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Sustainable Business Practices: How to Transform Your Business for the Better

Sustainable Business Practices: How to Transform Your Business for the Better

Sustainability is no longer a ‘nice to have’, an option, or a choice. It’s an absolute necessity. Whilst sustainability initiatives have flourished over the course of the 21st century, the planet’s health is still in a state of decline. Global warming, deforestation, pollution, and the dramatic compromisation of the health and wellbeing of current and future generations are direct results of environmental sustainability failure. You need to implement sustainable business practices in order to do your bit.

Sustainable business practices can help businesses to reduce their emissions and contribute to the fight against climate change. Plus, there are plenty of other benefits for a business that is more sustainable. In this post, we’ll help you understand more about sustainability, why it’s important for your business, and what you can change now to help build a better tomorrow. Let’s get started.

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What are Sustainable Business Practices?

Sustainable business practices are actions taken, by a business, relating to their operations, logistics, manufacturing, shipping processes, and more, with consideration to the environment. These practices are implemented to limit negative environmental impact on both current and future generations, wildlife, and the planet. 

Sustainable business practices normally fall under Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) guidelines which many businesses will establish to enshrine how their business will prioritise consideration of the environment. Such practices will normally have specific goals, such as reducing a company’s carbon footprint, ethically sourcing their products or materials, and more. The UK government, currently, has set a target of being net zero by 2050, and all UK businesses are expected to play their part in order to achieve this. 

Note: Before we go any further, we just want to make sure you’re aware of “Greenwashing”. Greenwashing is the process of misleading the public about how a company’s products or services are environmentally sound. Consumers are much more able these days to discern businesses that are genuine and those that are not. 

In a nutshell, if you lie or mislead about being sustainable, you will most likely be caught out on it. Whatever you do, do not do this. Not just because it’s ethically wrong, but also, you’ll seriously damage your brand reputation.

Benefits of Sustainable Business Practices

Embracing sustainable business practices offers a range of benefits, extending beyond just environmental and community impact to improving the amount of revenue you can bring in, too.

Here are some key advantages associated with integrating more sustainable practices into your business operations.

Reduced costs: Adopting energy-efficient practices and equipment can enable your business to not only cut down on energy emissions but also save on energy expenses, too. 

Revenue growth: Sustainable business practices can make your business more money in the long run. While “doing the right thing” is the most important element of sustainable business, you will likely find it also helps to cultivate a positive public image. 

The majority of consumers are willing to put their money where their mouth is and combat pressing environmental issues through what they choose to purchase. The growing economic opportunity of commodity activism (when companies align themselves with a stance on a political or social issue as a means of winning consumers who share that point of view) also presents an opportunity for businesses.

Greater operational efficiency: Removing paper from your workplace (or at the very least reducing the amount you use or depend on) is not only a generally sound way of becoming more sustainable, but it can also help improve operational efficiency. Switching from paper to shared online documents, emails, and further online platforms can enhance accessibility and streamline operations. 

Greater employee morale: Employees tend to be happier and more productive when working for a company committed to sustainability. Companies aligned with social or environmental issues naturally attract ethically-minded employees who will carry sustainable beliefs throughout the company, in everything they do. 

Examples of Sustainable Business Practices

Genuine change as a planet can only come about if we all make genuine change as individuals. We won’t sugarcoat it either. Choosing to be more environmentally conscious won’t be the cheapest option available to you, but in addition to doing your little bit to help Mother Earth, you’re also going to receive the added benefit of being respected and prioritised by your consumers. 

Here are a few examples of some sustainable business practices you can implement to make a difference:

Sustainable Packaging

Sustainable packaging typically consists of materials that are biodegradable, making them easy to recycle or reuse, and in some cases, compostable. Adopting sustainable packaging practices can help significantly reduce the volume of waste generated by a business. This also helps to avoid items like single use plastics. 

As the issue of ocean plastic attracts more and more public attention, restaurants and cafes everywhere have stopped using plastic straws to align with ethical consumers, especially enviro-conscious ones. Starbucks pledged to start phasing out plastic straws back in 2018, and have since announced their plan to use specially designed lids made from recycled plastic.

