Sustainable business works. So here are ten steps to making your business more sustainable.

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This episode is all about sustainable business and how you can inject sustainability into your business every day.

The thing is, sustainability is confusing as fuck and a survey I read recently said that 85% of business owners want to be more sustainable but have no idea where to start.

So if you are unsure where to even begin, why not start with this podcast episode.

We’ll be going through 10, easy, baby steps to get you started on bringing a little bit of sustainability into your business.

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Kia ora and welcome to Now That's What I Call Business. I'm your host, Brianne West, and you may know me as the founder and former CEO of Ethique or That Soap Company, as some of you may know it, or hopefully my newest startup, Incredibles. I absolutely believe that business done right, done ethically, is the way to change the world. So if you are looking to build your world-changing biz or you just want to find out how Incredibles is going, then you have come to the right place.

Kia ora and welcome back to another episode all about sustainable business and how you can inject a little bit more sustainability every day. Because sustainability is confusing as fuck. And a survey I read not so long ago said that 85% of business owners want to start injecting more sustainability into their business but have no idea how to start. Well, here I am. Today's episode is 10 steps towards becoming more sustainable. Baby steps though, because I get that it's overwhelming. It's all seen as very expensive and detrimental to your business to do, but I promise you it doesn't have to be. And also, if we don't do it, it's gonna cost us an awful lot more in the long run. First, let's take a step back and define what the hell sustainability is.

According to the official definition, business sustainability is the practice of strategies that will allow a business to meet its current needs whilst not impacting the future. Basically, if you can continue running your business indefinitely without causing harm to people or planet, you're officially a sustainable business. That is a fucking high bar and I would hazard a guess based on that definition that no business is truly sustainable because so much of what we do is out of our hands, right? But that doesn't mean that we cannot be better because a true sustainability journey is about communicating that to our customers, talking about what we're doing well, talk about what we're still working on and always looking for continuous improvement. It's not a one and done, it's not a box-ticking exercise. No business is perfect, but we can all do better. I help businesses do this all the time. I help them build strategies and then carry them out. That's how I approach it. We create science-backed goals, we break them down into baby steps and then we start ticking them off. But we are always looking for continuous improvement because things change, supply chains change and you must always keep an eye on what you can do better. And there's always new developments in green technology so new packaging might become available that makes it even more exciting. I am over the greenwashing bullshit in the sustainability business world. I understand that it is not something a lot of people are familiar with, but I'm over it. But I do understand that this is a little scary and a little overwhelming. So here's how to inject real genuine sustainability into your business that will have an impact and start you on your journey. But we're going to start easy with this first installment. So if you think some of these are a little bit pathetic, that is on purpose.

Number one is carbon measurement and offsetting. Okay, I didn't start that easy. This one sounds hard, but it's also the one that if you haven't started doing voluntarily already, some countries are going to start requiring this, which is particularly relevant if you're going to export. But it also means that eventually Aotearoa will probably follow. So you might as well get ahead of the curve and start reaping the benefits. The first step, of course, is measuring because you can't tackle what you haven't measured. I highly recommend you make this easy and you get an independent agency to do it for you. Not only is it more robust, but they take all the hard work out of it. All you need to do is provide them with a bunch of raw data, things like power bills, your travel, your supply chain invoices, freight documentation, so on, and they will do the heavy lifting for you. I use ECOS, but there are quite literally hundreds of agencies now who will do this for you. Then they report back to you with a figure, and once you have taken a deep breath and relaxed, because it's usually a lot higher than you think it is, that comes step two, which is offsetting.

I know, before anyone gets at me in the comments, offsetting is not a silver bullet, but it is an excellent first step for those of you entering the water whilst you figure out how to lower your emissions, which is in the next stage, because it's a bit trickier, and we'll get into it in another episode. You can usually offset through the agency you have used to measure your emissions, but there are a few things you do want to watch out for, and the cheaper the carbon, the less robust it probably is. So, ensure the offsetting company you work with has certifications and independent auditing. Find a company that works with ethical projects. Offsetting is not just planting trees. It really should involve things like investing in renewable energy. I have always used the carbon offset program which invests in the likes of renewable energy, but also carbon capture technology or replacing wood-burning stoves with something cleaner. And when I pay for tree planting, it's in addition to those investments because tree planting is not really offsetting. I have used both Ecology with an I and OnlyOne to do this. And they also do things like planting coral and pulling plastic out of the ocean. And they're a kind of a fun gamified way to get into this. If you go the tree planting only route, ensure the trees you are planting are native species to the area. As some exotic species do more harm than good looking at you pine. I really love what a company called the Eden Reforestation Projects do. So they are using business to change the world, right? Not only do they plant native species around the world, but they pay and work with local indigenous communities to source the seeds, plant the trees, and then pay them for long-term forest guardianship. So they're not only promoting habitat regeneration, but also economic empowerment, and that is such a good combo.

