Make your business more sustainable in 5 ways

Dustin Johnson
By Dustin Johnson

For almost everyone, profits are at the top of the list for why they start a business. Dreams of success and impact motivate potential and current business owners to excel in their industry. Some companies can excel financially as well as socially through sustainability practices. 

Sustainability has become a top priority for many businesses recently. This article will show you a few ways to make your small business more sustainable. There also may be a few tax advantages to going green – we’ll share those too.

What is sustainability, and why is it important?

Sustainability in business refers to a company's strategy to reduce its business practices' negative impacts on the environment and society. There are several reasons why more businesses are implementing sustainability practices. 

Let’s break down a few of them:

Consumers want it

There’s no denying it. More and more consumers are aware of how businesses affect the environment and their communities. Spearheading sustainability movements is an excellent way for businesses to overcome competition. A Nielson report found that 60 percent of global consumers make more environmentally friendly purchases after the pandemic.

Cost savings

Sustainability practices are often associated with increased costs, but there are many ways businesses can save money while going green. Companies can lower energy bills by programming thermostats, turning off lights, and using energy-efficient appliances.  

Employees support it

If you’re not motivated by customers' demands, then you’ll find motivation from the needs of potential employees. Committing to sustainability means committing to creating a healthier workplace for your staff. Better ventilation, natural lighting, and flexible work opportunities all make for a more productive and happier workforce.

Ways to make your business more sustainable

Start with an energy audit

An energy audit can reduce your business’s carbon footprint by finding areas where you waste energy. As you already know, reducing your energy consumption will save money and make your company more sustainable. An energy-efficient company uses less energy to do the same job, so an energy audit shouldn’t slow your company down.

Go paperless

Businesses have come a long way from the paper-stacked cubicles reminiscent of the Mad Men era. Companies use paper for record-keeping because it’s secure, and the cost of transitioning may not be worth it. Finances aside, it is 100% worth it to the environment to switch as much of your business to paperless as possible. Paper and paperboard still make up 23% of municipal solid waste. Currently, developed nations produce so much municipal solid waste that recycling alone can’t solve the problem it creates.

Decorate with plants inside and outside 

Adding plants to the interior and exterior of your office can benefit the environment and your staff. Plants naturally filter toxins from rooms, improving the air quality and even removing toxic substances. Studies show that plants may reduce anxiety, office hostility, chronic fatigue, and even depression. 

Terrariums are great for the office because they require very little attention. Pothos, spider plants, and cast-iron plants are good choices because they don’t need much light. Try to get as much natural light in the office as possible. This has many benefits, from reducing anxiety, broadening the number of plants that can survive in the office, and reducing energy costs.

Cut back on single-use items

Global plastics production was estimated at 390.7 million metric tons in 2021, up from 335 million in 2016. Much of the plastic produced is created for single-use products. Cutting back on single-use plastics is an issue everyone should get behind, not just businesses. Only about 9% of plastic waste generated in the U.S. is estimated to be recycled. The rest ends up in landfills and natural environments like rivers and oceans.

So what can we do about it?

First, audit every plastic in your office and look for sustainable swaps. Consider replacing plastic bottles with reusable water bottles. This can be an easy win with employees, who will likely get on board if you provide them with a branded reusable water bottle. Single-use straws and cutlery make our lives easier but seriously harm the planet. Choose disposable cutlery or ask your employees to bring their own. 

An added benefit of replacing single-use plastics is that your company may save money on restocking.

Donate items

You can donate almost everything you use in your office. Pens, pencils, chairs, and electronics can be donated to Goodwill, local charities, and schools. E-waste represents 2% of America's trash in landfills, which equals 70% of overall toxic waste. Donating to local causes and organizations can increase your company’s reputation in the local community.

Tax benefits of going green

After all, we are a tax company, so we must find a way to green sustainability to taxes. Luckily, a few tax benefits exist for businesses that commit to creating a more sustainable workplace. Federal, state, and local governments create tax credits and deductions for companies to make energy-efficient decisions.

  • Some states offer incentives/tax credits for businesses that install solar panels, and the SBA can help businesses get grants to become green-certified (and ultimately get tax benefits).
  • The Business Energy Investment Tax Credit allows a tax credit of 30 percent of the system and installation costs for renewable energy property.
  • The North Carolina government used to offer a 35% state tax credit on solar panel installations. 
  • The 179D tax deduction allows building owners to claim up to $1.80 per square foot if they install qualifying systems in buildings.
  • If you donate electronics to a qualifying nonprofit or company, you can write off the donation for the fair market value of the items.
  • If your business purchases a qualified electric vehicle, you can use the associated tax credit through Form 8910 for sole proprietors, partnerships, and S corporations or Form 3800 for C corporations.

For earth, your community, and the bottom line

Just like building your business didn’t happen overnight, neither will making it more sustainable. Utilizing strategies like starting with an energy audit, going paperless, and donating unused items will go a long way toward helping the environment. If you think your business can qualify for government tax deductions or credits, you can use a tool like ComplYant to help you keep track of necessary tax filings.  

Dustin Johnson
By Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson is a Senior Tax Research Specialist at ComplYant. Prior to joining ComplYant, he spent over eleven years performing tax research at the world’s largest tax preparation company. Dustin holds a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor. Outside of work, Dustin enjoys biking and spending time with his family.

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