Why Sustainability Should Define Your Startup

When you startup something new, you have a golden opportunity to set the agenda, define your values and boldly assert your presence for the future.

“Be the change you want to see in the world,” is a quote attributed to Ghandi, but as a purpose-driven startup you get to do just that.

You’re making a positive impact on the planet and its people, while also growing your business.

What really makes your blood boil about how other businesses behave?

It’s easy to feel powerless as individuals. Here we are – sipping our vegan drink from a soggy straw – while billionaire’s businesses exploit people with impunity, pollute the environment and send their executives around the world in private jets!


Take those injustices, and that anger you feel about the damage big businesses are doing to people’s lives, and the very planet we depend on, then channel it into something positive.

The power of small business

Small businesses generate more GDP, tax contributions, innovation and growth to the economy than any other sector. Collectively, as small businesses, we have the power to set the agenda for how businesses ought to behave.

Sustainable at heart

When sustainability is at the heart of your core values and operations, it is not only responsible and ethical, but also strategically advantageous. It positions you for long-term success in a changing business landscape where sustainable practices are becoming increasingly essential.

But more than being in a unique position to show others how things should be done, there are many other reasons to be more sustainable in the way you do business.

Three Forms of Sustainability

There are three ways to consider ‘sustainability’ – Sometimes referred to as the ‘Triple Bottom Line.

1. People

Humans are not lightbulbs. So many employers burn people out then discard them. Sooner or later they are going to struggle to attract and keep the right talent for their business. It’s hard to shake off a reputation for being a bad employer. That’s why certifications like, B-Corp exist. An appreciable and measurable way to show the world you look after the people your business depends on. And while employing people may never be a goal for your start up, or you set out just to employ yourself, treat yourself and those who engage with your business, how you would wish to be treated.

‘People’ also extends to the wider community. No business can operate in isolation. Your business doesn’t just serve its customers, it has a role to play in serving the wider business community, its local community and every other person who has contact with your business.

They all contribute to creating your reputation.

2. Planet

When we talk about sustainability, this aspect is usually what people think of. How to be more environmentally responsible and ethical as a business. This is where lots of small things add up to make a difference, but also the big decisions on the ethical standards your business upholds.

3. Prosperity

As a business, you need to make money in order to survive. But when your focus is on ‘profit’ the motivation is greed.

Prosperity is the opposite of austerity.

Prosperity is about sharing abundance and ensuring economic security for everyone who depends on your business. This ties in to how you treat the people that deal with your business.

When your business is prospering, it is paying suppliers fairly and promptly. Investing in innovation and technology that will save you money in the long term. Minimising waste.

Many investors are now considering environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors when making investment decisions. Companies with strong sustainability practices are more likely to attract socially responsible investors and access capital more easily.

Not buying things

The most sustainable product is the one you don’t buy in the first place. Reusing, re-purposing and buying second hand – these all save money, resources and wastage.

Sustainable startup lifestyle out of stock

14 Reasons To Be Sustainable

1) Long-Term Viability

Building a sustainable startup leads to long-term viability by ensuring access to resources, maintaining relationships with stakeholders, and fostering resilience in the face of environmental and social challenges. A focus on sustainable practices allows startups to adapt to changing market trends, regulations, and consumer preferences, reducing the risk of obsolescence.

2) Risk Mitigation

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks can impact a startup’s reputation, operations, and bottom line. By integrating sustainable practices, startups can mitigate these risks and improve their resilience to external shocks.

3) Market Demand

Consumers and investors are increasingly favouring sustainable products and companies. By aligning with this demand, startups can attract a larger customer base and secure funding from socially responsible investors.

4) Cost Savings

Sustainable practices often lead to resource efficiency, waste reduction, and energy savings. Startups can benefit from lower operational costs, improved resource management, and increased profitability.

5) Regulatory Compliance

Many governments are implementing stricter environmental and social regulations. By proactively adopting sustainable practices, startups can ensure compliance with current and future regulations, avoiding legal issues and penalties.

6) Talent Attraction

Employees, especially from younger generations, are drawn to companies that align with their values. A commitment to sustainability can help startups attract and retain top talent, fostering a positive work environment.

7) Innovation Opportunities

Embracing sustainability can drive innovation within startups. The challenge of finding eco-friendly solutions often leads to creative problem-solving and the development of novel products or services.

8) Brand Reputation

A sustainable startup can build a strong brand reputation based on ethical practices, environmental responsibility, and social contributions. Positive brand perception can lead to customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing.

9) Access to Funding

Many investors are incorporating ESG criteria into their investment decisions. Startups that prioritise sustainability are more likely to attract funding from impact investors, venture capitalists, and other socially conscious sources.

10) Positive Impact

Startups have the opportunity to drive positive change in their industries and communities. By addressing environmental and social challenges, they can contribute to a more sustainable future.

11) Scalability

Sustainable practices are often scalable. As startups grow, they can continue to integrate these practices, ensuring that sustainability is embedded in their operations as they expand.

12) Competitive Advantage

Sustainability can set startups apart from their competitors. It can provide a unique selling proposition that appeals to conscious consumers who want to support ethical and eco-friendly businesses. Sustainability often requires creative problem-solving and innovation. Eco-friendly products, services, or business models appeal to increasingly environmentally conscious consumers and will keep you a step ahead of regulatory changes.

13) Supply Chain Resilience

Sustainable supply chain practices, such as diversifying suppliers, reducing the length of chains by buying locally, and reducing dependency on limited resources, can help you to navigate disruptions and maintain consistent operations. When big retailers have struggled to fill their shelves, smaller businesses have stepped in with shorter, agile and adaptable supply chains. For example, when the supermarkets ran out of eggs, there were always plentiful supplies in the local farm shop!

14) Enhanced Transparency

Adopting sustainability practices often requires transparency in reporting environmental and social metrics. This builds trust among stakeholders and encourages more open and inclusive communication.

In summary, integrating sustainability into startup practices not only contributes to a more sustainable world but also offers long-term success. Embracing sustainable practices from the start, improves your financial position, brand reputation, customer loyalty, and resilience into the future.

The cost of doing business should not be the Earth. By exploring what a regenerative future means for your business, you can provide solutions where people and the planet thrive.

Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.

Take action towards a better future for all.

*Written with ChatGPT AI assistance

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