3 ways to improve your business’s sustainability

We all know the narrative around plastic. Eight million tonnes enter the oceans annually, joining the 150 million tonnes already out there1. If you joined all the plastic bags ever produced, they would circle the earth 4,200 times2. However, making your business plastic-free, while awesome, is not going to solve every issue affecting the environment.  

So … what else can you do?

Buy local

A smallholding farm: house surrounded by farmland.

Buying local reduces emissions and supports the local economy.

Environmental sustainability aside, buying local supports the community. Every dollar spent results in up to twice the income for local business owners. Studies have found that the food bought from these businesses are usually healthier, with fewer pesticides or added hormones3.

There’s more. Nearly 250,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases are attributed to imported food, due to the energy needed to power trains, ships, planes, and trucks. Smaller produce growers also use land more effectively and often have more sustainable growing practices. These practices might include no-dig plots and manual rather than automated machinery, which reduce carbon emissions3.

 

Provide enticing plant-based alternatives

A plant-based burger on a bun with salad.

Meat-free alternatives can be delicious and healthy. 

 

Science tells us that we should all be eating more plants and less meat. The meat and dairy industry alone used a third of the planet’s fresh water. A quarter pound hamburger takes 1,741 litres of water to produce, and one litre of milk requires 1,000 litres of water4.

Animal agriculture also contributes 18% of all greenhouse gases: if every person ate one serve of chicken less each week, the reduced carbon emissions would be the same as taking 500,000 cars off the road4. Add in factors such as species extinction, more efficient land use, waste, and deforestation, and why wouldn’t you be encouraging people to eat less meat when they buy from you?

 

We’ve moved past the days when a plant-based alternative was akin to eating the sole of your shoe. Many tasty, nutritious options are in the supermarkets, and the price difference between them and the meat option is steadily decreasing.

 

If you are providing meat-free fare though, make sure you check the ingredients. Just because it is plant-based does not necessarily mean it is healthier, and in fact plant-based foods can be more heavily processed, with a whole bunch of ingredients that you don’t really want to be eating. Look for the whole foods, and your customers will be thanking you for helping them eat sustainably and healthily.

 

Provide incentives for customers to BYO

A BYOcup on a white background.

If bringing a reusable cup is seen as the new norm, it encourages a change in habit.

We’ve probably all seen it: $4.20 for a coffee, but $3.70 if you have your own cup. Or food container or carry bag. A discount designed to encourage sustainability. And yet, most customers still turn up empty-handed, happy to pay the ‘regular’ price for their coffee. But what if it wasn’t the regular price?

 

Consider if, instead, the story went: $3.70 for a coffee, an extra 50c if you don’t have a reusable cup. Suddenly, a disposable cup doesn’t cost the ‘regular’ price. Instead of merely ticking the boxes on ‘sustainable’ and ‘aware’, you’re actively forcing customers to consider how much they are willing to pay for their convenience. The same way the supermarkets did in 2018 when they started charging for plastic bags. People complained. Then they adapted.

 

All this sounds great …

A computer keyboard with 'Sustainable business' on the return key.

Sustainability needs to be a core value in business.

But if you don’t advertise what you’re doing, it won’t help your business – and if it doesn’t help your business, it won’t have any far-reaching impact. So promote it! Customers want to feel they are supporting businesses with a conscience. And if you’re reading this post, then you’ve got one. So make a change, and let your competitors know that if they want to stay in business, then they’d better do the same.

 

References

 

1.       https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/beach-clean-up

2.      http://oceancrusaders.org/plastic-crusades/plastic-statistics/

3.      https://www.well.org/conscious-consumers/10-advantages-of-buying-local/

4.      https://www.richroll.com/blog/10-reasons-to-consider-a-plant-based-diet/