The popularity of bamboo toothbrushes and the success of start-ups selling alternatives to cling film made from beeswax also signals a shift away from single-use plastic in a push to protect the environment.

Eco-friendly Supply Chain Practices

Many businesses treat the supply chain process as ‘out of their control’ so make no effort to optimise it where possible. But, if you want to make a concerted effort to be as sustainable as possible, you will need to look at what you can improve. Let’s take Dutch chocolate manufacturer, Tony’s Chocolonely, as an example who not only make a great product but also pride themselves on a transparent and ethical supply chain.

They carefully monitor each step in their supply chain to protect their suppliers against exploitation. Their goal going forward would be a 100% slave-free and ethically sourced supply chain, and they’d like to influence similar companies to do the same. Take a look at every step of your supply chain and ask yourself whether it’s sustainable in the long term by getting in touch with stakeholders within your supply chain. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and try to understand where things can be improved.

Sustainable Order Fulfilment

Order fulfilment sustainability can be evaluated by considering the types of vehicles you’re using to transport your goods, and their energy source. Encourage those delivering your products, or delivering items to your warehouse, to use energy efficient means of transport to do so. For example, In response to the rising awareness of the negative environmental impact of its speedy delivery, Amazon had pledged to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030 and be completely carbon neutral by 2040. If Amazon can do it with it’s millions of orders every single day, so can you.

Other companies, like UPS, are following suit with a similar initiative. Their goal is to use 25% renewable energy by investing heavily in vehicles that use alternative fuels and other technologies that help reduce carbon emissions.  

How to Improve Sustainability with Technology

One way to align business more closely with sustainable business practices is starting from the inside. How can you alter day to day operations to make your business more sustainable? With a modern tech ecosystem it’s not actually that hard.

Your Lightspeed point-of-sale system can help you tackle sustainability concerns in two primary areas: eco-friendly material usage and inventory waste. By incorporating these practices into your business, you can save money and reassure customers that they’re making an ethical, eco-concious choice when they shop with you.

1. Go for paperless receipts

When it comes to environmental impact, paper receipts are killer. 93% of paper receipts were found to contain BPA or BPStwo chemicals that you probably don’t want around in high concentrations. And, even receipts not coated in BPA or BPS are a problem; 21 billion gallons of water and 10 million trees are used to make paper receipts every year in the United States alone, creating 686 million pounds of waste.

Encouraging an alternative to paper receipts isn’t just good for the environment⁠—it’s more convenient for your customers, too. If they ever need to consult their receipt to communicate with your or for their own bookkeeping, they just need to do a quick search in their email inbox.

For example, you can offer guests paperless receipts in Lightspeed ePOS by following these steps.:

  1. Log in to Lightspeed Retail. From the main menu, click Settings > General Options.
  2. From General Options, click Email. Fill in the Reply To/From Email Address with your store’s email address and the Recept Email Header and Receipt Email Footer with what you want customers to see on the top and bottom of their digital receipt.
  3. Next, go to Settings > General Options > Printing and select Disable Recept Auto Printing.
  4. After taking payment for a sale, click Email Receipt. If needed, fill in the customer’s name and email address.

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2. Encourage click-and-collect instead of home delivery 

You’ve been selling online⁠—and perhaps you’ve noticed all those boxes and all that packing material can really start to add up. To make your eCommerce packaging more sustainable, you can start investing in recycled materials and cut down on any plastic or styrofoam you’re using. You can also encourage local online shoppers to pick up their goods, cutting out the need for any extra packaging altogether.

If you’re not ready to open your business up to in-store pickup just yet, or your customers aren’t quite ready to start coming in-store, you can still offer click-and-collect as an option. Advertise this method as a way to get their goods quickly while still benefiting from the convenience and safety of shopping online on your social channels.

To start offering click-and-collect as a shipping option through Lightspeed, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Lightspeed eCom. From the main menu, click Settings > Shipping Methods.
  2. From Shipping Methods, click Add manual shipping method. Select In-store pickup.
  3. In the Title field, enter how long you plan to take to compile pickup orders (i.e. Pickup in-store in 1 business day)
  4. Click Add shipping rate. Set the Minimum weight to 0 and Maximum weight to 10000. Set the Rate excluding VAT to $0.00.
  5. Select the country your store is in. Hit save.

