Small businesses are going green…but is the customer convinced? Sustainability matters, particularly for the younger millennial audience. In fact, the COP26 landmark is dominating global headlines and small businesses, particularly retailers with long and complicated supply chains, are adapting their work practices to put into place measures to meet “green” targets. This is to align themselves with their customers’ demands and wants on sustainability, particularly for their younger millennial audience.
While moving towards sustainability can be challenging, it is important to note that sustainability initiatives can provide long-term benefits businesses, their customers, and the environment. In this article, we will explore the benefits and challenges that small retail businesses face on their sustainability journey and provide insightful tips on how to successfully implement sustainability practices in your small retail business.
When looking at small business sustainability initiatives, it is clear that environmental sustainability is the most popular investment. A recent survey conducted by Software Advice found that 86% of respondents had some form of supply chain sustainability in place before the pandemic, with environmental sustainability being the most popular type. The survey revealed that small retail businesses must avoid falling for the “green-washing” trap, and be transparent and honest about their sustainable practices to maintain credibility.
Environmental sustainability measures are the best for businesses and are arguably more manageable than any other measures to implement throughout a company. They are essential for any business’s reputation, especially with the rise of eco-conscious consumers who care about the impact of their purchases on the environment.
Social sustainability in retail supply chains is on the rise, but there is much to be done. Businesses must consider modern slavery, child labor, and conflict minerals as part of sustainable business practices. 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, with only four respondents planning to discontinue their current efforts.
Small retail businesses can effectively implement social sustainability practices through responsible sourcing of goods, supporting local communities, and ensuring fair labor practices. Ethical and sustainable sourcing should be prioritized to ensure that all suppliers and subcontractors have safe and fair working conditions.
Although economic sustainability is not as popular as environmental and social sustainability measures, it is important for businesses to invest in long-term economic growth without negatively impacting the community’s social, environmental, or cultural well-being. These are also long-term investments, with only 2% of respondents planning to reduce their efforts after the pandemic has passed.
While cost savings and a better brand reputation were the top benefits of economic sustainability measures, it is important to note that costs may be a significant barrier for businesses to implement new systems or measures to improve sustainability. This is where 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, which resulted in cost savings, improved brand reputation, and higher internal morale.
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. 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.” Customers are impressed with your efforts at corporate responsibility, and it’s a win-win situation for both your business and your customers.
As a small retail business, you can contribute positively to your local community and the environment by implementing sustainability initiatives. Environmental, social, and economic sustainability measures can provide long-term benefits for your business, customers, and the planet.
Small retail business owners should avoid falling into the “green-washing” trap and be transparent and honest about their sustainable practices to maintain credibility. With the advances in software and technology, sustainable business practices have become more attainable, helping small businesses achieve their sustainability goals.
As a final word, educating customers is key to creating an eco-conscious culture, and it’s a great opportunity to show your corporate responsibility and attract more eco-conscious customers. Follow these tips as a beginner’s guide to sustainable business practices, and you will be on the right track to creating a successful and sustainable retail business.