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Only Companies that Want to Stay in Business Should Focus on Sustainability Now

Many business owners may be thinking: “Is he crazy? I need to focus on just staying in business right now, and maybe making a little bit of money. I don’t have time for feel good business practices.” The point is, these are not just “feel good” business practices. Sustainability is in total alignment with being more profitable – even in the short term.

In tough economic times, companies retrench by cutting expenses to the bone. They review their phone bills, advertising expenses, overtime, etc. They should also be doing the some of the following:

  • Assess their energy usage to see where they can cut costs,

  • Look at the waste that they generate, to see whether there are ways that they generate less waste and thereby decrease the cost of source materials,

  • Evaluate whether their wastes can be an input to someone else’s manufacturing processes,

  • Review their processes to determine whether there are ways to run more “lean”, thereby improving productivity.

ALL of the above examples can also be considered sustainability efforts! In the above cases and many others, sustainability and profitability are totally congruent. Obviously, some projects require a higher financial investment than others, so you’ll need to do a traditional calculation of return on investment to determine where to focus your energies in the short term.

Another key activity during tough times is finding more customers. Green business practices can put your business on your prospects’ radar screen by differentiating you from the competition. A client of mine, an antifreeze recycler, determined that his recycled antifreeze generates only 20% of the antifreeze generated in manufacturing virgin antifreeze. Do you think that he’s got a good story to tell?

Finally, what better way to use your underutilized and dispirited staff than to get them involved in efforts that help your bottom line, position you for the future AND make a positive difference in the world? A sustainability effort is just the thing to show your employees that you’re looking to stay in business for the long haul, and to be a company that they’re proud to work for.

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