Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered why some businesses thrive while positively impacting the world while others struggle to incorporate the most basic sustainable practices? 

It’s a well-documented fact: doing good is good for business. According to an IBM study, over 49% of consumers pay an average of 59% more for products branded as sustainable or socially responsible1. And we are not just talking about the wealthy. Four out of ten respondents in the lower-income bracket also reported paying a premium for eco-friendly products. As a result, 77% of businesses surveyed by Capgemini said they saw increased customer loyalty due to their sustainability approaches, and 63% claimed their sales grew2

These statistics paint a picture of a marketplace where consumers are not just passive buyers but active participants, choosing brands that align with their values. Yet, despite these clear benefits, there remains a stark disparity in sustainability efforts between large corporations and small businesses.

While large corporations increasingly adopt comprehensive sustainability programs, many small to medium businesses (SMBs) lag. What barriers prevent these smaller enterprises from embracing practices that benefit the planet and their bottom line? We must address these questions to create a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

The disparity in sustainability initiatives

Despite the pros of adopting sustainable practices, there is a significant gap between large corporations and small businesses. Only 67% of SMBs integrate environmental and social impact into their business strategies, compared to 90% of large corporations3.

Several factors contribute to this gap. Large corporations typically have more financial resources to invest in sustainability initiatives. They can afford to hire dedicated sustainability officers, invest in advanced technologies, and allocate budgets for environmental and social governance (ESG) efforts. Additionally, these companies face greater scrutiny from regulators, investors, and the public, driving them to adopt comprehensive sustainability practices.

In contrast, SMBs often operate with limited budgets and resources. An SME Climate Hub survey showed that lack of skills and knowledge (63%), funding (48%), and time (40%) are the top reasons why SMBs delay climate action4. These challenges make it difficult for small businesses to prioritize long-term sustainability goals over immediate operational needs. Moreover, SMBs might not fully recognize the potential benefits of sustainability, perceiving it as a cost rather than an investment in their future.
SMBs are the backbone of the economy, comprising 90% of businesses worldwide5. Addressing the disparity in sustainability practices is crucial for achieving broader environmental and social goals and increasing customer loyalty and revenue.

Practical ways for SMBs to implement sustainability

While SMBs often face challenges in prioritizing sustainability, implementing sustainable practices doesn’t have to be an enormous project that drains their resources. Sometimes, all it takes is a few strategic steps or even simply clicking a button. Here are practical tips to help SMBs integrate sustainability into their operations:

Reduce waste

Implementing basic recycling programs and waste reduction strategies can significantly decrease the amount of waste generated. Setting up recycling bins for paper, plastic, and other recyclables and encouraging employee participation can make a big difference. Additionally, businesses can introduce waste reduction measures such as going paperless, using reusable containers, and minimizing packaging. These small actions can lead to substantial waste reduction over time.

Minimize plastic footprint

Another crucial step is checking and reducing the business’s plastic footprint. Conducting a plastic audit helps identify areas where plastic use can be reduced or eliminated. Businesses can switch to alternative materials like biodegradable or recyclable packaging and encourage suppliers to reduce plastic usage. Opting for bulk purchasing can also minimize packaging waste. These efforts benefit the environment and demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.

Supporting communities 

Engaging in community support initiatives, such as sourcing locally and participating in local clean-up events, strengthens local economies and reduces environmental impact. Businesses can also donate a portion of their profits to local environmental or social causes, showcasing their dedication to community well-being. Highlighting these contributions to customers reinforces the business’s commitment to supporting the community.

Subscribe to impact

Programs like the Plastic Bank Impact Subscription offer SMBs a practical solution for making a tangible impact. This program helps businesses reduce plastic pollution and support economic opportunities for impoverished communities. By subscribing, businesses commit to collecting a predetermined amount of plastic, which is then processed into recycled plastic feedstock. Collection members exchange gathered plastic for money and social benefits, including health, work and life insurance, digital connectivity, grocery vouchers, school supplies, and fintech services. This means that impact subscribers help create pathways out of poverty while contributing to environmental sustainability without overwhelming their resources.

Communicate sustainability efforts

Businesses should use labels and in-store signages to inform customers about their sustainability initiatives. Sharing stories and updates on social media about their sustainability journey can engage and inform customers. With the Plastic Bank Impact Subscription, businesses gain access to tools that help them communicate their impact effectively:

Retailer toolkit: Point-of-sale printables that demonstrate the business’s purpose.

Dedicated Impact Page: A public-facing webpage showcasing the business’s sustainability efforts.

Marketing resources: Social media templates, photos, videos, and campaign toolkits.

Impact certificate: Downloadable certificates showcasing the amount of plastic the business has helped gather from the environment.

Take the chance to improve your market share and increase revenue by embracing sustainability. Implementing sustainable practices doesn’t have to be daunting or resource-intensive. Start small, then gradually integrate more substantial initiatives and watch how your efforts significantly impact your operations and the environment. Consider leveraging tools like the Plastic Bank Impact Subscription to simplify and amplify your sustainability efforts. 

Your journey towards a greener, more sustainable business begins with a single step – take that step today! Visit now.

  1. “ IBM Global Consumer Study: Sustainability Actions Can Speak Louder Than Intent,” IBM, April 13, 2022, 
  2. “How sustainability is fundamentally changing consumer preferences,” Capgemini, 2020, 
  3. Jannik Lindner, “Corporate Social Responsibility Statistics: Latest Data & Summary,” Last Edited: April 23, 2024, 
  4. “New data reveals two-thirds of surveyed small businesses concerned over navigating climate action,” SME Climate Hub, February 23, 2022, 
  5. “Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Finance,” World Bank, Last Updated: October 16, 2019,

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