What benefits does sustainability hold for your business?

English: Energy efficient light fixture locate...
Energy efficient light fixture  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sustainable products, practices and processes are growing in the marketplace but what benefits are there for smaller businesses that haven’t yet taken advantage of the green movement?

Small-scale farmers and food producers are now supplying more than 30 local food markets in the country. Entrepreneurs are innovating products from natural pesticides and eco-friendly detergents to water purification devices, personal care products, organically produced cosmetics and energy efficient solutions.

More innovations are in the making with products offering better performance than their “brown” predecessors. Green products work better, are healthier, less toxic, taste better and save time and money. Gone are the slow-moving health foods made by hippies, lentil heads and tree huggers that gather dust on supermarket and health food store shelves. Now we are seeing low-flow toilets, energy-efficient windows, eco-friendly lawns and gardens, furniture made with sustainable materials, hi-efficiency solar panels, environmentally-friendly carpets and water-saving showerheads.

The smaller boutiques hotels and bed and breakfast are striving for “green credentials” to attract more discerning (and better paying) customers and reducing overheads through sustainable practices. B & B owners advertise their eco-friendly lighting, reductions in oil/gas carbon emissions, use of recycling and bio-degradable cleaning agents, local employment, instruction of staff in green practices and conservation.

A late-night caller to a radio station in Johannesburg was almost in tears with the jolt in the fuel price. This transport owner was saying that his monthly fuel bill would increase by R10,000 and he would have to let his 11 staff go after being in business for 13 years.

How is it that this transport owner has never thought about more sustainable transport practices? Could he have not considered more fuel-efficient vehicles? Can’t he optimise his routes? Has he sent his drivers for fuel-efficient driver training?

With the economy as it is, with continuous shocks in input prices, with change occurring more rapidly, business owners need to adapt and innovate more quickly than they have done in the past. All the sustainability messages over the past decade passed by this transport owner. Business as usual is not a strategy for any small business.

Doing business in a sustainable way has benefits: it meet customer demand, saves money through efficiency, recruits and retains the brightest minds, contributes to communities and increases the bottom line. Yes, sustainability practices and processes require work, focus, even changing your business model but in this uncertain, dynamic economy the rewards are there as are the penalties of failure for sitting back and doing nothing.

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