By Adrian Johansen
As an entrepreneur, you have control over every aspect of your business, which includes its sustainability practices. Entrepreneurs who focus on creating sustainable businesses are choosing the right time to enter the playing field, too, with sustainability becoming more and more of a factor in consumer decisions. With that said, taking the time to build sustainability into your business from the ground up can benefit both businesses and the environment.
From tax breaks to reputation, establishing yourself as a sustainable business can open doors for you that would otherwise be unavailable. Funding and profitability are some of the biggest concerns, and going green can help you reach these financial goals. Sustainable businesses can even receive tax deductions which can help end of year costs, and receive financial help from investors who prioritize sustainable startups.
Sustainability starts at the beginning of your business concept. When creating your business, you can easily find ways to create sustainable change by connecting with other sustainable entrepreneurs, building sustainability into an overall business plan, and researching sustainable audiences.
Find Other Sustainable Entrepreneurs
Networking is a vital part of business success, regardless of your product or service. Having a professional support system that includes colleagues at your level of development, as well as those who are more experienced than you can help you navigate difficult or unexpected aspects of business ownership. But knowing what works and what doesn’t is only a part of the value.
Committing to sustainability is a big task, but networking with other entrepreneurs with similar values gives you the chance to collaborate with other businesses. By making sure that you are aligned with other sustainable businesses, you may be able to find sustainable sourcing, production, or disposal resources. Overall, this will show your commitment to sustainability throughout your business. Aligning yourself with established businesses is also a good way to develop a positive public image, draw in new customers from an established consumer base, and gain an idea of how to incorporate sustainable practices into your overarching business plan.
Build Sustainability into Your Business Plan
Once you have determined what your product or service will be, and why people will need it, your next step is to build your business plan. Begin your research by defining demand in your niche, what your demographics are, the most successful avenues of distribution, and specific concerns among your market.
One special concern among many markets have is how sustainable the physical locations and operations of a business are. When putting together an office, warehouse, or store, look at every detail to make it more sustainable, from reducing energy consumption to conserving water. Once you have addressed some of these concerns, move on to financing your new business.
Funding is a key determining factor in the creation of any new businesses, but sustainability-focused companies may have an advantage over others. While your financial standing is a factor in acquiring a business loan, you can secure this and other types of funding by focusing on your values. There are loans available for minority-owned businesses, for businesses supporting specific social movements, and sustainable businesses. By focusing on your values, and how you intend to impact your market, you can pitch yourself to investors and banks with a strong view for the future.
However, gaining funds from investors is usually dependent on certain conditions that can be easily broken. As an alternative, many private green businesses are also gaining funds by “crowd-funding.” Not only does this help market your business by sharing your mission with others, but it’s proven to be quite successful for other startups.
By choosing either of these options, you begin the life of your business by showing that your values are at the core of every aspect of your company. As you move on from funding, you will want to look more closely at your target audience, and how they view sustainability.
Know Your Target Audience
Millennials make up the largest consumer force in the current economy, second only to baby boomers. More than half of millennials report wanting to support sustainability in businesses, and 72 percent are willing to spend more money on a brand that is committed to sustainability. With this in mind, millennials are going to make up a large percentage of any sustainable business’s target audience.
Environmentally conscious and millennial audiences will appreciate the sustainable efforts you make in every business process you make — even the small things. This includes processes like branding, marketing, production, or even something as simple as packaging. Although some may not consider something as small as packaging capable of affecting the environment, it can certainly add up. Packaging that uses standard polystyrene materials doesn’t break down, and will often end up in landfills. By looking at recyclable or decomposable materials, you can satisfy needs your audience didn’t even realize they had.
Ultimately, companies manufacture what sells. This is true from clothing brands to the agricultural industry, which is also changing as sustainability becomes more and more widespread and accessible. Sustainability efforts that draw the major buying force in the economy can help boost your business, and create a very real impact on the environment. Knowing your demographic, researching how they use their spending money, and appealing to their sustainable desires will keep your business on the road to success.
From the beginning, you will need to step back and evaluate where in your business you can amplify your sustainability, and pinpoint both the positive and negative effects your business can have. By building this into your business plan from the beginning, you can become successful and help save the world at the same time.
Adrian Johansen strives to prioritize sustainability and ethics in all she does.To that end, she writes in multiple fields, applying and promoting sustainable methods and ideals as much as possible. You can find more of her writing here.