The evidence is everywhere. If we don’t treat clients with respect, we lose them. If we take non-renewable resources from the planet, they run out. It’s time to look past our financial bottom-line to see how to create a truly sustainable business.
For me, it always hits me when I buy paper. Do I get the budget $4 ream or spend a couple of extra dollars on the eco-friendly, post-consumer-waste, recycled stuff? Sure, “What’s one ream of paper ?” I say, but what if every business says that and leaves it up to someone else to make the difference?
The challenge is not just to run a profitable business but to run a sustainable business – a business that gives back the resources it uses. Assessing your business with a triple bottom line looks at its environmental (planet), social (people) and economic (profit) impact, and it’s just as relevant to soloists as it is to large corporations.
Now you may not be ready to go solar, but here are seven simple things you can do to reduce your business’ environmental impact and create a more sustainable business.
1. Switch off the lights, the computers, the fax and the photocopier at the wall at the end of the working day. If you’re not ready to harness the sunshine, then get supplied with green power. Put on a jumper rather than the heater. Open the window rather than cranking up the air-conditioning. In the heat of the day, have a siesta, take a long lunch or adopt a more European work day.
2. Get on the phone. Can that meeting be conducted by phone? Do you need to take the car or can you hop on the bus or carpool? What’s the impact of your air travel? If air travel is essential, buy some carbon offsets for your business.
3. Embrace working from home. Reduce your travel and doubling up on equipment and resources. Or share an office space with other soloists. When sourcing equipment and services, consider buying local to reduce travel miles.
4. Use less materials. Do you really need to print that? Do you need the glossy promotional materials? Could you ‘go digital’ instead? Consider ways of standing out from the crowd without producing endless bin fodder.
5. Recycle. It’s now easy to use recycled paper, envelopes, pens, equipment, furniture and clothes. Keep the flow happening by recycling your own resources. Choose lunch on a ceramic plate or get your takeaway coffee in a ceramic mug.
6. Do no harm. Be aware of the potential harmful effects or by-products of the production processes you use. Are your raw materials contributing to rainforest loss or river pollution in the far off place they are produced?
7. Increase lifecycle. What about the lifecycle of your products? Are you buying equipment for life or something that will need to be replaced or upgraded in 12 months? Are you producing high-resource, short lifecycle products to make a fast buck? Or are you creating products that will last beyond the season, the fad or the warranty?
We have the opportunity as soloists to make immediate changes to create a sustainable business, so our business reflects our values and the world we wish to live in. We may be only one business but together we make up a vast chunk of the workforce and can make a difference.
In the next article in this series of three on creating a sustainable business, we look at our relationships with clients and suppliers and ask the question: what’s the social impact of your solo business?