Your sustainable route
What your path to a more sustainable business looks like depends on your situation and industry: If you often get to city centers with your van, you will have to deal with emission-free zones. If you are a baker, you will have to switch to natural gas-free baking in the future. And there are countless more examples. The fact is that sustainable entrepreneurship is becoming less and less non-binding for almost all entrepreneurs in the Netherlands due to legislation and rules stemming from the climate agreement. It contains agreements on how the government, companies and social organizations want to achieve the international climate goals in the coming years.
Find out which laws and regulations for sustainability will affect your business and map your sustainability route based on that. Making your business more sustainable can be done in small and large steps. You can, for example, replace lamps with LED lighting, but you can also make your entire production chain more sustainable, for example. Get started with sustainability by turning one or more of these knobs.
Button 1. Sustainable business plan
Before you start doing more sustainability, it is important to gain insight into the opportunities and potential of your business. What parts of your existing business plan can you make more sustainable? Make this transparent with Business Model Canvas. This will help you map out your business model, making it easier for you to focus and adjust on sustainability.
Example: As a catering entrepreneur, you will have to deal with the ban on disposable plastic. You have 2 options: replace coffee cups and meal packaging with recyclable varieties, or pass on the cost of the plastic to your customer. Make a conscious choice by looking closely at your customers and the reasons why they choose your business. Do customers choose you for environmental reasons? Then it makes sense to go for recycled packaging. If convenience is paramount for your customers, you can charge a surcharge for the plastic packaging when selling for go-orders. When choosing, you should also consider the cost of sustainable alternatives.
Button 2. Product and production process
You can make your product and your production process more sustainable in different areas. For example, choose sustainable raw materials that are recyclable or biodegradable. Or go a step further by using recycled materials as raw material. You can also make a difference in your product design. Maybe you can choose parts that are easy to replace so that your consumer does not have to throw the whole product out if a part is broken.
Example: you have your own clothing line. From 2030, as a consumer clothing manufacturer, you will be responsible for the collection, recycling, reuse and waste of the products you bring to market. Talk to your key partners now and find out how they prepare for this action. Maybe it’s time to switch to partners who are at the forefront of this development.
Button 3. Waste
Waste is an important part of making your business more sustainable. For example, you prevent spillage in the workplace by replacing cardboard cups with recyclable mugs, or by printing as little as possible. Set up your production process in such a way that you can reuse or resell residual material as much as possible. For example, separate production waste. Please note: clean plastic waste can be recycled, contaminated plastic material can not.
Example: you have a webshop in electronics. You do everything you can to avoid return, but your customers still return 3 out of 10 packages. Often the customer has already opened the packaging, so you can no longer sell the products as new. A shame, because there is nothing wrong with the product. By offering return items at a discount as ‘second chance products’, you avoid having to throw them out. And limit your negative impact on your profits.
Button 4. Sustainable purchasing
In your buying process, you must not only look at price and quality, but also be aware of the effect on the environment, people and society. Decide what is most important to you and your customers, and see what parts of your buying process can be made more sustainable on these themes.
Example 2: As a project developer in the construction industry, you notice that your customers are increasingly interested in the origin of your windows. How are the frames produced and transported the greens? Take a closer look at your purchasing policy based on these questions. Is the framework not produced sustainably? Look for another supplier that supplies sustainable raw materials and uses electric transportation to reduce CO2 emissions.
Button 5. Business premises
You can make your business premises more sustainable by reducing your energy consumption and turning off gas. Or you can invest in triple glazing, solar panels and insulation for the entire building. Minor adjustments, such as replacing lamps with LED lighting, are also a good step towards making your business premises more sustainable.
Example: you rent a space in a company building to your auditing firm with 10 employees. As a tenant, you are free to arrange the space to your liking, you decide how high the thermostat is and how hard the air conditioner runs. Also think about installing timers on lighting and equipment. This prevents lights from burning outside of work hours and turning on the printer unnecessarily. If you are considering your own office building, you must take several things into consideration: You must comply with the energy saving obligation and from 2023, your office must at least have energy label C.
Button 6. Transport
The easiest way to make transport sustainable is to limit commuting. You and your colleagues may be able to take the train, bus or bicycle more often. Is not that an option? Take a look at buying or leasing an electric car for you and your employees. Or go hybrid: swap office days with work days at home. If you transport goods in the city as a transport company, pay attention to the emission rules. There are more and more environmental zones in the cities. This makes it more difficult to transport goods by car and van. See if you can convert your logistics system with motor vehicles to other forms, such as transport by the electric cargo bike.
Example: you own a bakery in a big city and deliver to your home three times a week. You use a van for this. Your bus needs to be replaced. In 2025, you can no longer enter the city center with a diesel bus, because this will be an emission-free zone. So now it’s time to think about electric driving. Choose an electric van or cargo bike based on the number of orders you have now and your expectations for future orders.
Button 7. Staff
From encouraging your staff to take the train more often to ensuring proper working conditions, sustainability also affects your personnel policy. Actively involve your employees in making the company more sustainable, so that you motivate them to make an effort. Attach an annual plan to the sustainability themes that you consider important that everyone can implement from their department and role. Here, too, Business Model Canvas can be a tool for mapping all the steps. In addition, you can stimulate or discourage staff from making certain choices or choosing a combination of both.
Example: You own a marketing agency and want to make your business more sustainable. Therefore, you are starting a working group made up of colleagues who are passionate about sustainability and colleagues who are not or hardly involved in this in their private lives. You present this group of topics, such as: how can we make commuting more sustainable? This gave rise to the idea of replacing leasing cars with a first-class public transport subscription on the condition that travel time is also working time, because you can work comfortably from a first-class passenger compartment. This allows employees to travel outside of rush hour and be home earlier. For those employees who still want to get to the office by car, you charge a parking fee.