants to get it right, it makes a difference to your employees,”
Here are some tips for bolstering your business’s sustainability initiatives, boosting revenue, and ensuring that staff members are on board.
Share your objectives with the group
CEOs can talk all they want about sustainability, but Forsyth says it’s crucial to show the rest of the team how serious they are about sustainability: “Live those sustainability goals with your employees to get that buy-in. Share with them why you’re doing it and what the company’s goals are.”
According to him, Mercedes-Benz has increased sustainability and made new electric product development a priority over the last two years. Accordingly, Forsyth’s role includes informing staff members of the results of these initiatives, he says.
The panelists also concurred that communicating these sustainability missions and goals to current employees not only excites them but also draws in new talent to organizations.
Think about your partners’ and customers’ objectives
Comprehending the sustainability initiatives of other organizations to which your company provides materials or services may be just as important as comprehending your own.
To be associated with the Net Zero standard, for example, means that businesses must report on Scope 3 emissions, or indirect emissions in their value chain. Therefore, Castillo says that giving partners and larger clients clear information about your own sustainability practices could set you apart.
He runs a global engineering firm in Lake Elmo, Minnesota called Eco BCG, which assists large corporations in achieving their sustainability objectives. According to Castillo, a lot of these bigger businesses have written goals and commitments that are easily shared, which is good news for those trying to figure out where to begin.
The bad news is that the objectives of any large corporation may vary greatly. However, he asserts that this shouldn’t stop businesses from using this strategy: “I would just ask a lot of questions. Eventually, that’s going to be a competitive advantage.”
Don’t anticipate answers right away
Long-term effects of sustainability can be significant, but the immediate labor involved is frequently costly and taxing. Furthermore, according to Subbloie, “a CFO’s eyes glaze over if the payoff isn’t in two years or less.”
For example, his own company, Budderfly, is an energy management company based in Shelton, Connecticut; it collaborates with companies such as Wendy’s and Subway that have a consistent footprint. Subbloie states that rather than focusing on a single large project, the company is making a number of minor adjustments that should add up over time.
Subbloie continues, “There is patience for longer-term results in Europe.” The European Commission adopted the European Green Deal in 2020, a package of legislative measures aimed at reaching climate neutrality by 2050. However, he believes that the U.S. is changing and anticipates that investments and commitments will become more commonplace. He states, “We are catching up.”
Nevertheless, it will take time to see results. “I always say that sustainability is like an acquired taste,” Castillo says. “It’s like a negroni cocktail.” Thus, Castillo recommends that companies take small steps toward their goals and in orienting the culture of the company toward sustainability. “[It’s] learning the basics first, and then bringing it throughout the organization.”