When it comes to sustainability in business, Black-owned companies are often overlooked. And yet, it’s clear this shouldn’t be the case. Quoted in a story at Architectural Digest, Johanna Howard (founder of Johanna Howard Home) put it bluntly: she argued that sustainability as a concept is “presented as being a very white enterprise,” on the assumption that people of colour either aren’t interested in or aren’t able to afford sustainable goods.
“Sustainability is about doing more with less, and this is what Black people do on a daily basis,” Howard went on to say. “So there are many more Black product designers, interior designers, and Black-owned companies using principles of sustainability than the industry is aware of.” These comments lay to rest the unfounded (and often unspoken) notion that Black communities and Black-owned businesses are somehow less concerned with sustainability. And to support any Black business owners who may even now be looking to embrace more sustainable practices, we take a look at some of the simple and effective ways companies today are improving their environmental responsibilities.
Offer Remote Work
This definitely depends on the business and the positions available, but if there’s a possibility to offer any remote positions, do it. Remote work provides employees with the opportunity to contribute from home with more manageable schedules. In doing so, it leads to a healthier work-life balance, with Harvard Business Review reporting that women of colour have benefited in particular from widespread shifts away from pre-pandemic workplace norms. Beyond benefits to employees though, this is also a sustainable solution. Empowering employees to work from home cuts down on commutes associated with your business and may in time allow you to reduce the space and energy needed to maintain a physical workplace.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
We’ve all heard this (or similar mantras) a million times, and yet there are usually ways in which businesses can still go further to implement the idea. So, to provide a few specific tips: Look for disposable items that can be replaced with longer-lasting alternatives (switching to energy-saving lightbulbs is a popular example). Reuse items such as cardboard boxes before throwing them away. And be sure to check on local regulations with regards to recycling, so that you’re disposing of materials as responsibly as possible. These are all simple tips, but if your business can act on them it will be well on its way to leaving a smaller footprint.
Ditch the Business Cards
On the subject of reducing waste, one simple but effective move more businesses are making is eliminating paper business cards. Believe it or not, these simple little identifiers account for a massive amount of material waste, from tree destruction to fossil fuel use. And unfortunately, trendy companies making it easier for people to personalize their own cards online have only made these problems worse. That said, there are electronic alternatives now, and per an overview of digital business cards at Doorway, they offer convenient solutions without waste. Basically, these cards enable users to swap business and contact information between phones (including via in-person transfers), without the need for any material consumption.
Use LED Lighting
We alluded to switching out lightbulbs above, and this makes for another simple and effective solution to consider. Plus, it’s a pretty easy thing to keep up with after the initial switch. Changing out your incandescent and halogen bulbs for LED alternatives can result in your business using 75% less energy, according to Energy.gov. As an added bonus, it’ll bring your electricity bill down, too – something every business can benefit from.
Work Together With Other Green Companies
Black-owned businesses need to stick together and support each other in general, whenever it’s reasonable to do so. In a similar way though, companies that do their best to incorporate sustainability into their practices tend to benefit from working with other, like-minded companies. Encourage your peers (or friendly competitors) to take sustainable steps, and share ideas together. You never know when a fellow business owner will drop some wisdom on you that’ll change your whole outlook, or in this case open your eyes to a green solution you hadn’t previously considered. We hope these suggestions will lead you toward more sustainable solutions in your business!