How to Build a Sustainable Business

It was a tough economy for small and medium-sized businesses even before COVID-19 arrived to wreak havoc on the world.

And that’s what makes selling sustainability so difficult. 

If you want to know how to build a sustainable business, then you need to do more than just updating the mission statement on your website and adding a few houseplants to the office.

You may have to make additional financial commitments, too.

Building an environmentally sustainable company is a long-term commitment but fortunately, it’s never been more affordable or more attainable to achieve, and it’s about much more than just doing the right thing for the planet, it can help build your client base and save you money.

What makes a business sustainable and profitable?

A sustainable business is built on a company’s core belief or value.  It’s created on the very thing that underpins the identity of the company – what the investors, customers and employees all believe in, too.

But businesses still have to make money, even sustainable ones.

Scott Blankman director for energy and air programs for Clean Wisconsin uses the clean energy sector as an example.  He points out that as more businesses partner with the renewable energy sector the cheaper it becomes for them.  Businesses benefit by investing now rather than waiting and incurring higher financial costs later on.  The energy becomes cheaper but so too are the insurance costs and what Blankman calls ‘environmental impacts on businesses’ – extreme weather, logistical issues, etc.   

In the UK, businesses should also be aware of the Government’s commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  It will be reflected in future legislation and businesses which are slow to act may find themselves scrambling to catch up later on.

What’s going to make a business sustainable and profitable is not allowing short-termism to ruin the chance of a return on investment further down the line.  

It may be that you have to spend additional money now to benefit a year or five years from now.  For example, if you were in the fitness industry then installing clean-energy generating equipment in a gym would not only save on greenhouse gas emissions, but it would also dramatically reduce electricity bills.  The idea of scaling a business like this is something that most businesses try to do anyway, but when it means investing to improve eco-friendliness, it can make owners nervous.

But it shouldn’t as demand for sustainable products is rising.  In 2019, The Financial Times reported that ‘ethical goods and services in the UK have increased tenfold in the last 10 years’.  There’s a market for sustainable products and businesses and where there’s a market there’s money to be made.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Sustainable businesses: examples

The big success stories are the ones that most people have heard of but there’s likely start-ups and businesses in your area making money and increasing their sustainability.

Ben and Jerry’s – the company is a huge advocate for environmental change and carbon offsetting. 

IKEA – It uses solar panels to power its stores and contributes substantial amounts of revenue into sustainable and environmental projects.  Ikea is, however, also an example of how PR can turn eco-friendliness into an asset. As the ecologist website points out, everyone thinks of IKEA as being good for the environment (and sure, it does a lot to reduce its impact on the environment) but their products are cheaply designed and made of wood and plastic….

Patagonia –  Patagonia has invested heavily into grassroots environmental campaigns and has been a vocal critic of poor governmental policies towards the planet.  One of the most refreshing things about Patagonia is that it’s honest about its environmental shortcomings and is happy to be held accountable as it seeks to reduce its carbon footprint.

How to make your business sustainable

  • This is powerful marketing.  It’s telling your customer that you have the same values that they do.
  • Writing on the Business Insider website, Willis Wood, founder of Trade Show Emporium, says that it’s important for businesses to treat sustainability ‘like any business priority, with actual realistic metrics’.  These metrics should be measured alongside the company’s ROI.  Don’t just say you’re going to reduce the amount your business sends to landfill – look at what you’re doing now, make realistic targets and put structures into place to achieve it.  Afterwards, look at the results for better or worse and improve them. Environmental targets should become an integral part of the business and not just something on a mission statement  If you can make goals, then you can take action and bring results.  If you’re using sustainability in your advertising, then you will have potential clients or customers ready to hold you accountable, and they’ll want real numbers so don’t disappoint them.
  • You should talk to your employees and customers to see what their ideas about sustainability are.  They’re the eyes and ears on parts of your business that you might not see. It may give you a fresh perspective of where your business is doing well or doing poorly.
  • Measuring your carbon footprint and then working to reduce it is one of the most effective ways to change your business from the bottom-up.  You need to understand exactly what impact you’re having on the environment everything from the number of toner cartridges you’re sending to landfill, to the amount of electricity your using and the number of miles you’re driving.
  • Even the most anti-environmentalist on the planet understands the power of PR. Aligning your businesses values with your potential clients and customers can build a business quickly and encourage loyalty (so long as you’re being genuine).
  • Sustainability and having a good brand story will attract employees.  People want to feel a connection to where they work and they want to know that they’re working for a business with values.  If you can attract and retain the best candidates, then your business will benefit hugely.  No one wants to work for a company that doesn’t care about anything but a bottom line.
  • Sustainability isn’t just about what happens on your premises but throughout your supply chain.  Hold your suppliers accountable for poor environmental practice and see how you can improve the sustainability of the items and services you use within your business.  If the people you work with don’t want to change, then look for others who will.

