“Green” is actually the “gold” that many businesses strive for on their road to success. A sustainable business doesn’t so much set out to change the world as it does to work in harmony with it. Although, changing things for the better could be a decent by-product. It is all about creating a minimal negative impact on the local environment and community through the practices of the business. Does a business have to start out being sustainable or can it evolve to that goal? Yes and yes. Here’s how it can happen:

Step 1: Do Your Homework

Before you even think about a business plan and lining up investors you need to do your homework. That includes searching for any product that is already out there that comes remotely close to what you’re doing. Then you have to identify your end user. That will determine your ultimate viability.

Step 2: Provide a Solution

Every great sustainable business starts with the proverbial “light bulb” moment. This is that flash of inspiration that has you solving a problem that exists in the marketplace. Providing a solution should be the cornerstone of your sustainable business. Your business can’t be built as something that is just “cool for the sake of being cool.” It needs to have an identifiable purpose. In the sustainable arena, that purpose should be tied to the betterment of society.

Step 3: Find a Niche

Just because you can identify your company as a green business doesn’t automatically make it a success. It will help to find ways to make it unique in the marketplace. Go back to Step 2. Perhaps there is a segment of the marketplace that isn’t been catered to with your “solution.” Instead of shooting for the moon and going wide, start focusing on that niche and build out your success from there.

Step 4: Go Slow and Steady

Focusing on the niche segment of your outreach allows you to build your business slowly. Although it is going to take a serious investment of your time and energy, you might not want to quit your day job just yet. A sustainable business has to develop a proof of concept. That could take several months or up to a year. In that time, you’re still learning and evolving but at minimum risk.

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Step 5: Identify Waste in Production

As you get your business up and running, you’re going to go through a lot of growing pains. The path to sustainability is all about managing waste. If you’re involved in any type of production, then you want to identify where your expenditures with regard to water and power are going. By adopting energy efficient policies on your production line, this is where you can have the most impact on the environment.

Step 6: Identify Waste in the Office

Beyond the production line, your sustainable business also requires office support. Whether that is rented commercial space or your home, there are proactive measures you can take to insure energy isn’t being wasted there as well. Think about your paper consumption and HVAC. All areas that can be targeted for better use.

Step 7: Repurpose Whenever Possible

Your production materials should utilize recyclable materials whenever possible. The same can be said for all the rest of your materials from office supplies to even the building you’re working from. The object is to keep as much as possible out of a landfill.

Step 8: Use the Free Stuff

Sustainability has a lot to do with your bottom line. Although some of these practices might require an initial outlay of capitol, you might discover they pay for themselves in the long run. Of course, using free resources is also a big boost to the bottom line. Depending on where you live, there could be all kinds of rebates offered for energy efficient purchases. There could also be an abundance of resources to tap into that could yield ways to improve your business or even set up a barter with other like-minded sustainable enterprises.

Step 9: Get Your Staff Fired Up

Part of your sustainable business should be a concise mission statement that spells out the goals for the company. This is the “prime directive” of your business and it is what your employees should embrace. You should strive to keep them motivated to stick with the program and ensure they are carrying out your business philosophy.

Step 10: Step Out to the Community

The direct result of your business is to solve a problem and generate income. However, you shouldn’t stop there. Being sustainable means being involved with your local community. You can expand your outreach by setting up various volunteer programs where you workers play a key role. Although writing a check to support charities is always appreciated, the personal connections are often more valued.

Step 11: Be a Smart Investor

As a thriving sustainable business, you could be approached with the opportunity to invest in other businesses. It’s a smart move but one that has to be done thoughtfully. Even when you set up an employee money market account to support pension retirement savings, you should be aware of the types of businesses that might be invested with your company’s money. Yes, green investing is a thing. Blowback from a bad investment is not something you want to waste time with on social media.

Step 12: Always Be Adapting

Your company is going through a lot of growth and setbacks. A lot of that can be directly tied to your sustainable practices. You need to be adaptable and always looking towards the future especially as it applies to your segment of the marketplace.

Step 13: Get the Message Out

All your hard work and effort will be for naught (fancy way of saying, “nothing”) unless you get the word out. Every step the company makes with regard to its sustainable practices should be proudly shared across all social media platforms.

You don’t have to hit people over the head with the message but just let them know what you’re up to. Before you know it, your company and the word “sustainable” will be synonymous.