Wind turbines in a green field.
Consumers are paying increased attention to businesses' sustainability practices. If you're looking to make your business greener, these tips can help get you started. — Getty Images/kamisoka

As today’s consumers become more focused on environmentalism and sustainability, more business owners are embracing sustainability and aiming to become more “green” as a company. According to a 2020 report by The Economist Intelligence Unit and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), there has been a 71% rise in online searches for sustainable goods globally since 2015, and 60% of North American and European fashion brands said “implementing sustainability measures” was one of their top priorities that year.

Managing an eco-friendly business requires careful planning and commitment, but the financial reward is worth it: Accenture found that more than half of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products. Here’s what businesses need to know about increasing their sustainability factor and appeal to today’s eco-conscious consumers.

What does ‘going green’ mean for business?

Going green” as a business means using sustainable materials and making decisions that reduce the use of water, energy and materials. This eco-friendly approach to entrepreneurship helps contribute to climate change as a whole. Business owners of green companies prioritize making a minimal impact on the environment.

Starting and growing a green business can be challenging, though: You’ll need to strike a balance between achieving your environmentally friendly goals and still generating ample revenue to keep you afloat. Thankfully, there are ways to go green that won’t break the bank and will, in turn, drive even more sales from eco-conscious consumers.

Tips for growing a sustainable business

If you’re looking for inspiration to manage a greener company, here are some tips for growing a sustainable small business.

Apply for awards that highlight your business’s sustainability efforts

Applying for sustainable business awards can establish your reputation as a sustainable business and help gain valuable exposure to a wider audience. This will attract more customers who value sustainability and further your objectives by offering the support needed to run a sustainable business.

Every year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts the Dream Big Awards to acknowledge and honor small businesses that contribute to American economic growth and perseverance. One of our categories this year was the Green/Sustainable Business Achievement award, which was awarded to national recycling pickup service Recyclops and presented by Intuit.

As one of the world’s leading financial technology companies, Intuit is committed to powering prosperity in a sustainable way. Its climate-positive commitment to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 times over the next decade, help employees with sustainability-related expenses and form strategic partnerships that support sustainability make this company the perfect sponsor for our 2021 Green/Sustainable Business award.

Putting passion behind your initiatives will ensure they’re coming from a genuine place, which will naturally increase your commitment and efforts.

Get certified as a green business

Becoming certified as a green business is a surefire way to understand your responsibilities as a sustainable business and gain the credibility needed to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.

Here are just a few industry-recognized sustainability certifications you can pursue as a business:

  • B corp: To gain this certification, businesses must pass an online assessment that gauges its sustainability efforts. According to the certification website, certified B corporations are “legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.”
  • LEED: Run by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a building-certification program that focuses on developing buildings that are safe for its occupants. This includes offices, residential spaces, schools and more. Because of their energy use and air quality, LEED buildings tend to increase employee productivity and retention, as well as attract more tenants — all for a more affordable operating cost.
  • TRUE: The TRUE Zero Waste certification is perfect for businesses that would like to pursue zero waste, reduce their carbon footprint and better support public health. To qualify for the certification, companies are required to have a zero waste policy in place and must provide a case study of zero waste initiatives for publication on the website.
  • SITES: SITES is a comprehensive system used by architects, designers, engineers, landscapers and similar professionals that helps create sustainable and resilient land development projects. Getting your project SITES-certified ensures it’s in alignment with the highest environmental standards.
  • GBB: The Green Business Bureau (GBB) certification demonstrates your business’s commitment to sustainability, as the GBB is a trusted authority in green business. This program is initiative-based, meaning you’ll receive certification for sustainable projects and actions rather than for your business as a whole.

When choosing which certification is right for your business, consider which ones your competitors are pursuing, as well as which your customers would find most important.

Find a sustainable manufacturer

Who you work with and purchase from matters as a sustainable business. When searching for a sustainable manufacturer, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Their approach to sourcing raw materials.
  • How much they use clean energy.
  • How they track their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Their recycling and waste management programs.

Additionally, look for the same credentials and certifications listed above to ensure the manufacturer is actually committed to sustainability. You can attend trade shows or use a sourcing tool to help find the best sustainable partners at your disposal.

Keep in mind, you can also work with your existing suppliers to help them become more sustainable.

Hire the right people

A business is only as good as its employees. Hiring the right people who understand and share your mission and sustainability goals is crucial. This goes for hiring across the board— each employee, regardless of the department they work in, must be willing to comply with your sustainability initiatives and requirements.

Additionally, you might consider hiring a sustainability leader so you have a point person who handles difficult questions or concerns regarding sustainability. This person will be responsible for communicating your company’s mission and ensuring everyone is contributing in a meaningful way.

Build on your beliefs and passions

The most important part of being a sustainable business is your intention behind it. Don’t chase sustainability just to appeal to a wider audience; instead, understand why you’d like to pursue this goal. Putting passion behind your initiatives will ensure they’re coming from a genuine place, which will naturally increase your commitment and efforts.

First, define your beliefs and values associated with sustainability. Then, create attainable goals that are in alignment with them. Use your values to guide each decision, both large and small, so you move forward in a way that makes the most sense to you.