Building a sustainable business isn’t going to happen overnight but it is something you should be thinking about today.   Environmentalism has been overshadowed somewhat by the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic but if the virus has shown us one thing it’s how devastating a global event can be to global economies and businesses.  Shoring up your business now by putting sustainability front-and-centre isn’t just the right thing to do for the environment, but it could help you gain customers and save you money in the long-run.

May 2020 Broke Global Temperature Records

Last month was the hottest May on record.

2020 was already a hot mess but this is getting ridiculous.

Few will complain about glorious sunshine during the UK’s lockdown but these latest global record-breaking temperatures remind of us the other big challenge we’re facing: climate change.

According to BBC Science Focus website, the EU’s global climate change monitor reported last month as being 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer than average.

2020 already seems like it’s been twelve-months too long, but it was only a few months ago, back in February, that England and Wales recorded record levels of rainfall and widespread flooding.

There’s obviously a natural deviation in temperatures and weather patterns but it does seem like we’re breaking more weather records each year.

COVID-19 is a worrying reminder of how vulnerable we all are to global challenges. Many climate scientists believe the level of threat and disruption seen during this pandemic could be a taste of things to come unless more is done to combat climate change.

How Sunny was May 2020 in the UK?

According to the MET Office, it was the driest May on record for England and the second driest May for Wales with both receiving only 17% of the average rainfall for the month.

May was also the sunniest month on record.  There were 626 hours of bright sunshine recorded beating the previous record set in 1948 by more than 70 hours. 

Interestingly, only three UK summers have recorded more hours of bright sunshine than May 2020.

How Hot was the Rest of the World in May 2020?

Record levels of warmth were noted in the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean as well as in Africa, Western Europe, Central America and in northern South America, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US.

Some areas of the world did record cooler temperatures but it wasn’t enough to offset the increase elsewhere.

 It’s what happening in Siberia that’s most concerning.

Surface temperatures in Siberia were up by 10 degrees Celsius.

Siberia has already recorded a far warmer-than-average winter but it’s astonishing to see how one of the coldest regions on Earth is heating up.  Khatanga in the Arctic circle has an average temperature of 0 degrees Celsius for last month, but this year it recorded 25 degrees Celsius on May 12th which is double the previous record.

Science Focus reports that the world is nearly 1 degree warmer than the 20th century’s average temperature.

What’s causing the higher temperatures?

In the UK, it’s been largely due to the Jetstream. The Carbon Brief describes it as a core of strong winds blowing from west to east around five-to-seven miles above the Earth’s surface. In May, it ‘buckled’ allowing one area of high pressure after another to dominate UK weather.

Globally, it’s hard to imagine how climate change isn’t responsible for the record-breaking temperatures across the world.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported above average temperatures for 425 months straight.

NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt told the USA Today:

“It’s no surprise that records keep getting broken because we know that fossil-fuel emissions are driving the long-term trends and we are still adding to atmospheric CO2.’

Equally, in an article published on The Guardian website said: “Martin Stendel, of the Danish Meteorological Institute, said the abnormal May temperatures seen in north-west Siberia would be likely to happen just once in 100,000 years without human-caused global heating”.

Human activity is driving temperature changes in our planet.  We all need to think about what we can do to reduce that impact.

Much of the work has to be done at an international level: governments, policy makers, global organisations and multi-national companies, for example, but there are things individuals and small businesses can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

For example, Energym has developed clean-energy generating gym equipment that runs off human power.

Why is the dry weather bad for the UK?

The biggest impact is in farming. 

A lack of rain means moisture levels in the soil are low which will impact cereal crops.  Lower water levels in reservoirs could also mean that without effective management there will be water shortages in the summer months.

What about in other parts of the world?

We already know how deadly heat can be in urban areas where building materials, population density and poverty often mean higher mortality rates in the summer months. In the UK, we know that more people die in road accidents during the warmer weather, but in parts of the US ‘heat kills more people than any other natural disaster.’

The temperature increase in Siberia is especially concerning because the region is home to the world largest area of perma-frost and is already having an impact on local infrastructure, agriculture and homes.

A recent oil spill caused by the warmer weather is an environmental emergency in the region and a severe threat to the local eco-systems.

What does this mean for the rest of 2020?

Different national weather agencies have different predictions.

Globally, 2020 is likely to rank in the top-10 hottest years with many believing it will secure a spot in the top-5.

If Consumers Want Sustainability What Does It Mean for Your Gym?

Sustainability is a powerful marketing and buying tool.  

Customers still want quality, affordable products and services but they also want to know that the brands and services they’re engaging with align with their values.

For example, if you’re against the use of palm oil then it’s likely you’ll avoid companies that use palm oil in their products. 

