If you’re planning to launch a start-up, one crucial thing you’ll want to consider is your budding company’s eco-credentials. As climate change and dwindling natural resources become a more urgent issue, businesses across the world have a shared responsibility to contribute towards green initiatives and make their daily operations more sustainable.
To help you start your business on the right track, BioPak have shared four of their top sustainable business practices. As a company that specialises in sustainable packaging and champions eco-friendly initiatives, Biopak know a thing or two about being green!
Why should I make my start-up sustainable?
When you launch a start-up, it’s likely that in between securing funding and making the leap from your old job, environmental initiatives may not be at the top of your to-do list. However, as we become more aware of climate change and the need for sustainable consumption, it’s important that new businesses build sustainability into their ethos right from the start.
This is because, as well as benefitting the planet, prioritising sustainability is a crucial part of practising corporate social responsibility (or CSR). Harvard Business School defines CSR as for-profit companies finding ways to contribute towards social and environmental progress, while also achieving standard business goals like boosting revenue growth and shareholder value. Consumers increasingly expect companies to acknowledge this social responsibility, meaning that eco-friendly initiatives are both an ethical choice and a smart business decision.
Launch a tree-planting initiative
Deforestation is still a major issue across the world, and as they turn carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into clean oxygen, we can always benefit from more trees. So, a great way to do your bit as a start-up is by donating a percentage of your profits to a partnership with a tree-planting scheme. You might do this quarterly or annually when you assess your profit margins, or offer to plant a tree for each purchase on your website. However you approach it, this is a particularly effective way of demonstrating your new company’s morals and priorities to your future customers.
Become a profit-for-purpose company
One way you can make your business more sustainable from the outset is by pledging to donate a percentage of your profits to environmental charities. You may choose a charitable endeavour that’s closely connected to your own company: for example, if you have just launched a swimwear brand, you could donate to ocean clean-up programmes. Alternatively, you may choose to support larger, over-arching organisations like Greenpeace to fund their next conservation campaign.
Whatever you decide, it’s both rewarding and business-savvy to establish yourself as a company that actively contributes to positive change. This way, you can get involved in important, worthy causes, while also setting yourself apart from your competition. In fact, according to Deloitte’s Global Societal Impact Survey, 46% of executives believe the CEO is the main driver for CSR programmes, and that the views of the CEO and top executives play a major role in creating societal change. As most of your founding team will inevitably occupy C-suite roles when you start a company, make sure you take this opportunity to lead positive change.
Implement sustainable packaging
One of the most significant things you can do to reduce the environmental impact of your start-up is to introduce sustainable packaging, especially if your business model relies on delivery and distribution. Starting out with this approach sets the precedent that your company is a sustainable, forward-thinking start-up. This is also becoming a bigger priority for consumers deciding which businesses to patronise, with a 2022 survey finding that 81% preferred eco-friendly packaging materials and 80% thought that most online deliveries contain excess packaging.
Even if ecommerce and delivery aren’t part of your business model, you can still find ways to make your everyday operations kinder to the planet. For example, when providing any food and drink for your staff in the office or at social events, make the switch from plastic food containers and cutlery to biodegradable alternatives. These are just as reliable and sturdy and will make a huge difference to your consumption of single-use plastic. Just remember to look for industrially certified compostable disposables — those simply marketed as ‘biodegradable’ can make misleading claims about their materials and how easily they are disposed of.
Even things like setting up a simple recycling station in the break room and making sure that your office is signed up for the correct bin collection can make a huge difference in reducing and properly disposing of your waste. You could even contribute towards a circular economy (and cut costs as a budding start-up) by sourcing second-hand furniture and appliances for your workspace.
Create an annual sustainability report
Finally, if you’re putting in the work to launch a sustainable start-up, you may want to put out an annual sustainability report. It’s important to be open about your eco credentials so that you avoid any inadvertent instances of greenwashing, and publishing a report on your website is a great way to share your progress with your customer base. Here you can discuss green initiatives that have been successful over the past year, as well as highlight issues you’re planning to resolve in the months and years ahead.
Setting up an annual sustainability report not only shows consumers that your business cares about the environment, but also helps to keep you accountable. You’ll want to have plenty of initiatives and programmes to write about, which will keep you thinking of new, innovative ways to make a positive difference.
“Launching a start-up is a bold and time-consuming endeavour, and your first priority may not be coming up with eco-friendly initiatives. However, as consumers and investors place more value than ever on sustainability, it’s wise to introduce these into your business plan as early as possible.
“Whether it’s investing in more sustainable packaging or partnering with tree-planting schemes, it’s becoming more common for companies to weave sustainable practices into their operations from the very beginning. Not only is this an environmentally conscious approach to business, but consumers are much more likely to trust and patronise brands that practice corporate social responsibility.” – Leanne Osborne, UK Managing Director at BioPak