5 Ways to Ensure Small Business Sustainability

April 24, 2023  | 

With all that you have to think about in your small business, from getting top-line results to profitability on the bottom line, is sustainability one more unnecessary worry? Not really, as sustainability is about meeting the present needs of your business without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Simple terms are that we should not be taking more than we absolutely need. I tell you this because there are small actions that we can each take to be just a little bit more impactful without breaking the bank or consuming too much energy, as shared below.

Adding Sustainability into Your Small Business

Recovery Plan

Does your laptop or PC get backed up on a routine schedule automatically? Are all files backed up or just some? While most software sits in the cloud, we don’t think about what it would take to recover if your laptop or PC is lost, stolen, or destroyed. Many people put backup and redundancy plans on the “I need to get to it” list because it takes time and tech knowledge to get done. In reality, it is not that difficult and maybe takes an hour of your time to purchase and put in place the peace of mind for business continuity.

I have elected to have two backup processes in place. I have a cloud-based service that backs up daily and a portable backup drive that backs up nightly. Both of these services happen automatically, and there is no action required by me to ensure it happens. One additional point I would make is that you should test them by selecting a file or folder from the backup to ensure you can actually use and read the file from the backup. By testing, you will have an idea of how to successfully restore your data in a real emergency.

Password Protection

Where do you keep your passwords for the hundreds of websites and services that you access? I am hoping it is not on a sticky note under your keyboard or on your monitor. This is a tough one, as most of us access data from multiple devices that are Windows, iOS, and Android, which make it even more challenging.

There are lots of services that you can test and buy for password protection that work across multiple devices, which will take your patience to implement and test. Consumer reports have extensive reports that include Keeper, LastPass, Dashlane, Ditwarden, 1password, Norton, and McAfee. If you don’t have a password manager, you might investigate one of these services.

An additional option that I would suggest is implementing dual-factor authentication on as many of your web services as possible to secure your data. If you are still attached to the old fashion listing, ensure the file is protected on your devices (do not call it passwords) or appropriately hidden in your office.

Routine Email Declutter

How often do you clean up your email? Do you have hundreds if not thousands of emails in your inbox? When was the last time you cleaned out your SPAM and Junk mail files? Believe it or not, one of the biggest consumers of energy is the server farms that support email globally. Because we continue to file all emails or we do not delete them, the file sizes of the average email box continue to grow and take up storage. In addition, we send large files, videos, and pictures frequently, which get left in inboxes. I know I have been guilty of this on a regular basis when I get busy doing some social media work or blog work and need to move pictures and files.

There are lots of little quick tips to help with cleanup:

  • Organize by the sender and quickly delete the easy ones that are not necessary.
  • Sort by date and get rid of old advertising and non-urgent emails.
  • Create a new folder called “Old Email Month.” After you have created the folder, move all of the emails in your inbox into the folder you just created. By doing this, you start with a clean inbox without losing any emails. Now you get to decide the next steps, which may include working to delete or unsubscribe from emails as they arrive in your empty inbox or begin working a bit to clean up your “Old Inbox Month” folder.
  • Quickly scan your trash folder and then empty it. The same can be done for spam.

Office Environment

Whether your office is in your home or not, there are lots of little actions that can be taken to improve the sustainability of your business. The following is a list of small ideas that can have a bigger environmental impact.

  • Think before you print an email or document. Do you really need it, and will you use it? Remember that recycling is just being less “bad.”
  • Avoid single-use plastics — such as plastic cups, utensils, straws, and plates — in dining areas.
  • Shut down equipment at the end of the work day. This saves energy and reduces consumption.
  • Add live plants to your space. They are natural air filters, absorbing toxins and possibly even reducing stress and fatigue.
  • Make sure you are recycling where possible. Remember that Staples and Best Buy will recycle small electronics, including power and charging cords, so avoid putting them in the trash.
  • Source and buy local, supporting small businesses and seeking the lowest carbon footprint.

What About Yourself?

The only way for your business to remain sustainable is to ensure that you are sustainable. Are you taking good care of yourself? It does not take spending hours in the gym to make you more sustainable.

Here are some tips:

  • Stay hydrated by making sure you are drinking enough water from your reusable water bottle. Caffeinated coffee or beverages do not count.
  • Get some exercise, even if it is walking in place in your office or during lunch. Some exercise is always better than zero exercise. Perfection is not the target.
  • Ensure plenty of sleep. Shut the blue lights off (phones, tablets, TV) an hour before bedtime. Prioritize your sleep environment.
  • Eat more sustainably, choosing locally grown and swapping one day a week to be a plant-only meal day. Small changes have big carbon impacts.
  • Consider meditating or journaling for 10 minutes a day to just stop all the input and be at peace and clarity.

Maintaining Sustainability

Wrap It Up

Remember the goal is not for perfection; it is to take baby steps where possible to make positive environmental change. For those that have already leapfrogged some of these points, my hat goes off to you, and congratulations.

For those that are working to drive change, it matters that each day you push to make one small change and keep doing it until it becomes a habit that you do not have to think about. It has taken me more than 60 years to get to this place, and my work is really only beginning but what a hell of a ride it is. I look forward to you joining me on the journey!

This is a contributed piece published by Cathy King of The Sustainable Organizer. Since 2020, Cathy has been helping women feel control and a sense of peace in their environment. Learn more about her on her website.

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