We know that Millennials are happy spending more money for socially responsible products and services but how can we apply that to the fitness industry and if consumers want sustainability what could it mean for your gym?

What is Sustainability?

One of the best descriptions of sustainability was coined in the Brundtland Report in 1987 as something that satisfies the needs of the present without adversely affecting the conditions for future generations.

For example, Coca Cola was criticised in January 2020 for saying that it would not stop using single-use plastic bottles.  Plastic bottles take around 450 years to decompose, leak toxic chemicals in the environment and are a threat to marine life.

Coca Cola cannot be considered a sustainable company because what it is doing right now will have a devastating impact on the environment for many years to come.

Although, it’s not unrealistic to assume that it will have to change that policy.  Before COVID-19, single-use plastic was the big enemy and undoubtedly will be again.  Despite what Coca Cola is saying now, it’s likely its already looking into more sustainable options because in business you have to give the consumer the product they want or they’ll go elsewhere.

Gyms are no different. 

What Does Sustainability Mean for Gyms?

People don’t just want sustainable products.  They want eco-friendlier services, too.  In recent years, there’s been a change in focus when it comes to why people exercise. People aren’t only fixated on getting that result as they are on having an experience and of feeling part of a community. Add into this the move towards self-care, mindfulness, hygge, and veganism, etc, and there’s an obvious need for connection and meaning in the things we do day-to-day.  Sustainability plays right into this because it’s about more than just what you’re doing; it’s about reducing the impact of right now on the future.

It’s not to say that you should throw out your MMA cage and start building a hot yoga studio, but you can draw some lessons from more environmentally enlightened ways of thinking.

And there’ll always be an intersection between fitness, health, and the environment. 

For example, processed food contributes to climate change; it also contributes to obesity, chronic health conditions and early death in adults.  All things that the NHS say can be massively reduced by regular exercise. We know that obese people tend to have bigger carbon footprints, too.

Food is fuel for anyone taking the gym seriously, but food waste is a huge environmental issue.  It’s one of the biggest causes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Poor air quality caused by pollution in urban areas causes illness and an increased risk of death.  If you’re going to the gym to be healthier but then stepping out into toxic air pollution, then what’s the point?  We also know that a gym can have poor air quality because of cacogenic equipment and industrial cleaning supplies.

Why Gyms need to Become More Sustainable

Find out how your gym equipment can harvest human-energy and turn it into the electricity powering your building.

How Green Marketing Can Make a Big Impact on Your Brand

Clients and consumers are more environmentally aware than ever, and they’re choosing products and services that align with their beliefs and lifestyles.

Green marketing helps businesses create the stories behind their brand by delivering a positive environmental message that’s not just about building a customer or client base, but about creating a community.

What is Green Marketing?

Green marketing is a way of promoting environmentally friendly products or services to customers, clients or investors. You might also hear it called eco-marketing or environmental marketing. 

What Companies Are Using Green Marketing?

UK cosmetics retailer Lush announced in 2019 that it no longer uses eggs in its cosmetics because of cruelty in the egg industry. 

The decision strengthens the company’s reputation on animal and environmental rights.  It will have pleased many of its existing customers as well as attracting new customers who also align to that viewpoint.

Lush has a long history of being active in animal rights and does not test on animals.  It supports the ethical sourcing of ingredients and community recycling and has banned palm oil in its soaps; it also uses minimal packaging and by selling shampoo bars ‘saves nearly 6 million plastic bottles globally’. 

Environmentalism is at the forefront of what Lush does and by offering environmentally responsible products, it’s marketing is made easier and more coherent because it knows its target audience cares about the same things it does.

Lush has built a strong brand identity that goes beyond just nice smelling products.

Patagonia is an outdoor gear and clothing store famous for its stand on sustainability and environmental protection.  Its mission statement is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

According to the Green Market Oracle, Patagonia collects and refurbishes its old gear. It’s also heavily investing in the development of sustainable textiles for its clothing.  It has solar power for its offices, paid for 1,500 panels to be put on rooftops in Hawaii and also incentivises employees to carpool or use public transport to get to work.  In recent years, Patagonia has been highly critical of Donald Trump’s environmental policies.

The Content Writers website points out one important thing about Patagonia – the honesty about its shortcomingsIt still relies on fossil fuels for some of its items but is working on reducing and eliminating that dependency.

Other examples of green marketing companies include:

  • Unilever
  • Starbucks
  • The Body Shop
  • Ikea

What Impact can Green Marketing Have on Your Brand?

  • Eco-marketing can help build a community, too, which makes targeted ad campaigns more effective and easier to conceive. 
  • Businesses that reduce their carbon footprint often find that they’re able to save money by adopting eco-friendly practices.  It could be less money spent on packaging, transport, marketing, energy use, etc.

