Sustainable businesses are those in which everyone wins, the entrepreneur as well as consumers and the general public.
On the one hand, through the products and services they offer, they help others solve a problem, satisfy a need, fulfill a desire, or improve their lives somehow.
On the other hand, sustainable, green companies improve the world in different areas, such as reusing materials, using recyclable packaging, clean production measures, and much more.
Obviously, and far from what you think, all this is accompanied by an income that the entrepreneur generates to continue in the market and grow.
At first glance, entrepreneurship applying this philosophy seems to be the perfect option because having a profitable business does not mean being at odds with sustainability.
In any case, it’s a subject worth dealing with in-depth, which is why I will talk about it today in this article. In particular, we will look at:
1-The pillars on which a sustainable and profitable business is based.
2-Potential sectors for starting a green business.
3-How is sustainability also possible in online stores.
Should I aim to create a sustainable or profitable business?
No, you don’t have to choose between the two. I already predicted this initially; sustainability doesn’t have to be incompatible with profitability. Every business has its difficulties, and it is necessary to follow a series of steps to create a business, help it to grow, find your space in the market, and attract customers.
This happens both with sustainable companies and with companies that are not.
None of them will publish a website and in minutes will start to make 5,000 Euros.
Strategy is the basis for any successful business, whatever its nature; otherwise, it will never be profitable. To this end, we should add the constancy and effort of the creator.
That said, what makes us think that a sustainable business cannot be profitable? A few points occur to me:
1-Raw materials, in the case of sustainable e-commerce, are generally more expensive.
2-More expensive manufacturing processes (handmade, etc.)
3-Small scale production also makes this type of product more expensive.
4-Ecological brands are targeted to a more select audience.
All these points lead us to have better quality products and also to offer a better user experience. And isn’t this what the customer is looking for? All companies must offer provide quality products and services.
In the case of services, it is more challenging to measure sustainability. Although it can usually be linked to resource usage, each situation will affect the services offered by the company or freelancer.
However, in any case, there are some fundamental pillars that Every company should include to demonstrate that it meets these two characteristics. Let’s take a look at them:
The first aspect of creating a profitable company is to have a product or service that adds value. Otherwise, no one would want to buy it. You should solve a real problem and meet the target audience’s needs.
So, as a tip, I would tell you to study it thoroughly. Does your product or service solve a real need?
That is probably the cornerstone of all strategies. The more your company grows without having to devote a proportional effort, the more profitable it will become. This is possible with e-commerce, info-products, and even group training.
The idea is to reach more people with the same efforts. The truth is that sustainability is an aspect that overwhelms most consumers and is one of the most demanded values.
My advice is to automate everything you can automate and avoid the need to do it manually. Some tasks take a lot of time and are not precisely the ones that demand our attention the most (although they are also relevant to the business).
One way to attend to them without demanding too much time from the support team is through automation. Technology allows us to do almost anything in this regard. You just need to find the right tools and implement them.
This point is linked to the previous one. What you can’t automate and can’t do yourself should be outsourced. It is another way to free yourself from tasks that hinder your productivity.
However, you will have to find the right people. There are great professionals who can help you in your business. Make a simple but effective selection process.
Include proven strategies
For example, email marketing. I have commented on other occasions that it is one of the channels that offers the best results in terms of conversion because through it, you can maintain a direct relationship with your audience; you just need to know what your audience is interested in and offer exactly that to them.
This strategy is more than proven. All profitable companies use it, whether to report, share content or sell.
Reduce paper usage
To create a sustainable business, you have to think of everything, making changes in various aspects and incorporate measures that contribute to the care of the environment, such as reducing paper usage.
Although we are talking about digital businesses, a large amount of paper is still consumed. We take notes, print documents, and distribute pamphlets.
You could reuse paper and recycle it.
Use recycled materials
In this sense, it can be from the consumables themselves (like the article we talked about earlier) to the raw materials of the products that a sustainable e-commerce sells.
Minimize electricity usage
This point is related to what we discussed earlier about reducing paper usage. Both help build a sustainable, profitable business because on the one hand, they minimize environmental impact, and on the other hand, save costs.
Hire committed suppliers
It would be pointless to revise and change your processes, reuse resources, and minimize usage, if you hire suppliers that, for example, in shipping orders, are the ones that generate the most emissions.
Before hiring a new supplier, review the company’s policies.
Promote responsible behavior
Surely you have received emails with a message that recommends that you don’t print if it is not necessary. This could be one example.
