Does my business NEED a sustainability program?

Written By: Dennis Ruhlin | Sep 10, 2021

Time to Read 7 Minutes

Find out if a sustainability program could help your business - and where to start!

By now we've all heard the term "sustainability". It seems to be everywhere these days. But what does it really mean? Who needs one? What does a sustainability program cost? If you're unsure whether your company should look at a sustainability program, or NEEDS to look at a sustainability program, read out as we lay out some ideas and concerns we hear from our customers.

Who NEEDS a sustainability program?

The short answer is no one NEEDS a sustainability program. However, by implementing a program of sustainable practices or certifications, you may open new doors for your organization that otherwise were inaccessible. For example, if you were to bid on a project, either providing a product or service, and the project requirements included that all vendors have some type of documented sustainability program, then you would NEED a program in order to get that work.

So in a sense, you don't need to be sustainable at all since this isn't a government regulation or anything like that. But, you may need a sustainability program if you want to make money and survive in this rapidly changing world.

So maybe you're wondering: "should my company have a sustainability program?"

There are lots of misconceptions about sustainability. Many people think "going green" is only for environmental activists or extremely large corporations. However, nearly every business could benefit from a sustainability program, even a simple, practical, down-to-earth one. Sustainability programs can be large or small, so you don't have to be a globe-spanning corporation with deep pockets in order to implement one!

Sustainability for Small Businesses

That's right! Even if you've only got a handful of employees, you shouldn't discount the possibility that sustainability could help your business. Small "mom-and-pop" style operations could start out with something as simple as changing their waste management techniques. For example, if you are a business that generates food-related waste, you could consider implementing a composting program, or source waste contractors who will divert your compostable material away from landfills and somewhere more environmentally friendly. You might create a recycling program to cut down on the amount of waste material your business creates, or even try to be more mindful about leaving lights on and air conditioning/heating running when they're not needed.

Again, sustainability can be complex, but it doesn't have to be! There's no shame in starting slow and working your way toward more advanced sustainability tactics. A small and modest sustainability initiative is much better than no sustainability program at all!

Do I need a sustainability program?

Sustainability at Medium-Sized Businesses

Sustainability efforts have become more and more common in medium-sized businesses in recent years. For mid-sized operations, you may want a slightly more complex sustainability program than a small business would have. A great place to start would be developing an Environmental Management System (EMS).

An EMS is essentially a cycle that aims to achieve continual improvement towards environmental goals. It works by frequently setting goals, working towards them, assessing your progress, and making adjustments as needed. As you continue to develop your EMS, you'll find other ways that you can enhance your sustainability program too!

Sustainability for Large Businesses

Larger businesses have the opportunity to really benefit from sustainability, since they can usually afford to invest the time, energy, and money into new technologies, methods, and practices. If you’re a large corporation, take advantage of the resources you have!

Large corporations may want a program that includes full implementation of an Environmental Management System, waste management programs, renewable energy initiatives such as solar energy usage, and even a goal to reach the status of zero-waste or carbon-neutral. There are countless options here, so get creative!

Sustainability = More Money

One of the most common things we hear from customers is the availability to charge more for their products or services because of developing a sustainability program. For some customers, it's an upcharge on invoices, for others, it's a more profitable (and environmentally friendly) product, while for others, it's simply the availability to bid on projects that REQUIRE vendors have a sustainability program, as we described above.

How do I benefit from a sustainability program?

Even if sustainability isn't a part of your business's ideology, it is likely to be an important factor in the spending habits of your customers. By enhancing sustainability efforts, you'll not only save money on unnecessary waste, energy, etc., but also attract more customers and increase sales. In fact, it's been proven that customers would prefer to spend their money on sustainable businesses, even if that means spending more! More, higher-paying customers only mean one thing: more money for your business!

With that being said, make sure that you're marketing your sustainability efforts! There are going to be other companies that aren't as sustainable, so you'll want your customers to know why they should choose yours instead.

Having a sustainability program establishes trust and demonstrates your dedication to the environment. By making sustainability an important part of your business, you'll expand consumer trust and also enhance public relations. It will be easier to establish yourselves as a reliable company that customers can count on.