Moving on to number two, it's grow paperless. Yeah, this is the one in every How To Be Sustainable blog post because it's kind of obvious, but it is worth repeating. Eliminate as much office waste as you can. I once knew, and this is, I'm not even exaggerating, I once knew a consulting firm who would email files between internal staff, then each staff member would print the file, write on it in pen or highlighter or whatever, then scan the file, email it back to the other staff member who would do the same thing, and bin the paper for something they'd use for all of two minutes. Learn how to do things digitally, save time, save money and the planet's resources.

Number three is to turn things off. I know that seems really obvious, but how many times have you driven through the CBD and you can see all these offices with the lights still on and the air conditioning? Okay, fine. You can't see the air conditioning, but it is a very common practice. Air conditioning uses about 20% of all energy used in buildings around the world, and it's responsible for about 6% of global energy use. That is pegged to rise to 13% if global air conditioning use reach the same levels as it currently is in the USA, which as global temperatures rise is highly probable. Make your life easy. Set timers on your air conditioners to turn off at night and start 30 minutes before people come in. That's why you still have your comfy office environment, but you save energy and money.

Number four is to ship responsibly. If you ship a product, planet friendly freight is actually quite complicated. And down in the show notes, I'm going to pop a very interesting study done by NZ Post comparing different shipping materials and what was actually best, because it probably isn't what you think it is. In the meantime, have a look at what you ship in. An easy win is to scrap excess plastic, like unrecyclable bubble wrap, for example, or excessive box sizes. Looking at you, Amazon. Get efficient with what you use to ship in. Yes, fine, unboxing is a social media phenomenon, although it's a dying one, but do you know what looks terrible on social media? Bubble wrap, bobbing past on ocean currents as you try and find a fish on a dead coral reef. Okay, I'm being dramatic for dramatic effect. Ditch the bubble wrap for recycled, compostable paper or better yet, get boxes that fit your product so snugly you don't need to put anything in there at all. There are specialists who can help you with this for sure, but it's a little bit of common sense and a little bit of practical experiment, and it usually just needs a little bit of thinking. Easy win.

Number five is to outfit your office sustainably. And again, this is the one that feels like it isn't actually that impactful, but our vote with our dollar is incredibly powerful. So use your company dollars to vote for a world that you want. Tea, coffee, paper, if you're gonna carry on using it, pens, these are all consumables that your office uses. So try and find genuinely sustainable or more ethical options. So fair trade tea and coffee, plant-based milk options, plastic-free tea bags, recycled and recyclable paper with certifications, or even find refillable pens, they are around. This really is the bare minimum, right, of how we should all be purchasing. So this is an incredibly easy one to implement.

Number six, waste. Super exciting but a big one. Start measuring your waste, your business waste that is to be very clear. So whether it's office waste, factory, warehouse, whatever it is you throw in the bin, start paying attention. At a minimum, you should start separating them out into recyclables, unrecyclables, landfill and compostables or food waste. And if you don't already start composting, you should definitely do that. It's very easy to do in an office environment and it doesn't smell, I've done probably. Now if you have a special pickup for your waste, they probably already measure it for you. There are companies that do that to make it nice and easy. But you can also do it or just start paying attention and finding what it is that makes an appearance often in the landfill bucket or the recycling bucket because we all know the recycling isn't the answer. But once you have a couple of months of data, you can start seeing what realistic goals look like because a long-term goal that you want to aim for is less than 5% to landfill.

