Why Environmental Sustainability Matters for Business Growth


When we hear the term “sustainability,” our minds automatically think of reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment. But although it’s commonly assumed that environmental sustainability comes at the expense of profit, the answer is much more complex.

“There’s a long-standing idea that you have to choose between the environment or the economy,” says Justin Kozak, researcher and policy analyst at the Center for Planning Excellence. “But that’s not the case. Sustainability is about more than just the environment — it’s about society and the economy too.”

Despite popular misconception, environmental and economic sustainability aren’t at odds with each other. In fact, environmental sustainability provides critical support for your startup’s economic growth. Here’s how.

Sustainability Can Control Operating Costs

When your startup or small business cuts back on energy expenditures, you aren’t just supporting the environment — you’re saving money, Kozak says. Be cognizant of your energy costs and consider how those might change as you expand. Thinking proactively helps you maintain control of your costs so you can plan for growth.

Locating your business for sustainability also supports cost control and growth. Locating in an area where most of your employees live or have access to quality transit, for example, reduces carbon emissions from driving, and it also gives you access to a greater workforce pool, says Jessica Kemp, Vice President at Center for Planning Excellence. Reduced time-to-hire means less time and money lost finding the right talent.

There are other benefits, too. “It puts small businesses in closer proximity to service providers and other resources,” Kemp says. This reduces infrastructure and maintenance costs. And these small steps towards sustainability can help stretch startup dollars farther.

Responsible Organizations Attract Loyalty

A commitment to sustainability isn’t just the right thing to do: it’s also a great marketing move. Nearly 80% of Americans are more loyal to brands that are driven by a greater purpose. Share your sustainable efforts with your community. This raises awareness of your brand and drives engagement and loyalty.

“People are looking for companies to do the right thing and be conscientious about their decisions,” Kozak says. This solidifies your brand as an employer, too. “People want to work somewhere that values the place they live,” he continues. In fact, 40% of millennial employees are willing to take a pay cut to work for a sustainable company. That’s a huge advantage for a startup or small business.

Good Planning Enhances the Employee Experience

Being accessible to employees doesn’t just reduce costs. It improves the employee experience. “Less time sitting in traffic translates to happier employees with a better quality of life,” Kozak says. “These things don’t show up on your books, but they are absolutely associated with sustainability.”

Locating for sustainability also embeds you in a larger community, which is a key driver in a startup’s success. Being active in your community is a critical asset — and makes you an important community advocate.

“Cities are beginning to realize how important startups are to driving their economic growth,” Kemp says. “You can use that influence to advocate for planning practices that are going to bake sustainability into the way that communities grow and develop.”

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