How Small Businesses Can be Sustainable, Yet Profitable


Sometimes, small companies have a social obligation or desire to implement the so-called sustainability programs. The downside of this is that these types of programs are often expensive. This does not really apply in the case of large companies as they will consider this expense as an opportunity to add to the PR value even more. They tend to be more in the spotlight and they benefit simply by being considered by customers and other firms as a good corporate person.

The business leaders of smaller companies tend to be more reticent given their lack of resources and not being able to bask in the spotlight. That is why, they are sometimes required to be more pragmatic. Often times, if they do not get a good return on investment, they decide it’s best not to act. And this may lead them to feel like they are trapped in a tight spot.

While they wish to be socially responsible, they have a tough time finding the resources to pay the bills and cannot really afford to spend the already little cash flow that is coming in. This is one of the main reasons why they will not be eager to spend money on things that do not represent a priority for their company. Small company business owners consider that sustainability programs translate into more expenses which the company cannot afford.

Additionally, there used to be a general principle accepted by entrepreneurs that stated: the higher the quality, the higher the costs. However, in 1979 Phil Crosby enlightened us that Quality is free.This applies if quality is considered to be the conformance to requirements, doing things right from the start was far less expensive than doing something wrong and correcting said mistakes. As a matter of fact, quality is not only free, it’s profitable.

Entrepreneurs tend to consider that sustainability goes hand in hand with quality. If sustainability is correctly implemented it can be both free and profitable. And this makes sustainability available and accessible for small businesses.

1. For example, a company dealing with financial services prefered teleconferencing instead of face-to-face meetings as often as possible. From an environmental point of view, this translated into the reduction of hydrocarbon emissions. Moreover, this saved the company from covering the travel costs and the “dead time” an employee spent on a plane or in a car getting to the meeting.

In my view, this practice is extremely successful and it should be viewed as a win-win situation. It achieves two things: it shows that you are socially responsible and it creates shareholder value. However, face-to-face meetings are sometimes mandatory, but when they aren’t, this is a great way to save money and to lend a helping hand to the environment.

2. Another great example is when paper producers are able to negotiate a price concession with the suppliers. Some companies began to recycle the plastic barrels which were used to deliver chemicals instead of simply sending them to the farm (by sending them to a landfill). This practice is not only profitable, but also environmentally friendly.

3. Some companies that own property have switched from your ordinary lighting to the more energy-efficient one. In this way the companies did not consume so much energy, yet still offering better lighting at a lower cost.

Whoever told you that sustainability programs are not advantageous for small businesses doesn’t really know what he/she is talking about. In fact, these practices can be extremely profitable. And who doesn’t want to be trendy nowadays? Yes, paying the bills is a must and should be the first thing on your agenda, but with a spark of creativity and intelligent and efficient sustainability programs and their implementation you could lay down the groundwork for you company to achieve both.

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