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How to make your brand more sustainable

As a conscious business owner, you want to make a positive impact in the world. You know businesses have a duty to be mindful about consuming resources. However, being truly zero waste can be difficult, especially when you’re starting out.

But don’t fret! There are many small steps you can take right now to become a more eco-friendly brand. You can see the ripple effect of positive change sooner than you might expect, and you’d be surprised how quickly you can make an impact as a sustainable small business.

We’d like to share 4 areas where you can make your business more sustainable right now. Even if some of these areas don’t apply to your business, get familiar with them. After all, conscious businesses are part of a wider community where everyone can benefit from sharing knowledge.

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How to create an eco-friendly brand

Here’s an overview of the 4 areas where you can become a more sustainable small business:

1) Your office, culture, and processes

2) The creation of your product or service

3) Your printing and packaging

4) Product or service delivery and end-of-life

Now, let’s get into the small business sustainability tips!

1. Business sustainability tips for the workplace

A green business builds sustainability practices into its daily operations. There are many sustainable options for your office, culture, and internal processes.

Here are some of the many ways your conscious business can create a sustainable workplace:

  • Hybrid working or flexible working. Choose your time between your workplace and remote working.
  • Align with sustainable suppliers and vendors. Intentionally seek out suppliers and vendors that share your commitment. Where possible, also look for local vendors, to further reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Investigate sustainable business certifications. Certain business certifications mark your conscious business as socially and environmentally responsible. For example some sustainable business certifications are B Corp, 1% For the Planet, Leaping Bunny, Carbon Neutral Certification, Guaranteed Fair Trade, and Soil Association Organic. 
  • Go paperless. Small businesses use a lot of paper, but you can cut down on some of it right away. Switch to digital bank statements, send invoices electronically, and try not to print as much.
  • Investigate ethical banks. Did you know there are sustainable banks that prioritise people and the planet over their own profits? Look for banks that support ethical investment and lending, act transparently, and have sustainable business certifications.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. None of this is new, but look for ways your conscious business can keep waste out of landfills. Find ways to reduce waste around the office, and reuse items like printer paper and packing materials. Buy second hand equipment and furniture. Look for items that are built to last and can be repaired instead of thrown away.
  • Use green web hosting. It’s a sad fact that the internet is a major producer of carbon emissions. However, green web hosting companies aim to do better. Look for web hosting providers that purchase green energy certificates, minimise their carbon footprint, and support sustainable business practices.
  • Create a culture of sustainability. Small businesses are all about the culture. Your team is part of a compassionate and values-driven small business, so get them involved in your sustainability journey! Together, brainstorm ways to weave sustainable practices into your daily business life.
  • Join a sustainable cause or group. A recent study showed that 87% of consumers would buy from a business connected to an issue that’s important to them. A sustainable cause or group will make a positive impact, and build an emotional connection with your audience. For example, at Toartle we are planning on joining the 1% for the Planet movement, supporting environmental solutions through everyday actions.

2. Creating a sustainable product or service

Being a conscious business means making a positive impact. From the beginning, your product or service can be eco-friendly and ethical, designing for the full ecosystem for how we are all going to interact with it and not just just how the end user will benefit.

Here are some ways you can ensure your product or service is created sustainably:

  • Look for eco-friendly source materials. Your product’s supplier should stick to sustainable and ethical practises. Look for source materials that are fairtrade, ensuring employees are treated fairly and paid a livable wage. Ask if source materials are made with recyclable, renewable, and biodegradable materials that cut down on waste.
  • Organise sustainable business partnerships. Do you want to do better for the planet, but lack certain resources or knowledge? Team up with another business that’s aligned with your values, and can offer what you can’t. This strategic relationship amplifies the impact and benefit of all conscious businesses involved.
  • Prioritise digital options. During the COVID-19 pandemic, QR codes became more popular than ever. They’re an excellent way to reduce waste and make it easy for customers to access menus, brochures, business cards, and event info. You can also create fillable PDFs, workbooks, and templates so customers don’t have to print them out. Think of ways to showcase products and services online, and digitise your networking.
  • Investigate online service delivery options. Another thing that became normalised in the pandemic world was the online meeting. Think of other ways you can provide your service remotely, or how you can encourage more flexible working options for your employees.

