Sustainability and Small Business: A Perfect Match

image: puzzleIn our professional consulting practice, we find that small business is often, by design, perfectly suited for sustainability implementation.  Direct interactions over the years with these organizations reveal that small enterprises are typically more intimately connected to their stakeholders.  By this, we mean that small businesses are:
•    More in-touch with employees: engaging and actively managing employees on an individual level.
•    More in-touch with investors: closely working business relationships to meet the expectations of its stakeholders and investors.
•    More in-touch with customers: working directly with consumers and business customers to deliver products that meet specific requirements and delivery expectations.
•    More in-touch with suppliers: directly communicating with smaller set of business partnerships often directly integrated into the business operations. 
Companies that experience difficulties with business sustainability implementation often cite the challenges of business visibility, stakeholder engagement, change management, or overall goal alignment.  Our sustainability consulting experience has shown that through increased eco awareness and stakeholder engagement, business sustainability implementations have a much higher rate of success than forced action.
As stated by Tim Kovach Product Coordinator, Energy Programs at COSE, " Too many people think that sustainability and energy efficiency are issues that only large businesses can tackle. But, in fact, small businesses may stand to gain more from these than larger businesses, and they may have an easier time reaping these benefits than they realize. At COSE, we have partnered with the Institute for Sustainable Development to provide our members with access to their Green Plus sustainability certification and education program. This is a great three-step program designed particularly for small businesses, and we have already had several members take advantage of it, with two receiving certification."
"As you point out, (referring to a Taiga Company blog post, Is Sustainability a Fit for Your Small Business, it can be much easier for a 5 or 7-person business to get engagement among employees and stakeholders and sustainability than a 2,500-person business. It is just important to recognize that these smaller enterprises need access to resources that provide a strong, clear business case for sustainability. They cannot always afford to dedicate an employer or an outsider party to take on this responsibility, so the resources that we provide them need to be accessible and clear. COSE also released our Energy Resource Guide last week at our annual Small Business Conference. This piece contains best practices for small businesses, checklists for several industries, case studies in these industries, and resources to help small businesses become more energy efficient. We hope that all of this work will pay real dividends in our region, as we work to make the case that sustainability and energy efficiency make good business sense for small businesses." - Tim Kovach Product Coordinator, Energy Programs
With small businesses having closer and a more direct line of communication with key business stakeholders, the potential for an aligned business sustainability understanding is available.  We find that progressive small businesses are working with stakeholders to create a business case for sustainability and leveraging small business resources already available within the organization.  These companies are defining opportunities for improvement, linking them to specific business metrics, and creating scorecards to evaluate success.  Sounds like a perfect match – is your business matching up?

Thank you to Tim Kovach for this post's inspiration.  He can be found at COSE or Twitter.

Comments for Sustainability and Small Business: A Perfect Match

Name: Tim Kovach
Time: Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanks for this Julie; I really appreciate the recognition and support of what we are trying to do. I am a big fan of your blog posts and the work that you do at Taiga; the more advocates we can have for sustainability and energy efficiency within the small business community, the better. I am happy to find people like you and organizations like yours, because we can provide insight for one another and work to support each others' efforts. Many hands make light work. - Tim Kovach

Name: Adiya
Time: Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yes, it makes sense that implementing change will be easier in a company that has less people. But it seems like it is mainly corporations that are setting sustainability goals- or maybe they're just the ones we are hearing about