The future of business is sustainable

How to make your business more environmentally sustainable is a hot topic these days. But while many small business owners would like to implement more sustainable practices, they think the cost of “going green” will have a negative impact on the bottom line. The great news is, you can make impactful changes quickly and cost-effectively, with a few simple changes.

Business Victoria research shows businesses that embrace green practices often save money, while improving customer and employee perception and satisfaction.

“Reducing resource use, mostly energy, water and waste through improved efficiencies not only improves profit, it reduces the negative impacts on the environment,” says Johanna Kloot, sustainability expert and owner of Green Business Consultancy. “The environmental aspect provides further gains in profit through building brand loyalty.”

This rings true for Fun Over Fifty, a Brisbane-based family business offering all-inclusive package holidays for over 50s. The company had been running for 16 years when they first introduced responsible tourism and sustainability. They’ve gone on to win 19 awards in seven years for their work and are viewed as leaders in the field.

But CEO Toni Brennan says that while the changes have been profitable, the feedback from guests has been most meaningful. “It is important for our guests to know they are travelling with a company that cares and
gives back,” says Brennan. “I have been blown away by the feedback we have received. Guests embrace our fundraising initiatives and give freely to areas we visit, plus involve themselves with the tree planting and other eco and community action plans we initiate.”

Ready to make a change in your business? Consider these three key areas first:

1. Water

Whether you use a little or a lot of water, adding timers and flow restrictors on taps and showers or a duel flush system in the toilet will save your business money and help the environment.

Jolly Swagman Backpackers in Sydney, worked with the City of Sydney via a program designed to help improve their environmental performance. They added water saving devices across the business, which resulted in a saving of 2705 litres a day, and a cost saving of $3467 a year. The Swillhouse Group, which owns NSW establishments Frankie’s Pizza, Baxter Inn, Shady Pines and Restaurant Hubert also installed water saving devices that resulted in a huge saving of $10 000 a year.

2. Energy

Take a look at where you’re actually expending the most energy – whether that’s in the equipment you use or just the daily items around you. Energy-hungry areas can include simple things like lighting or leaving on appliances.

Nobody Denim in Victoria had a resource assessment done through Sustainability Victoria. As a result, they made several improvements to production and upgraded their sewing machines and washing and drying equipment, resulting in big savings across fabric and chemical use.

Switching lights on and off in areas rarely used and even just cleaning them so they work better will immediately save you money and cut down on usage. Computers are also a major energy zapper. Swapping to laptops over desktops or using monitors with the standby mode activated can quickly lower your energy footprint.

And if you’re just interested in the basics, simple steps such as switching off air conditioning, coffee machines and fans at the end of the day is a great way to start saving cash.

3. Waste

Along with tweaking their water usage, Jolly Swagman changed their waste disposal by diverting a huge 85 per cent of their waste into recycling streams - and saved close to $6000 a year.

When it comes to reducing waste, start by saving and recycling what you can, where you can. For example, negotiate a discount with a supplier by returning boxes for re-use – scoring a double win. Only print what you need to and use cloud-based storage for record keeping instead. You can find the best and easiest options to recycle just about any product using this simple recycling tool.

Food waste is another area where simple changes can save you money and have a positive environmental impact.

The team at Australian Design Centre decided they wanted to reduce the volume of food waste they were producing every day. Working with the City of Sydney they introduced a worm farm to the workplace, which they embraced – even bringing in food scraps from home to “feed” the farm. Employees use the juice from the farm to feed the plants surrounding the building, with enough left over for them to take home to their own gardens. Along with producing a thriving greenery, the worm farm saved the centre around $40 a year. “As an arts organisation, we don’t have a lot of money and these savings are important,” said Development Coordinator, Sophie Harrington. “But making these changes is [about] more than just immediate savings. It’s an investment in the future, and it matters to us ethically.”