An illustration of a globe represents sustainability initiatives for businesses.

Sustainability initiatives for businesses of any size

7 min read
Brenda Barron

Sustainability initiatives for businesses is a point of frequent discussion in professional communities the world over. And let's make one thing clear: this is no passing fad. 

The United Nations warns that we have a limited window to mitigate irreversible environmental damage. 

And here's the kicker — consumers are listening and shifting their spending habits to support eco-friendly brands. But how is sustainability a must for business, no matter the size of your company? 

That's what we'll explore here today.

The financial upside of sustainability initiatives for businesses

What's the real benefit of going green for your business? The answer is multi-faceted. 

Studies indicate that eco-conscious businesses often outperform their less sustainable counterparts. 

For example, products labeled as sustainable generated close to $114 billion in sales in 2019, marking a 29% growth since 2013, according to NYU Stern's Center for Sustainable Business

But it's not just about consumer behavior — your team is watching too. 

A Swytch survey revealed that nearly 70% of employees are more committed to a company that has a strong sustainability agenda. 

So, embracing sustainability is a win-win for both your financial performance and employee retention.

More than just profits

But there's more to the story. According to Forbes, sustainable practices can offer dual benefits — both environmental and financial. 

Meeting the growing demand for green products can lead to public health improvements and a cleaner environment, while also enhancing your brand image. 

Plus, the cost savings from sustainable operations can offset the initial expenses of implementing green initiatives. 

Crafting a sustainability strategy is a smart long-term investment.

Customizing sustainability for every business

Sustainability is not a cookie-cutter concept and it's adaptable to businesses of all sizes. And if your initiatives are going to work, you need to take the time to select an approach that suits both your industry and your company's size. 

Here's a quick breakdown of what's possible from SMBs to enterprises. 

Small businesses

Begin with manageable steps like waste reduction or energy conservation. Simple actions like adopting LED lighting or initiating a recycling program can have a significant impact. 

Medium-sized businesses

You have more flexibility here. Think about investing in renewable energy solutions or creating a sustainable supply chain. While the initial costs may be higher, the long-term benefits are substantial.

Large businesses and enterprises

For industry giants, it's time to go big or go home. Establish science-based targets, allocate funds for sustainable tech research, and consider spearheading industry-wide best practices.

Government incentives and regulations

When it comes to sustainability, the role of government can't be overstated. From setting the rules of the game to incentivizing greener practices, governments are key players in shaping how businesses approach sustainability.

Here's what's currently going on regarding sustainability initiatives proposed by governments in a few countries around the world.

Updating the FAR in the U.S.

In the United States, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) is undergoing a facelift to better align with sustainability goals. 

The Biden administration is pushing forward with these changes, aiming to make sustainability a cornerstone in how the government, which spends over $630 billion on products and services each year, makes its purchases.

The objective? Zero emissions from government procurement by the year 2050. The new rules are designed to make it easier for agencies to choose sustainable products and services. 

Oman's Vision 2040

On the international stage, Oman offers an interesting case study. The country is integrating sustainability into its long-term economic plans, notably through its Oman Vision 2040 initiative. 

This program aims to diversify the economy while reducing reliance on oil, and it's a collaborative effort involving the government, businesses, and civil society. 

The initiative prioritizes environmental sustainability and is a great example of how governments can lead the way in making sustainability a top priority. 

The importance of compliance

As the regulatory environment tightens globally, being proactive about sustainability isn't just good ethics — it's good business. Companies that are ahead in adopting sustainable practices are better positioned to meet future regulations, giving them a competitive advantage.

Financial incentives

And of course, money talks in this situation as well.

It's not all stick and no carrot. Many governments offer financial incentives like tax breaks, grants, or low-interest loans to companies that make sustainable choices. These incentives can make the initial investment in sustainable practices more palatable.

For instance, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets guidelines that, if met, could qualify your business for tax and grant incentives. These guidelines often focus on investments in energy-saving equipment and other eco-friendly practices.

Here are two examples:

  1. Business Energy Investment Tax Credit (ITC): This is a federal tax credit for businesses that invest in renewable energy equipment, such as solar panels or wind power generation equipment.
  2. Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit: If you purchase a plug-in hybrid or an electric vehicle for your business, you may be eligible for this credit.

Many local governments also offer their own set of incentives, so it's worth checking out what's available in your area.

Reporting requirements

More and more, governments are requiring companies to be transparent about their sustainability efforts, often in the form of mandatory reporting on metrics like carbon emissions. This not only aids in regulatory compliance but also builds consumer and investor trust.

Hopefully, it's now clear why understanding and taking advantage of government incentives and regulations is a must for any business serious about sustainability. It's not just about compliance. It's about aligning your business with broader societal goals and setting yourself up for long-term success. 

Your toolkit for building a sustainable business

Ready to take action? There are numerous tools and resources designed to help businesses of all sizes elevate their sustainability game.

Carbon footprint calculators

Understanding your current environmental impact is the first step. Tools like Carbon Trust and CoolClimate offer comprehensive carbon footprint assessments.

Sustainability certifications

Earning a sustainability certification can not only help you meet industry standards but also enhance your brand's credibility. Consider certifications like LEED for eco-friendly construction, Fair Trade for ethical sourcing, or B Corp Certification for overall corporate responsibility.

Supply chain auditing tools

If your business relies on a network of suppliers, platforms like Sedex can help you evaluate your supply chain's sustainability and ethical practices.

Energy management software

Software solutions like Enel X provide real-time energy consumption data and actionable insights to improve energy efficiency.

Educational platforms

Platforms like Coursera and edX offer a range of courses on sustainability topics, equipping you and your team with the knowledge you need.

Online communities

Don't underestimate the power of community. Online forums like Reddit's r/sustainability can offer valuable insights and collaborative opportunities.

The future of business sustainability

As we look ahead, several emerging trends are shaping the future of corporate sustainability. The acronym "ESG" (Environmental, Social, and Governance) is becoming mainstream, with almost all large corporations now publishing sustainability reports. 

Additionally, net-zero goals are becoming increasingly common, and the financial industry is beginning to take sustainability seriously, leading to a surge in sustainable finance and ESG investments.

Sustainability is not just an ethical choice — it's a business necessity. Whether you're running a small local shop or a global corporation, there's something you can do to contribute to a more sustainable future. 

From reducing your carbon footprint to investing in green projects, now is the time to begin building a more sustainable business model.

Disclaimer: This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice from GoDaddy on any subject matter.