Download our FREE Brand Strategy Template. The ultimate roadmap to start crafting your brand.

3. Using eco-friendly printing and packaging in your small business

Choosing eco-friendly printing and packaging is a great way to help your conscious business make a positive impact on the environment. You may not be able to pivot here immediately, but you can start the process. 

Consider these items when planning your transition to eco-friendly printing and packaging:

  • Choose eco-friendly packaging that’s biodegradable and compostable. According to a recent study, 64% of customers would be more inclined to do business with a brand offering compostable packaging. Some eco-friendly materials are wood pulp, cornstarch, mycelium (made from mushrooms), and seaweed. If plastic is the only option, look out for recycled plastic or bioplastics.
  • Reduce the amount of packaging, or switch to a reusable option. See if you can reduce the amount of cardboard used to package and present your product. Also, investigate reusable packaging like glass bottles or branded fabric.
  • Be mindful of ink. While there isn’t yet a 100% eco-friendly ink, there are alternatives to petroleum-based ink used in printing labels and packaging. Investigate vegetable-based inks, and consider biodegradable options. Also be aware of ink coverage needed—can you achieve the same goal with a minimal design?
  • Don’t be dazzled by special finishes. Metal foiling, embossing, spot UV gloss, and laminates can seem exciting, but they may mean extra waste and unsustainable practices too. Think twice before opting for these features.
  • Switch to sustainably managed or recycled paper. The production of paper has a major effect on our environment. However, your conscious business can choose from a variety of sustainable paper options for printing and packaging. Recycled paper is an ideal eco-friendly paper option for small businesses. Look for paper sourced from sustainably-managed forests and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

4. Delivery & end of life considerations for a conscious business

The delivery and end-of-life of your product or service are two more key areas where your business can become more sustainable.

Here are some tips for eco-friendly shipping and keeping your product out of the landfill:

  • Reduce your carbon footprint with green shipping and delivery options.
    These include consolidating orders, offering incentives for bulk purchases, using compostable mailers, shipping the product in its own container rather than a separate box, and giving customers the option to offset carbon emissions at the time of purchase.
  • Continually monitor your digital carbon footprint.
    Did you know that our online activities have an impact on the environment? Emails, cloud storage, and internet browsing generate carbon emissions—not to mention the massive energy usage. Be mindful of how you use the internet to deliver your product or service, and regularly audit your digital carbon footprint.
  • Life cycle and circular product.
    Offer sustainable options for the customer after they’ve used your product. There are several ideas to make your product’s end of life more eco-friendly. Think about offering repairs as part of your business model, designing packaging to be re-used or refilled, or encourage recycling by accepting used products.
↓ Download the free sustainability action plan ↓

In this spirit of working together for a common good, we want to share our sustainability action plan. This template will help you plan where you can become more sustainable in the 4 areas we discussed here.

Being sustainable is a continuous process, and we have found it helpful to be reminded of this journey, to track our progress and celebrate milestones.

Does that sound good to you?

✺ Wrapping up—make your business more sustainable by design

Is your head spinning with all these tips to make your small business more sustainable? There are a lot, but that’s a great thing! Your conscious business can now strategically choose sustainable steps. Anxiety over going zero-waste is a major sticking point for many eco-conscious brands. But instead of worrying about doing everything, start small!

Take some time and choose which of these business sustainability tips works best with your brand strategy. Becoming sustainable by design means making intentional, strategic choices. You can adjust your commitment as your business grows and changes.

Making your business more sustainable shows your commitment to your conscious brand’s values. Sustainability often makes good economic sense, too. Many studies show customers actively seek out eco-friendly brands, and will spend more money to support sustainable business practices.

So don’t be humble – brag about your sustainable choices! Educate your audience about your green business and build a deeper connection.

Toartle is working towards a more sustainable business, just like you. We’ve decided to join the 1% for the Planet movement from March, which supports environmental solutions through everyday actions. We’ve also created yearly actions that we can take based on this article, and being designers couldn’t help but turn it into a template to help visualise progress!

We look forward to helping you make your business more sustainable in small, impactful ways.

Reach out and book a call with us if you have any questions about how to become a more sustainable brand. We would love to help as this is an area we are passionate about.

Great, we'll email the planner to you pronto!