3. Recycle used gift cards 

Gift cards are often made of PVC plastic, which is particularly hard to recycle. In 2014, 10,000 tonnes of PVC waste were directly attributed to plastic gift cards. Retailers looking to be more sustainable should take a critical eye to how they use and sell gift cards.

You can cut down on how many new plastic gift cards you need to order and, as such, how many new plastic gift cards need to be printed, by recycling and reactivating used gift cards. 

To recycle old gift cards that have a zero balance, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Lightspeed Retail. From the main menu, click Customers > Recycle Card.
  2. Scan the old gift card’s barcode (or enter it manually).
  3. Click Search.
  4. When it comes time to fill the gift card up again, do so as though it’s a new gift card. 
  5. (Optional) To encourage customers to return gift cards that have reached zero balance, offer a small discount for returning their card. Click Settings > Discounts, then New Discounts. Fill out the fields with the type of discount you’d like to offer (such as 5% off), name the discount and click Save Changes. At checkout, add the discount for customers handing over an empty gift card. 

4. Consistently keep track of inventory levels

Ordering inventory you don’t need doesn’t just create extra waste—it can impact your profits as well. By knowing exactly how much you have on hand, you can be environmentally and economically conscious at the same time.

Full inventory counts help you check up on your stock levels, but they’re time-consuming—prohibitively so. Doing regular cycle counts⁠—where you only count a portion of your inventory⁠—will help you keep on top of your inventory with accurate data without needing to do a full count of your store every single time.

To do an inventory count in Lightspeed, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Lightspeed Retail. From the main menu, click Inventory > Inventory Counts > +New Inventory Count.
  2. Name your count after the current date. If you have multiple locations, select the shop you’re currently doing an inventory count for. Click Save Changes.
  3. Do your count of your selected inventory (for a cycle count) or all inventory (for a full count) using either a scanner or manually.
    If counting with a scanner: ensure your cursor is blinking in the Item Scan/Search field. As you scan each item, enter an item number corresponding to the amount you have in stock.
    If counting without a scanner: Select Print Item List on the inventory count page and select a Sort By method. Print the list and mark the quantity of the items you’re counting on the page. Return to the computer and select Print Item List again, then add the ID number from each item counted and the quantity.
  4. When your count is finished, click Reconcile > Reconcile Inventory.

5. Optimise purchase orders with sales data 

To further cut down on inventory waste, you can ensure you’re only ordering new inventory when you absolutely need it. This way, you can ensure you’re only keeping what you need on hand⁠—which is, again, good for both your profits and the environment.

Lightspeed helps retailers keep track of when they need to reorder without over-ordering by letting you set customer reorder points. To know the ideal reorder point for an item, you’ll need to know how fast items typically sell and how quickly, on average, it takes for new orders to arrive. From there, you can pick your reorder point and your desired inventory level.

Let’s say you have an item that usually sells about 5 units every 2 weeks (or 10 units in a month), and it takes 2 weeks for a new shipment to arrive. You aim to reorder this product once a month. Your desired inventory level would be 15 units, and your reorder point would be 5 units. In the middle of each month, you’d run the reorder point report in your Lightspeed ePOS, which would tell you how many you need to order to have enough to not be out of stock or grossly overstocked at the start of the next month⁠—in 2 weeks, after the shipment arrives. If you find you consistently have too much or too little on hand, adjust the desired inventory level and reorder points as needed. The goal should be to always have on hand exactly what you need so you’re not contributing to excess waste during manufacturing or shipping.

To use reorder points with Lightspeed, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Lightspeed Retail. From the main menu, click Inventory > Item Search. Search for the item you wish to add a reorder point to.
  2. Under Re-ordering (This Location), enter your desired inventory level and reorder point.
  3. When you’re getting ready to fill out a purchase order, head to the main menu and select Reports > Reorder List.
  4. Items at or below their reorder point will be displayed.

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