How do I start a sustainability program?

As we stated earlier, implementing a sustainability program ranges from simple to complex, so there's really no one answer. It can really be as simple as coming up with an idea for your business and running with it, such as starting a recycling program. Other, more complex initiatives, such as an EMS or moving to renewable energy will take more time and energy. In that case, you'll probably want to reach out to an expert to help achieve your goals.

Creating a full sustainability program is not something that happens overnight. There are going to be a lot of steps that you need to take in order for your business to reach sustainability. In fact, it will likely take months or even years! Don't start off overwhelmed, though; just choose one step at a time and go from there.

Here's a list of sustainable steps that you can easily integrate into your business:

  • Investigate what sustainability efforts would be best for your company. Look into ways that you can reduce waste, recycle energy, etc. A great place to start is by developing an EMS! This will help you to know where to focus; how much time and money you're willing to invest; which areas of your business are most effective; and much more.
  • Make some adjustments to your facility. Look into things like installing windows that let in natural light, updating heating & cooling systems, switching out inefficient light bulbs, etc. Focus on improving efficiency while reducing waste!
  • Find better ways to dispose of your waste. Create a recycling program, a composting station, and learn more about the different types of wastes your business generates and the right way to dispose of them. This will help you reuse and repurpose the things you already have, cut back on unnecessary waste, and keep garbage at bay!
  • Don't forget your employees! Offer training that will help them to understand sustainability, reduce waste in their own lives and on the job, etc. This is a great way for your company to increase productivity and lessen stress while simultaneously gaining support and help for your sustainability initiatives. Your employees are the biggest asset in your sustainability efforts - so treat them that way!
  • Participate in local or global sustainability events. Get your name out there! Learn from your community about local existing sustainability efforts, and show them that you’re doing your part too! You'll be thought of as a company that wants to do the right thing, which goes a long way with consumers these days.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the thought of all these steps, don't worry! You don't have to do it yourself; working with a sustainability expert is a great way for businesses to get started without worrying about implementing everything. These experts know what works best and how to do it, so they can help your business reach sustainability faster.

You don't NEED a sustainability program. You should WANT one.

Today, sustainability is a big part of business relationships and consumers' purchasing decisions. To stand out from the crowd, it's smart to start implementing some sort of sustainability program in your operation today. Think about all the ways that a sustainable program could help your company, and make it happen. From small steps with a small impact to implementing new practices to help save money, to taking on larger and noble causes, sustainability can mean different things to different businesses in different industries.

While there's no one answer for how to approach a sustainability program at your business, we can say without a doubt that the best way to start, is to, well, start! Begin thinking about ways you can become more sustainable (even if it's small steps) and try implementing them. You may find that it's easy. Start anywhere - big or small - just make sure you're doing something, because your competitors will be soon too (if they aren't already).

Regardless of whether you're a small, medium, or large-sized business, if you're looking to get your sustainability program started, then don't hesitate! Every little bit counts, and it's likely that your customers will appreciate the extra effort. Not to mention, you can feel good about the fact that your company will be a shining example of environmental responsibility. And, if you really don't know where to start, reach out to an expert that can point you in the right direction. That’s their job!

Need additional sustainability help?

If you’re trying to figure out whether or not you need a sustainability program, this might be a lot to take in. If you need help, we know the ins and outs of the environmental concerns industrial and commercial facilities face regarding sustainability and other environmental issues. Not only can we help you get into environmental regulatory compliance, but we can also help you go above and beyond simply "complying with regulations" by establishing an environmental sustainability program!

Our staff members have been on-site at thousands of commercial and industrial operations across the country, so when we say we've seen it all and done it all, we mean it. No matter your size, industry, or location, we'd love to learn how we can help with your sustainability program needs.

If you're having any type of issue at your operation with your sustainability program, would like to start a new sustainability program, or anything else, and need the help of an environmental consulting firm with a proven track record, reach out. Even if we can't help, we’ll do our best to steer you in the right direction. Feel free to contact us at, click here to contact us, or give us a call anytime at 888-RMA-0230 to learn how we can help your operation deal with environmental regulations and sustainability initiatives.

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