Is Sustainability Important for Small Businesses?

Last Updated: 

June 5, 2023

Sustainability has become a buzzword in the small business world. But what does it mean, exactly? And why is it important to your business? Sustainable businesses have an easier time growing and staying successful in the long term than companies that aren't.

Key Takeaways on Sustainability for small businesses

  1. Reduces Cost: Sustainability is important for small businesses because it helps reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve brand reputation.
  2. Includes a lot of areas: Small businesses can adopt sustainable practices in various areas, including energy and water use, waste reduction, and product sourcing.
  3. Attracts more customers: Sustainable practices can also help small businesses attract customers who are increasingly looking for environmentally friendly products and services.
  4. In addition to benefiting the environment and the bottom line, sustainability can also have positive social impacts, such as supporting local communities and promoting fair labour practices.
  5. To get started with sustainability, small businesses can conduct a sustainability audit, set sustainability goals, and engage with stakeholders, including employees, customers, and suppliers.
  6. While implementing sustainable practices may require upfront investment, the long-term benefits can far outweigh the costs, both for the business and the planet.
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1. Sustainability is a buzzword that many small businesses use to describe their operations.

Sustainability is a buzzword that many small businesses use to describe their operations. It's often used interchangeably with words like "eco-friendly," "green" and "environmentally friendly," but there are some key differences between these terms:

  • Sustainability refers to the ability of an enterprise or system to continue operating indefinitely without degrading natural resources, compromising human health and safety, or otherwise negatively impacting people or ecosystems.*
  • Eco-friendly products focus on reducing waste during production and use less energy than traditional manufacturing processes.* Green business practices emphasise using renewable resources rather than nonrenewable ones; reducing pollution; conserving natural resources; recycling materials; implementing sustainable design practices such as LEED certification (which can reduce construction costs by 20 percent); designing buildings so they're easy for employees to navigate without cars.*

2. Small businesses are often considered more sustainable than large corporations.

The second reason small businesses are often considered more sustainable than large corporations is because they can adapt to changes in the market. For example, if a small business doesn't have enough customers or sales, it will be able to change its operations to suit those who do buy its products or services. Large corporations on the other hand tend to stick with what they know and don't change much throughout their existence.

Small businesses are also more likely than large corporations to use local suppliers and hire employees from within their communities who know them personally--they can even support local charities through donations!

Lastly, small businesses tend to be involved in social causes like donating money or volunteering at events held by non-profits like Habitat for Humanity or Feeding America (aka: Food Bank).

3. Companies that practice strategic sustainability know where they're going and how to get there.

  • Strategic sustainability is a long-term plan.
  • The plan should be realistic, achievable and flexible.
  • The plan should include a clear vision, mission and values that are aligned with the organisation's goals and objectives.
  • It should also have a detailed budget so you can measure your progress along the way.

The plan should be based on a thorough analysis of the business environment, including external factors such as the economy and competition. It should also include an assessment of the organisation's strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for growth.

4. Strategic sustainability takes planning and resources, but it can be done on a small budget.

How can you make sustainability a reality for your small business? It takes time, planning and resources to do it right. To get started, you need to:

  • Research what other businesses are doing in the area of sustainability. Find out what has worked for them and why it was effective for them. This research will help you develop strategies based on their experiences that may work well with your company's needs and goals.
  • Talk with employees about their ideas on how they would like their workplace to be more sustainable--and listen! They may have some great ideas that could improve morale while also reducing waste or lowering costs by using less energy or water at the same time as being environmentally friendly.* Work with vendors who specialise in sustainability solutions so they can provide advice on how best use these products/services within our budget constraints

5. Being sustainable means being good to the environment, society, and yourself as well as your customers.

Small business owners are often motivated to be sustainable by their desire to be good to the environment and society. But there are also other benefits: being sustainable can lead to happier employees and customers, as well as better products and services.

  • Being good for the environment means using natural resources wisely, recycling where possible, and not wasting energy or materials when it's not needed. For example if an employee needs paper clips she could ask if we have any left over from our last order instead of buying new ones every time she needs them.*
  • Being good for society means supporting local businesses in your community (and beyond) so that they can continue providing jobs and services for years into the future! You might even consider hiring someone who otherwise wouldn't have had much hope finding employment elsewhere.*
  • Being good for yourself means having a positive impact on your health through healthier food choices such as locally grown produce over imported fruits/vegetables which tend contain higher levels pesticides due increased distance traveled before reaching consumers' hands*.

Sustainable businesses stay successful in the long term

  • Sustainable businesses are more likely to be profitable and have long-term growth.
  • Sustainable businesses have a higher customer retention rate.
  • Sustainable businesses are more likely to be successful in the long term.
  • Sustainable businesses have a higher customer loyalty rate.
  • Sustainable businesses have a higher employee retention rate

FAQs on Sustainability in Business

The idea of sustainability doesn't apply just to heavy industry or to farmers and loggers. It applies to your business as much as it does to any other. 

The fact that the planet has a limited supply of resources like oil and water, or that climate change threatens the world's economy, is not something that you need to be aware of in order to stay profitable. But if you make choices – long-term commitments about what kind of products you sell and how – you can position your business for success even in a tough economy.

How to establish a great business plan?

To establish a great business plan, you need to define your goals. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want my company to look like in five years? How will it be different from what it is today?
  • Who are my target customers, and how can I reach them better than my competition does now?
  • What are the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities of my business model (i.e., how much money am I making per customer/customer acquisition cost)?

Once you've answered these questions, it's time to create an outline for your plan--a document that outlines all of this information in detail and provides clear direction on where to go next with the business.

How to ensure sustainability in business?

The first step to ensuring sustainability in your business is to identify the components of sustainability. This can be done by asking yourself questions like:

  • What are the main components of a sustainable business?
  • How do you measure sustainability in your business?
  • How do you make your business more sustainable?

Are physical stores still sustainable?

As you can see, it's important to consider all the factors that go into sustainability. In addition to the environmental impact of your business, you also need to think about how your business affects people and communities.

If you're thinking about opening a physical store, don't let the idea of sustainability deter you! While e-commerce has created more competition for physical stores than ever before, this doesn't mean that physical retail is dead or dying--in fact, some retailers are finding ways to make their brick-and-mortar locations more sustainable by incorporating renewable energy sources or recycling programs into their operations.

Furthermore, some studies have shown that in-person interactions actually lead consumers towards making purchases online later on (though this does depend on what type of product). A great example would be an art gallery: visitors might not buy anything right away but when they get home later and see something similar online they'll think back fondly on seeing it in person first and may order from there instead!

What's most important in having a sustainable business?

There are many ways to define sustainability and the term can be applied to all aspects of life. For our purposes, we'll define it as:

  • Sustainable business practices: A company that uses resources in a way that does not interfere with other people's ability to use those same resources.
  • Sustainable business goals: A goal that will help you achieve long-term success for your company while also helping the environment or community around you.
  • Sustainable business plans: A plan for your business that includes both short term and long term goals, strategies for achieving those goals and an actionable plan for accomplishing them over time (also known as an SWOT analysis).


Sustainability is important for all businesses, but it's especially critical for small ones. Strategic sustainability helps you to succeed in the long term and grow your business. It also helps you keep costs low by reducing waste and being efficient with resources such as water or electricity usage--something that can be difficult when starting out as an entrepreneur on a tight budget.

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