As a young entrepreneur, you should be brash, bold, and creative. You won’t make any waves doing the same thing that people have always done, and you need to prove that your youthfulness is an asset rather than a drawback.
Guest Post by Katie Brenneman
However, young entrepreneurs have responsibilities. Even if your business is growing well and generating a profit, you still need to consider other measurements of success like the happiness of your employees and the social impact of your product/service.
Prioritizing responsibilities over profit can help ensure that you don’t draw the ire of savvy social media audiences, who are less enthralled with the idea of monetary success and more concerned with the impact entrepreneur’s have on the world around them.
In particular, as a young entrepreneur, your business needs to be sustainable if you want to grow and develop a trusted, well-respected brand identity. Here’s how you can get started.
Corporate commitments to sustainability are often costly and require plenty of planning. However, if you’re a young entrepreneur, you’re probably working with a tight budget and an even tighter schedule. While you should invest time and money into sustainability down the road, you can get started by choosing to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Begin by reassessing your relationship with fast fashion. While we all want to look great when meeting investors or schmoozing clients, you don’t need a new outfit for every event. Instead, ditch fast fashion in your wardrobe to help the environment, reduce waste, and promote other small businesses. All you need in today’s business world are a few nice business suits and a professional-ish set of plain shirts and trousers.
As your operations expand, you can try to weave your personal commitments to sustainability into your professional practice. For example, if you recycle at home, you can keep the habit up in your workplace by investing in recycling bins or by promoting the efforts of a local recycling agency. Additionally, personal sustainability choices like growing your own produce can cause a ripple effect and inspire those around you to live a more sustainable life, too.
Running a small business is hard. But running a sustainable small business is even harder. You can make it easier by going offering remote work which will cut your carbon usage and reduce your overheads.
Of course, not all businesses can go remote — you can hardly assemble production lines in your living room. But most white-collar jobs can be completed remotely and net you a significant carbon saving as folks will no longer commute, and you won’t have to rent or maintain a building that requires a significant amount of energy.
At first, going remote will be challenging. But start with baby steps and allow trusted employees to take remote working days. This will act as a trial period and will help you preempt any problems that may occur when your entire workforce goes remote — saving you time, money, and future headaches.
Follow Through on Commitments
At some point, you’ll need to make serious commitments to sustainability to brand yourself as green. It’s important that these commitments are realistic, and that you follow through on them. Otherwise, you risk “greenwashing”.
“Greenwashing” is a marketing term that refers to companies that claim to be sustainable, but, in reality, are not. It’s sure to land you in hot water online, and may even have legal ramifications if you make unfounded claims about your commitments to the environment.
You can avoid greenwashing by making an observable commitment to a project or organization in your local area that supports sustainability. For example, if you happen to sell or grow food as part of your business, you can give funds or leftover resources to local allotments and community gardens that would benefit from things like compost, seeds, or plastic containers.
Do Your Research
Small businesses might get away with an unsustainable supply chain for a while. But, as you grow, you should expect your consumers to do their research and find out about any unsustainable, or unethical, areas of your business. This means you need to be selective about your suppliers, and only align yourself with businesses that have an equally serious commitment to climate change as you do.
As a new entrepreneur, it can be difficult to figure out who is really sustainable and who is greenwashing. Try to work with businesses that offer an environmental management system, and offer transparent information about their operations. If a supplier is unwilling to share information regarding their environmental impact, you should steer clear and look for a more candid alternative.
Even experienced entrepreneurs have enough problems to solve during day-to-day operations without having to worry about sustainability and the impact their business has on the environment. However, the businesses of today are held to a higher standard than ever before, as social media and the web makes it easy for consumers to find out about the impact your business has on climate change.
As a young entrepreneur, you should try to get ahead of the curve and preemptively make your operations as sustainable as possible before it becomes an issue. Even if you’re working on a limited budget, you can make changes to your personal life and support community recycling schemes in your local area. Even these small changes will be appreciated by your stakeholders, and you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’re doing your part in the fight against climate change.