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The Easy Sustainability Guide for New Business Owners

Marjorie Jones

Image Source: Unsplash


Sustainability should top your priority list as a budding business owner. Not only are customers increasingly favoring sustainable businesses, but a raft of new laws and legislation may soon make compliance mandatory. Also, let’s not forget that we’re headed for a global cataclysm if we do nothing.

The problem is, sustainability is not well-understood. Many companies fail to make the switch, despite the will to do so, mainly because of the lack of clarity around the concept, as PBS can confirm.

But we’re here to tell you sustainability isn’t rocket science, and implementing it doesn’t have to be hard. We offer some suggestions on finding sustainability possibilities in this mini-guide for new business owners:

Break sustainability down to the basics

Before you can implement sustainability, you must understand it. That will give you a clear goal to strive toward, and define the specific steps necessary to get there. Boiled down, sustainability is doing business with a neutral or net-positive environmental, social, and financial impact. Essentially, it’s doing business within the planet’s means, without utilizing more resources than can be replaced.

Make your business sustainable in two steps

How do you do business sustainably? A business is comprised of multiple processes that work together, from product development to sales – and everything in between. Every process has a measurable financial, environmental, and social impact. Your job is to ensure as many processes as possible are as neutral or pro-planet as possible. Reduce waste and improve efficiency, as Propel puts it.

Look for non-sustainable processes: Every non-sustainable process has hallmarks or “metrics” – waste, carbon emissions, energy consumption, water usage, and pollution. When these metrics are unfavorable, you have a non-sustainable process on your hands.

Replace with sustainable ones: You can slowly (over time) replace a non-sustainable process with a sustainable one. Reduce waste, source ethically, do more with less, and implement digitization. Every process has a unique footprint, and so requires a unique solution. You can look at how sustainable businesses are doing things for inspiration.

Be prepared to invest in sustainability

As things stand, the ecosystem your business operates in isn’t sustainable – it wasn’t built that way. While change is happening, it’s slow. As such, it will be hard, if not impossible, to build a sustainable business from the get-go. That means you will likely have a non-sustainable business on your hands, initially, and then have to actively participate in the global push toward sustainability, often investing your own time, money, and energy into the endeavor. Here are some examples of the costs you may have to bear:

● Spending time learning about sustainability

● Looking for sustainable partners and sources

● Researching sustainability best practices

● Expenses involved in auditing your business processes

● Experimenting with sustainable materials and processes

● Consultations with experts

● Marketing costs

Failure is possible – but don’t give up

Many companies don’t implement sustainability well, often undershooting targets or failing altogether. This may happen to you too, and there may be some consequences:

● You may end up becoming unprofitable

● You may face obstruction from stakeholders (employees and investors)

● Your buyers may not like your eco-branding efforts

While you may find it hard to become sustainable, persistence will pay off. Sustainability, by nature, is efficient. It lets you do business without debt (including financial debt). If you do it right, it will more than pay for itself.

Marketing your sustainability is critical to maintaining sustainability

You need to market your sustainability efforts to cement your sustainability endeavors. Why? You need support from stakeholders – investors, clients, and employees – to be successful. They need to know what you’re doing and why they should support you (or buy your products and services). Furthermore, marketing sustainability allows you to connect with other people who care about the concept. It’s easier to maintain sustainability when you’re part of an ecosystem that’s pushing toward it.

The younger generations (millennials, zoomers) are big proponents of sustainability. To acquire buy-in from them, consider targeting them with your marketing efforts. A good way to do so is via social media marketing – they spend a lot of time there. To run an effective social media campaign you may be best off working with an agency that specializes in influencer marketing. You can use online job platforms to find agencies. It’s possible to filter agencies by experience, reviews, and cost to find the best hire.

You can do it

Starting a business and making it sustainable will be a challenge – but you can do it. Believe in yourself and focus on learning as you go. The key to business success – and sustainability – is to not be afraid of failure. As Dee Hock says, “Failure is not to be feared. It’s from failure that most growth comes from.” As long as you’re willing to adapt, you will survive – and thrive.


Sustainable businesses are doing better financially than non-sustainable ones, and are better placed to withstand future crises (like the pandemic). That means making your business sustainable will work in your favor, sooner or later, and there’s no reason not to take the plunge.

Author Details

Marjorie Jones created Working Class Wow because she knows you don’t need a big budget to make your business look like a million bucks! From a well-designed logo and a carefully-crafted website to grammatically-correct copy and professionally-printed marketing materials, it is entirely possible (and surprisingly affordable) to bring a little “Working Class WOW” to your small business to build your brand, improve relationships with customers, and benefit the bottom line. can show you how.

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