One of the key business trends for the next decade is the growing importance of sustainable business practices. Put simply, sustainability is moving from a "nice to have" to a competitive requirement.
The key reasons sustainability is becoming a business necessity are:
- Customer demand: Over 40% of consumers say they prefer purchasing products from eco-friendly companies. This is up from less than 20% 5 years ago and we expect the number of consumers basing purchasing decisions on environmental impact to grow rapidly.
- Employee demand: Employees are increasingly looking to their employers to improve sustainable business practices.
- Cost reduction: Business of all sizes are realizing sustainable business practices save money.
The poster child for using sustainable business practices to save money is WalMart. Anyone familiar with their culture knows WalMart cares a whole more about saving money than saving the environment.
This makes Walmart's massive sustainability efforts so telling. They've realized sustainable business practices makes their customers and employees happy. But more importantly, it saves them money and makes them more competitive.
There are a growing number of tools available to small businesses to help them develop sustainable business practices.
For example, Gobi Carbon Management Solutions Inc. recently announced the launch of GobiSOFT, a new web-based tool that enables small-to medium-sized businesses to easily and affordably measure, report and reduce their carbon footprint.
The best news about reducing your carbon footprint? The only way to do it is to use less energy, which saves money.
In the coming years rising commodity and energy prices, resource constraints, consumer and employee demand will combine and require small businesses to be like WalMart and aggressively pursue sustainable business practices. Not being sustainable will mean not being competitive.
Don't get me wrong. I think improving the environment is a good thing.
But even better is saving money and gaining competitive advantage by improving the environment.