We’re Going Green. Is it Sustainable?

6 Min Read
Small businesses are going green...but is the customer convinced? Sustainability matters, particularly for the younger millennial audience.

Small businesses are going green…but is the customer convinced? Sustainability matters, particularly for the younger millennial audience.

Fact: COP26 landmark is dominating global headlines. Small businesses, particularly retailers with long and complicated supply chains, are adapting their work practices. Putting into place measures to meet “green” targets. Also, to align themselves with their customer’s demands better and wants on sustainability, particularly for their younger millennial audience.

It’s not easy to move towards sustainability. Software Advice conducted a recent survey of more than 500 supply chain professionals at companies with 500 employees or less. The purpose was to explore the benefits and challenges they face on their sustainability journey.

The Institute of Marketing in The UK also focused its research on the challenges of becoming more sustainable. It recently surveyed over 200 UK marketing professionals. 49% of respondents fear the “green-washing” label.

Environment Sustainability

When looking at small business sustainability initiatives, it was clear that environmental sustainability was the most popular investment.

Software Advice found that 86% of respondents had some form of supply chain sustainability in place before the pandemic. Environmental sustainability was the most popular type. Businesses must avoid falling for the “green-washing” trap.

This sustainability measure is the best for businesses. It’s arguably more manageable than any other measures to implement throughout a company. It’s essential for any business’s reputation.

Recently, the Institute of Marketing in the UK also published research. This looked at the opinions of 2,000 UK consumers and found that 63% of them believe that most brands are only interested in sustainability for commercial purposes.

Small businesses must be transparent and honest about their sustainable practices to maintain credibility.

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability in retail supply chains is on the rise. However, there’s much to be done. Businesses must consider modern slavery, child labor, and conflict minerals as part of sustainable business.

Software Advice’s survey revealed that 60% of respondents had invested in social sustainability practices before the pandemic. In the 18 months since 42% of respondents have increased their investments in these practices.

Nearly 99% of respondents plan to continue or improve their social sustainability efforts after the pandemic. Only four respondents plan to discontinue current efforts.

Economic Sustainability

Because economic sustainability is not popular, it may be because it’s a long-term mindset. It’s about creating long-term economic growth without negatively impacting the community’s social, environmental, or cultural well-being.

These are also long-term investments. Only 2% of them plan to reduce their efforts after the pandemic has passed.

Cost savings and a better brand reputation were the top benefits. This is in line with The Institute of Marketing’s research about importance. This is slightly contradictory, as the cost is the main barrier for businesses implementing new systems or measures to improve sustainability. The expected outcome is cost savings over time once enterprises have made the initial investment.

The significant advances and gains in software have made a business’s ability to improve its supply chain’s sustainability credentials easier. Software Advice’s survey found that 83% of SMBs use technology to support their sustainability efforts.

Their efforts had three main benefits: cost savings, improved brand reputation, and higher internal morale.

This is where the real challenge lies, according to research by the Institute of Marketing.

Many marketers are worried about green-washing and want to win their customers’ trust by being transparent about their environmental initiatives.

Educate Your Customer Base

Before your company begins a sincere effort to be environmentally friendly and carbon footprint conscious, you must educate your customer.

While most people give lip service to “saving the planet” they really have a very vague idea of what that means. Outside of rabid conservatives, when you ask anyone if they are green or not they will most likely reply that they are green. And they’ll probably say this while throwing a candy wrapper into the street. Or while draining a plastic bottle of Evian, crumpling it. And tossing it into a stream.

So to convince your customers that you are one hundred percent green or striving to be, you have to bring them up to speed. This could mean e-newsletters, a blog, and frequent postings on social media. All about how your company is using green technology to “save the planet.”

This is actually a win-win situation. Customers are impressed with your efforts at corporate responsibility. Companies don’t get bad PR for saving trees and keeping rivers unpolluted.

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Becca Williams is a writer, editor, and small business owner. She writes a column for Smallbiztechnology.com and many more major media outlets.