Number seven is talking about merch. To merch or not to merch? That is the question. I'm going to vote with not merching. I totally get the desire to slap your logo on stickers and bottles and t-shirts and everything in between. You want to slap the brand that you love on everything. Instead of making a whole bunch of merch that nobody really wants, maybe you should just shadow it on your forehead because business merch is a huge waste of resources. I cannot count the number of reusable drink bottles I have unwillingly taken home from well-meaning entrepreneurs and conferences. So unless it's mission critical, don't do it. If you want to wear a branded t-shirt to an event like a conference or a pitch, at least ensure that the t-shirt is made by people paid a living wage with resources that don't pollute the planet. I can't tell you the number of times I've been to places that are apparently committed to conservation and sustainability and their t-shirts cost them three bucks. I don't need to go on about how bad the fashion industry is, but we really don't need more t-shirts, 50% of which will end up in a landfill within a year. However, I have come up with a cool idea from Incredibles, which I will be implementing, which is those iron-on, plastic-free transfers. So instead of buying new t-shirts, I'm just going to put those transfers on t-shirts I already own. And we'll be offering that to our customers too, because people want merch, I get it. But if you can, refrain.

Number eight is a big question, and it's a very philosophical one. We'll talk a little bit more about it in a future post, but it's a good thing to start thinking about now. In the purest terms, obviously the most sustainable product is the one you didn't buy. But of course we were going to buy things that need to live, have kids, have fun, and so on. But not everything that we've been told is necessary to do those things is actually necessary. To give you an example of how you might think about doing this, I have as part of our NPD checklist, which is a new product development checklist, a necessary question. We have to answer several questions. Does this product display a more wasteful alternative? Can we do it in a way that is fabulous for the consumer but doesn't contravene any of our values? And three, is someone else already doing this? And if so, can we do it better? If the answer is no to any of those, then we don't do it because if we do, we're just creating stuff for the hell of it. And it doesn't matter how sustainable the ingredients are or how wonderful your policies are. More products are just inherently unhelpful. So put some checks and balances into your R&D process. You might be surprised and maybe a little bit sad about what you find.

The penultimate one is travel policies. I say this as someone who travels extensively, but only when I have to. And I appreciate, well, people focus on travel a lot, where I think there is easier things to tackle, like food waste, which has a far greater impact on the planet. But there is no denying that travel is very impactful for climate change, and regulating it is an easy way to lower that impact. So the idea that Zoom calls are the same thing as an in-person meeting are unfortunately not true. You will struggle to build a truly great relationship with an investor or a buyer if you never meet them face-to-face. Sure, I mean, we found out we could if we had to during the pandemic, but business travel has rebounded so fast that it really does show you that those in-person meetings are very important. Sometimes, you just need to see people face-to-face to get stuff done. So put policies into place requiring things like travel by train, you know, not a thing in Aotearoa usually, but if you're traveling through Europe, definitely an option. Car sharing, getting people to and from work, or hey, remote working, biking to work, and so on. Travel must tick some boxes before it's approved. Ensure it's absolutely necessary, not just some jaunt that they want to do. And can you do more than one thing while you're away? So make trips as efficient as possible, make them as direct as possible, and pack as light as you can. And of course, when you fly, make sure you offset it, not through the airline, because most of those aren't super robust, but through the platform that you already use to offset your carbon from point one, such as ecology.

Lucky last, arguably the most important, number 10 is sustainability is about people. And that is all people across your supply chain, all the way to the end user. If you don't have diversity, equity and inclusion policies in your business, you need to. Commit to ongoing education for your entire team about how to ensure those policies don't just stay on paper in some drawer that no one ever opens, but become part of your culture. Your team should feel safe to bring their authentic selves to work. I'm speaking cynically, and you'll get far more out of them if you do that. Does that seem pretty simple? It should do, because starting small builds your confidence and shows you what you can achieve without spending thousands of dollars.

And these things are truly impactful. They might seem small, but if we all did them, imagine what the difference would be. The next stage gets a little bit harder. That's where we're going to start looking at things like minimizing your carbon footprint and analyzing your supply chain. But baby steps, remember, hopefully you've already got some of these in place, but you've also got something you can now add to them. For those of you who don't, start taking them off. If you have any questions, you know where I am. But don't forget to look at businesswithbetter.com. Short and sweet, like all the best podcasts, right? Thank you for learning with me. It is always an absolute blast to put these together and share these stories, some of them which are a little ridiculous, and they all come from building a business that will hopefully change the world. If you enjoyed this episode don't keep it to yourself and feel free to drop me a rating and hit that subscribe button. Kia ora and see you next week where I will have another incredible episode for you.

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