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Here’s the thing about sustainability that developing entrepreneurs need to keep in mind: Some of today’s most successful entrepreneurial brands achieved their size and reputation by weaving planet-friendly policies, practices and initiatives into the very fabric of their businesses.

Take Elon Musk, who has dedicated himself to leveraging technology to make the world a better and more environmentally healthy place. With Tesla Motors, he’s made electric cars cool and mainstream, even as he takes a deep dive into other commercial initiatives to vertically integrate clean energy.  Or Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard, who pioneered the idea and practical application of “circular economy,” as opposed to the linear economy standard – “make, use and dispose.”

However, entrepreneurs don’t have to cause green revolutions to reap the benefits of an environmentally friendly orientation.

One route to success is by integrating sustainable practices into the way business is done. It’s becoming the new norm in real estate development, for example, where entrepreneurs can strive to create buildings that meet such sustainability metrics as GRESB, or the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark. Others, like Toronto’s Mizrahi Developments, have demonstrated their commitment to green standards by including Energy Star technology in their developments and earning GreenHouse Certification.

Other entrepreneurs adopt a green focus that’s reflected in their operations. A sustainable model can improve profits and reduce costs by reducing waste and recycling. Making a practice of acquiring energy-efficient equipment can also yield returns in terms of overall business performance.

Consider the benefits to an entrepreneur of an emphasis on sustainability:

  • A burnished brand. Increasingly, people base their decisions to purchase goods and services on a company’s sustainability practices and overall impact on the environment. A strong brand creates lifetime customers. It’s also an important competitive differentiator. It’s something that can solidly carry an entrepreneurial business into the future.
  • An attractive posture for recruiting and retaining employees. Younger generations, especially, have been raised on a pretty steady diet of messages promoting environmental protection. They not only want to buy from sustainable companies, but want to work for those that walk the talk. Your sustainability practices will ensure people who share your values will want to work for you.
  • Better productivity and reduced costs. Sustainable business operations create greater efficiencies. This streamlining conserves resources by reducing waste, which improves employee productivity. Ultimately, costs go down.
  • Easier compliance with government regulations. Climate change, dwindling energy resource and a jeopardized environment are all in the sights of government regulators. Taking a proactive stance on your organization’s role in countering such impacts will put it in a better position to respond in a timely manner.
  • Happy investors and shareholders. Ultimately, sustainable companies do better overall. Various studies have shown that high-sustainability businesses substantially outperform low-sustainability companies as well as the market in the medium and long terms.

Making sustainability and environmentally friendly practices a building block of an entrepreneurial business can be a challenge. Early stage companies, in particular, tend to cope with issues like a small customer base and high operating costs that can inhibit investment in a sustainability strategy. Those that can overcome such barriers, though, will make substantial contributions toward the greening of economic development.



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