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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

What Does Sustainability Mean for an SME?

Updated: Nov 4, 2018

You're a small business owner. You already work longer hours than the average 9-5 employee, trying to stay on top of everything that a small business owner needs to manage. You're chasing up client invoices, making sure your suppliers are getting paid, seeking new customers and ensuring the service you are providing your current clients is at the incredibly high standard you have set for your business. Sustainability is the last thing from your mind.

This is typical for a small business owner and nothing of which to be ashamed as it is the reality of owning your own business. However, this doesn't mean that you need to completely give up on a sustainability strategy.

Small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have just as much responsibility to the economic, social and natural environments as large corporates. While it can be intimidating for an SME to embark on the sustainability journey, with the right support, it can be a seamless transition.

We have listed a few basic steps for SMEs who are looking to achieving sustainability in their business to get you started on your sustainability journey.

1. Speak to your staff

Find out if your staff are interested in working with you throughout this transition to sustainability. What are their priorities? What do they believe you could improve within the business? Your staff know your business very well. Don't discount their opinion.

2. Speak to your consumers

Customers and clients are increasingly interested in buying sustainable products. Some of your long-term customers and clients may have some feedback about your transition. It is important to get their opinion, not only so you understand what your consumers want, but so your long-term patrons feel like they are actively involved in the process.

3. Speak to your suppliers

Chances are that some of your suppliers are also interested in the process to transition to becoming a sustainable business. By expressing your interest, you suppliers might take that step; it also may open a dialogue for you to share ideas between you and your supplier, giving you more assistance during the transition.

4. Define sustainability

After these conversations, it is important to define what sustainability means to your business. Remember: sustainability needs to be considered on an economic, social and environmental level.

5. Start with your staff

Ensuring your staff feel that the workplace provides fair and equal opportunities to all and is safe for all employees is a great way to start your commitment to sustainability. Social sustainability is an important aspect of your commitment and can be first addressed from within.

6. Look into your supply chain

An easy way to increase your sustainability rating is to use sustainable products. Set aside 45 minutes to an hour each day to shop around for other suppliers. Remember: sustainable products do not necessarily mean a higher price. Try to find products which will support your new direction but not compromise on price.

7. Analyse your budget

Donating money to projects which work to sustainability is only viable if your business can afford to do so; there is no point spending your business into the ground as it defeats the purpose of sustainability. If you can spare some money, be wise with it. If not, have a look into how you might be able to be creative in your commitments. Can you move money out of your marketing budget and into your philanthropy budget by sponsoring a sustainability project and arranging to receive publicity through that? Could you spare a half-day from a portion of your team quarterly towards a volunteering activity?

8. Turn to the local community

Donating to overseas charities can pull on heartstrings of your consumer base, but it can be difficult to track and report. Looking to the local community is the best way to ensure your business is seeing real results from your sustainability commitments. Sponsoring a local event, sporting team or project can be a great way to ensure you are maximising the efforts towards your sustainability commitment. It is also an excellent way to show engagement in the community and potentially see an increase of sales and profits, which, in turn, can drive your sustainability commitment for the following financial year.

There are thousands of ways for a business to become involved in a sustainability strategy; the above eight points are a great starting place. If you want to find out more about what your business could do to start your journey towards sustainability, contact us today to set up a time to chat with a member of our team!

This article was originally published on the Strategic Sustainability Consultants website,

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