    For example, you could add energy-generating equipment to your gym.  Imagine the savings if you turned human energy into usable electricity to power your premises or neighbourhood. You’d be helping to protect the planet from carbon emissions and getting free energy.
  • Green marketers understand the importance of good PR.  A brand can easily demonstrate its clean credentials by engaging with local and global environmental issues: supporting charities, donating volunteers to communities, developing new and innovative products and services. 

    Good deeds don’t have to go unsung.  The environmental angle is ideal for social media and press releases; it shows a company is putting its time and money where its mission statement is.
  • Company sustainability is important to a lot of young people.  In one survey, 40% of Millennials said they’d taken a pay-cut to work at an environmentally responsible company.  That’s pretty astounding, and it shows that adopting an eco-conscious ethos can impact your business on both the outside and inside. It can help you retain current employees as well as make you more attractive to new ones.

What are the Challenges of Eco-Marketing?

  • It may cost more money upfront and has to be part of a long-term campaign.

  • Companies have to be genuine in their pursuit of a green reputation.  Greenwashing (where a business either exaggerates or fabricates its environmental credentials) can cause serious damage to a brand.  You don’t want your customers questioning your integrity.

  • You have to hold your company to a higher standard in the marketplace and that’s a challenge for some people.  

How do You Do Green Marketing?

Marketing tells the story of your brand.  Green marketers understand that people want to feel a connection to the products they’re buying. It could be out of a genuine desire to save the planet but it could also be a way of alleviating environmental guilt – the penance for driving a petrol-guzzling car, for example.

Businesses could:

  • Use eco-friendly packaging, non-toxic or organic materials, biodegradable items, or things made from renewable sources or easy to recycle

  • Go digital and reduce the amount of paper wastage

  • Use eco-friendly energy sources like solar power to show off green credentials and save money.

  • Find ways to carbon off-set.  It’s not a perfect method but it is one way of reducing your impact on the environment.

  • Create products that can be re-used, easily fixed or conveniently recycled.  Discourage the use of products that will quickly end up in a landfill.

  • Think about the entire journey of a product from concept and design through to transport and production and look for green opportunities at each stage. Include this in your brand’s story.

  • Join up with like-minded companies and environmental groups.

  • Be honest about where you’re at and where you’re heading.  You can’t save the planet overnight so don’t sell what you can’t deliver.

Green marketing makes it easier for customers and clients to engage with your brand.  As well as giving them the option to buy eco-friendlier products, you’re also helping to boost your sales, increase brand visibility and create a community around your product.

And whichever way you look at it, building a more environmentally friendly business is the right thing to do.

COVID-19: Europe’s Green Recovery Plan

On May 20th, a European Media agency leaked details of the stimulus package that would help the EU economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

EuActive said the leak came from a ‘trusted source’, and one week later, in a speech given before the European Parliament, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed that the EU’s 750 billion euro recovery plan will be focused towards ‘green and digital transitions’.

The deal has gone down well with investors. 109 of them had previously sent a letter to EU decision markers asking for an emphasis on green recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edie.net reported that investors wanted ‘…to ensure public money is helping support a cleaner, more resilient future’.  

What Does the EU’s Green Recovery Include?

  • 91 billion euros to increase home energy efficiency
  • 25 billion euros for renewable energy projects like wind, solar and hydrogen power.
  • 20 billion euros for cleaner cars
  • 2 million additional charging points in 2-years
  • 60 billion euros towards carbon-neutral trains
  • The production of 1 million tonnes of clean hydrogen
  • 1 million ‘green jobs’ created along with help for those in non-green industries to retrain and re-skill.

European economies badly hit by the Coronavirus pandemic are eager to see what can be done to help them recover from the damage caused by extensive lockdowns, border closures and travel bans.

Formal negotiations will start on June 11th, but the deal won’t go ahead without the backing of the 27 EU member states. The BBC has reported that Germany and France have both backed plans for the money to be raised on the capital markets.  The emphasis on re-training people from traditional industries with high levels of pollution is to appease those member states – like Romania, for example – where much of the economy is still based on fossil fuel use.

Money could be raised to help pay for the mix of grants and loans through several taxes including digital tax, carbon tax, and a non-recyclable tax.

Whilst the deal does have its critics, overall, it’s been well received.  The devastation of COVID-19 across Europe, in particular, highlights how global problems can create serious problems in EU economies.  The Guardian reports that in her speech, Ursula von der Leyen said “sooner or later we will find a vaccine for the coronavirus. But there is no vaccine for climate change. Therefore [we] need a recovery plan designed for the future.”

But with the US and China – the world’s two biggest polluters – ducking out of long-term environmental commitments, it’s difficult to say how effective the EU’s green policy will be in the wider scheme of things, but it’s a good start and it’s good to see a political institution recognize the value of a central green policy and not just as a short-term recovery plan but for the good of everyone for decades to come.

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