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5 Cost-Effective Sustainable Business Practices for Small Businesses

by | Mar 6, 2024

It’s more important than ever for businesses to engage in sustainable business practices. Consumers are increasingly driven by their desire to engage with sustainable businesses, and this especially applies to the younger generation. First Insight found that 62% of Gen Z shoppers prefer to buy from sustainable brands, and a whopping 73% are willing to pay more for sustainable products. So not only is creating a sustainable business model important to our future, it could also help you to secure more customers and turn a bigger profit! 

While larger companies often have the resources at hand to be able to implement sustainable ventures, it can be harder for small businesses to find the cash flow to pour into sustainable business ideas. This blog post outlines the top 5 cost-effective sustainable business practices for small businesses to strive towards a positive impact while also preserving their valuable resources. Check it out, and add your own ideas in the comments! 

What does it mean to be a sustainable business?

Sustainable business means operating in a manner that minimises negative impacts on the environment, society, and the economy, while actively contributing to positive outcomes in these areas. Businesses that strive to achieve sustainable practices may also be referred to as green businesses.

Sustainable development was officially defined in 1987 by the United Nations Brundtland Commission. It was described as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This sustainable business definition allows businesses to profit in order to survive, without sacrificing a sustainable future in the process. 

There are a few practices to look out for when trying to determine whether a company is truly sustainable. A sustainable business strategy will include the transparent and ethical sourcing of materials, seeking and sustaining environmentally conscious manufacturing practices, committing to using waste-conscious packaging that can largely be recycled, and shipping options that leave a small carbon footprint. In general, you’re looking for a company with a conscious awareness of the impact their operations are having on the environment, society, and the economy, and a genuine commitment to affecting a positive outcome. 

Looking for a case study for who is a sustainable business? Look no further. Sustainable business examples include the clothing brand Pagatonia. For the last 35 years, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales to the conservation of the natural environment, and they aim to be completely carbon neutral by 2025. Plus, their initiative Patagonia Action Works works to connect consumers with local activist groups in their community in order to create strong networks to work productively towards positive change. 

Why are sustainable business practices important?

First and foremost, sustainable business practices are important because as a society we desperately need to reduce our carbon footprint. If we’re to reach the 1.5°C climate threshold set in the Paris Agreement, where we do not allow for global average surface warming to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, the world will have to reach net zero emissions by the year 2050. So we’ve got a lot of work to do!

But when it comes to why sustainable business is important, there are many more benefits alongside the immediate environmental need to implement sustainable business practices. Sustainable business development can lead to huge benefits for companies. For example, Prospects surveyed recent university leavers with regards to sustainable business jobs. They found that 86% of more than 1000 graduates surveyed said it was vital that the company they work for has a positive environmental impact, and 85% said it was important that a company has sustainable practices. So if you’re looking to recruit and retain top talent, you’re going to need to spend some time on sustainable business development. 

What’s more, once you’ve implemented sustainable business practices, you may be eligible for sustainable business grants that could help your business to grow. You can get sustainable business certification, join a sustainable business network, and you may even qualify for a few sustainable business awards along the way, helping you to build your brand and boost your reputation!

Are sustainable companies more profitable?

With all the best intentions in the world, small businesses often find that they are limited when it comes to implementing sustainable business strategy on account of their cash flow. And when it comes to how sustainability helps business, one of the first questions on their mind is understandably ‘is sustainable business profitable?’

The good news is, yes! Sustainable business solutions can help companies to turn a bigger profit. Analysis from Mckinsey indicates that financially successful companies that integrate environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) priorities into their growth strategies often outperform their peers. And with greater potential to recruit top talent and attract new customers, it’s easy to see what business sustainability can do for a company. So it’s definitely worth investing in! 

Top 5 Sustainable Business Practices for Small Businesses

Even if you’re fully on board with creating a sustainable business plan, it can be difficult to know where to start – especially if you’re a small business with limited funds. If you’re looking for sustainable business ideas, you’re in the right place. Here are our top 5 sustainable business practices for small businesses. 

1. Benefit From a Virtual Office

The rise of hybrid working is already having a hugely positive impact on the environment.  According to a new study by Cornell and Microsoft, hybrid workers who work from home two to four days per week can reduce their carbon footprint by 11% to 29%

A great way to adapt to this new method of working is to swap your physical office for a virtual office, and use a coworking space when you need to meet face-to-face. A virtual office allows you to maintain all of the prestige of an impressive registered business address, while also saving money on rent, reducing the carbon footprint of your team, and opening up even more opportunities to collaborate with creatives around the world. 

2. Check out the UN Sustainability Goals

How to create sustainable business is not limited to specifically environmental goals. The UN Sustainability Goals cover a wide range of aims, including eliminating poverty, tackling hunger, improving education and many other socially minded goals. 

If you’re currently unable to tackle your business’s environmental sustainability, can you instead align your mission with any of the UN Sustainability Goals? You may find that you’re able to pivot your operations with no extra cost. And if you do have a little money to spare, perhaps consider donating a percentage of your profits to a charity that supports any of these missions, or create a product designed to tackle the problem directly. Sustainable business growth is about much more than being green!

3. Review Your Supply Chain

Two-thirds of consumers say they will pay more for products that they can be sure has been sustainably sourced. So if you’re worried about the cost of making sustainable choices, there’s space to charge a little bit more to earn the funds you’ll need to make sure that your products are sustainably sourced. 

Knowing and being able to show how each piece of your product is acquired, transformed, implemented, and fits into the end product is crucial to ensure that sustainable resources are being used and that workers are being treated fairly. It’s one of the main areas that sustainably-minded customers will scrutinise, so it’s definitely a good place to start.  

4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Take a look at the waste that your company produces. Where is it coming from, how can it be reduced, and can it be recycled? 

Taking the time to examine your company’s waste in detail can offer a great opportunity to identify areas where you could be saving. Do you really need all that packaging? Could you use second hand products when it comes to furnishing your home office? And are you really getting a return on your investment into paper marketing, or do you have heaps of flyers sitting around that will inevitably end up in the recycling bin? Identifying where you can reduce, reuse and recycle will not only benefit your business in terms of sustainability, it’s also likely to help you to save money by identifying areas where you could cut back and be more economical.

It’s not just your company’s materials where sustainable business and innovation come into play, either. If you’re currently using a mail forwarding service to reduce your post, why not consider switching to mail scanning instead? This means that your letter doesn’t have to be posted again, which can reduce the carbon footprint on your post. And it’s often cheaper, too!

5. Change Your Energy Provider

It’s no secret that the cost of energy is sky high at the moment. Many small business owners find that they can save money on fixed green energy tariffs when they’re compared to standard variable tariffs, which have long been the most expensive tariffs on the market. So it’s worth taking the time to do some research into your options – as while your green plan may not at first appear to be the absolute cheapest deal on the market, a fixed deal should still be at the lower end of what’s on offer.

Not only is switching up your energy provider an opportunity to save money, but it’s also a quick win that will have a great impact on your company’s reputation. It’s a fast and easy way to show your customers that you’re committed to sustainability goals. So as sustainable business products go, energy is a good place to start!


There’s really no limit to how business sustainability can benefit your company. The differences between unsustainable and sustainable business can be huge, with businesses committed to sustainable practices often building a stronger reputation, amassing a loyal client base, and ultimately making more of a profit. So if you’re wondering where to start with sustainability within your business, check out the tips above. They’re a cost-effective way to start reaching your sustainability goals.