business meeting about sustainability

Sustainability shouldn’t be a squeeze on the bottom line — it can add to your business profitability. Business leaders are committed to doing their part for the planet, but they can’t afford to disrupt their operations.

Not only can you improve profits, but 92% of consumers also say they’re more likely to trust a company that supports social and environmental causes.

The key is taking small steps. Here are some great ways to start making your company more sustainable:

1. Recycle Ruthlessly

About 75% of the solid waste that we throw away is recyclable. The reason a lot of people don’t recycle more is that it takes a little planning.

What if your city doesn’t do single-stream, curbside recycling? Take matters into your own hands:

  • Take inventory of what your business throws away and what’s recyclable.
  • Research and connect with a local recycler.
  • Station recycling bins throughout your office.
  • Create a collection routine.
  • Appoint a team member to set out the recycling, take questions, and communicate with the recycler.

Go one step further and commit to a company-wide initiative. For example, opportunity platform Nu Skin recently committed to building a network of zero-waste facilities.

“We’re working to divert 90 percent or more of Nu Skin’s non-hazardous waste from the landfills,” says Ritch Wood, CEO. “We’ve already made progress by removing single-use cups from our corporate campus, and we’re continuing to increase our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle where possible, as well as tracking our progress closely.”

2. Switch to LED Lighting

Halogen and incandescent bulbs use four to 10 times more energy as comparably bright LED bulbs do. One of the easiest ways to conserve electricity is to switch out your old bulbs and replace them with LEDs.

Fortunately, this is a one-and-done activity. Take stock of the energy-sucking bulbs in your office and order LED replacements online. When they arrive, simply walk around your building and swap the old ones out.

Replacing incandescent and halogen bulbs with LEDs is also a good way to save money. LED bulbs can be more expensive upfront, but they’ll pay for themselves over time through reduced energy usage and fewer lightbulb replacements.

3. Partner With Other Green Companies

Your business isn’t the only company that needs to do its part for the environment. Encourage others to do the same by choosing business partners as committed to sustainability as you are.

Focus on the disposable, resource-intensive parts of your product or service first and expand from there. With the help of partners, athletic apparel company Adidas aims to end plastic waste and reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 30% by 2030.

Because such changes don’t happen overnight, setting a target date is key. Make sure you work with your vendors to ensure that any deadline you set is feasible for them as well.

4. Create a Culture of Sustainability

For your company to become more sustainable, you need to get buy-in. Get your whole workforce on board by creating a culture of sustainability that extends from your products to your company practices, like Patagonia.

There are a lot of ways you can instill green habits in your employees. Easy ones include:

  • Hanging signs and posters that remind workers to recycle and turn off lights
  • Reminding employees about green habits during meetings or in memos
  • Rewarding sustainable practices, such as giving an extra break to employees who ride their bikes to work

Company-wide change requires cultural change. Your goal should be to normalize sustainability and to make it part of the identity of your business.

5. Ban Disposable Plastic Bottles

In the United States alone, consumers use 2.5 million plastic bottles an hour. It can take millions of years for those plastic containers to decompose.

If your business is looking for an easy win in the battle for sustainability, reduce your use of plastic, like American Airlines plans to do in its lounges around the world. “We’re cognizant of our impact on the environment and we remain committed to doing our part to sustain the planet for future generations of travelers,” says Vice President of Flight Service Jill Surdek of their plan to eliminate single-use plastic.

Eliminating disposable plastic bottles is an easy way to start. Facilitate that change by:

  • Installing water fountains or water coolers so employees use these sources for drinking water.
  • Handing out reusable bottles with your company logo to encourage using reusable containers
  • Changing out or removing vending machines that provide beverages in plastic bottles.

Think carefully before prohibiting employees from bringing plastic bottles to work. A command-and-control culture isn’t the way to win the race on sustainability.

Set the Example With Good Leadership

With that said, your team looks to you for leadership. Companies contribute a lot of pollution to the planet. They bear a similar amount of responsibility for solving the crisis.

That doesn’t mean you need to go it alone, and it shouldn’t cause you to capsize your business in the process. But with your team and partners on board, you can make your company more sustainable through small changes.

By Anna Johansson

Anna is a freelance writer, researcher and business consultant. A columnist for, and more, Anna loves enjoying the great outdoors with her family. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.