Another good example would be sending sustainable messages to your community via social media or email marketing. You can even create viral challenges designed to promote sustainability.
All these measures together make it possible for you to have a sustainable and profitable business. As you can see, there are many aspects that you should consider, and although we have summarized them, we could talk about other strategies, depending on your business model.
Some sectors are already investing in this kind of strategy and are therefore at the forefront of the sustainable market.
I will talk about them below, as I believe this could serve as a source of inspiration.
Types of digital, profitable, sustainable businesses
In some sectors, sustainable businesses are already a reality, even a trend! In most cases, profitability is associated with sustainability. More and more, the user opts for these types of products and services and quickly discards those companies that move away from this model.
Therefore, you need to create a sustainable business, or your project will not be profitable. Let’s see which sectors we are talking about.
Fashion and Beauty
This type of sustainable business is based on the creation of animal-free products. In other words, the garments manufactured under this philosophy have nothing that was taken from animals.
Although it is also common to find “cruelty-free” cosmetics, the vegan option is also a sustainable alternative. This type of product is planned to contain no animal ingredients and only include natural components that respect the environment.
There are also sustainable virtual stores that sell organic food. In addition, other entrepreneurs create courses and guides to teach how to plant a garden at home and, thus, enjoy this style of healthy eating.
Recycled decoration and furniture
Something that is very fashionable nowadays is to make furniture and decorative elements from materials such as pallets or tires. On the Internet, you can find many tutorials on how to create really elegante really stylish items, as well as companies that will teach you to create new products from recycled materials.
If you prefer to have them shipped home ready to use, you will also find online stores that can offer this option.
Sustainability in e-commerce is also possible.
The most important advantage of online businesses, including e-commerce, is that they can sell their products anywhere in the world. Something that is reflected in the scalability of sales.
However, this advantage at the same time is a disadvantage to being considered sustainable. Here, issues such as distribution or the logistics process they work with come into play.
When an online store in Spain ships to Chile, for example, it needs to make use of primarily sea, land, and air transportation. This translates into pollution and therefore harms the environment.
To alleviate this and improve sustainability in e-commerce, I propose solutions like these:
Choose a competent distributor that will make your deliveries “greener.”
The company you entrust with your shipments must guarantee that the product will arrive without the slightest risk to the person who bought it. This should be one of the main requirements.
However, it is also one of the most polluting parts of the business. And that is where the problem arises, because without transportation, there is no delivery, and without delivery, there is no business.
Although it is almost impossible to operate in a globalized world without using transportation, the impact could be minimized. This is why you should choose a company that has environmentally friendly alternatives; such as the option to use low-emission vehicles or reduce the frequency to optimize each vehicle’s trip.
This means that in the same shipment, instead of delivering 10 packages, you can deliver 100. This may mean lengthening the customer’s waiting time, but if you address an audience that respects the environment, users won’t mind the delay. Moreover, it could be a point in your favor.
Offer the possibility of delivering orders to a collecting point
This is another way to optimize product delivery. This way, the delivery person will only have to travel to one destination; the collecting point. All packages will be dropped off at the same place, and customers can pick them up whenever they want.
Amazon already has this type of service. Sometimes it is more convenient for the user because it is likely that when the order arrives at home, there will be no one to receive it.
Use sustainable packaging
Whatever type of packaging you need, look for the most environmentally friendly option. Think recycled and biodegradable materials, and avoid plastics and polystyrene foam.
Reduce the amount of paper used in boxes to prevent product spoilage. Find another more environmentally friendly way to do this.
On the other hand, if you will include additional information about your product, do it by email. This will avoid using more paper.
Embrace sustainable behavior in your company
Here I mean mainly to reduce electricity usage. One option would be to find a location with good natural light and thus avoid having to spend on electricity.
You can also reduce your usage by turning off your computer instead of leaving it on standby or, if you use machines, by regulating their operation.
Create an efficient refunding system
Make sure you have a sustainable business across the board, and just as with delivery, find efficiency in the refunds that customers request.
In this article, I have laid out many arguments for you to understand that having a sustainable yet profitable online business or eCommerce is possible.
You don’t need to pollute the planet to do business. There are many ways to earn income with environmentally friendly activities.
So now, use the ideas you have just learned to incorporate measures that will foster sustainability, which will help you to reach a wider public and, above all, attract that segment of consumers concerned about the environment!
Translated by Micheli.