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6 AFFORDABLE Ways to Introduce  Sustainability Models within your Business

Sustainable office

Sustainability and Your Business

Six cost-effective and scalable ways to make an impact

One of the best things about sustainability is that it’s for everyone and every business. You don’t need to have vast resources to launch a multifaceted sustainability plan. And you don’t need to make huge changes all at once. You can take steps to make your company sustainable whether you’re a start-up, a regional brand, or a global corporation.

As we discussed in a previous blog [LINK blog 1], sustainability is the ethical and essential way of living and doing business in the modern world.

A research paper by the Department of Management at the University of Dąbrowa Górnicza in Poland has elegantly defined what a sustainable business model is. The sustainable business involves building the long-term value of a socially responsible company. It is built by the combined use of the corporate social responsibility and value-based management concepts. This helps meet the needs of stakeholders and shareholders. It balances company potential to generate value allocated in a sustainable way, allowing the continuity of company management.

The path to sustainability doesn't need to be complicated or beyond your company's fiscal means. Your business can start on a much more humble path. The beauty of sustainability is that it isn’t a zero sum game. It’s scalable. Industry giants and mom-and-pop organizations alike can participate in, benefit from, and do their part for sustainability.

Why Scalability is Key

Smart sustainability efforts are scalable. Scalability is already an important element of any business. It is defined as a “key parameter that determines the company’s ability to grow, and it is based on the contention that not every unit of revenue is generated by an equal cost unit.” Whether you’re mass producing widgets throughout the world at an international corporation or trying to get your e-commerce shop off the ground, scalability must be built into your business model if you’re going to be successful.

Sustainability and scalability go hand-in-hand. A company that starts by eliminating plastic bottles should not anticipate ending their sustainability efforts there, at the water’s edge, so to speak. There is always room for growth and improvement--this is a truth belonging to both sustainability and scalability.

reduce plastic

Why Choose Sustainability

In addition to being good for the planet and society, sustainability is good for your bottom line.

Studies have shown that simply having a plan for sustainability can give your business a competitive advantage. A report done by CDP found that, “corporations that are actively managing and planning for climate change secure an 18% higher return on investment (ROI) than companies that aren’t – and 67% higher than companies who refuse to disclose their emissions.”

Furthermore, companies that are making low carbon investments report, according to Corporate Leaders Group, an internal rate of return averaging 27%.

The ideas we’re discussing here will set your business up for sustainability success and will ultimately pay for themselves.

Low Carbon Business Sense

Where to Start?

When it comes to sustainability, there are very few barriers to entry. In fact, one of the biggest stumbling blocks companies experience is the perception that sustainability is expensive and complicated. This is not the case, and we are here to dispel this myth. When thinking about the choices you can make to engender sustainability in your own business, it’s helpful to think of the famous quote: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. . . You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

And you and your business can certainly do your part. In the list below, we will give you “beginner” and “pro” versions of all our suggestions. Is your business ready to dip its toes in the waters of sustainability or jump right in the deep end? It’s up to you.

So where can your business start? How about the breakroom?


Build a Better Breakroom

Break rooms can look innocent enough, with communal appliances and drawers full of miscellaneous cutlery. But don’t be fooled. Your break room is bursting with opportunities to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Whether you go “pro” or start with the basics, you’ll save time, money, and energy with these tips.



  • Banish plastic water bottles by giving employees reusable water containers to drink from throughout the day. Go the extra mile and make those containers branded with your company name and logo.
  • Use real knives, forks, and spoons instead of plastic ones or encourage employees to bring from home.
  • Replace vending machines full of plastic wrappers with packaging-free options. Consider having fresh snacks available as well.
  • Supply paper straws instead of plastic.


  • Buy new, energy efficient appliances. If that refrigerator is older than the intern, it’s time for it to go.
  • Install water filtration systems and water coolers with all the bells and whistles, including carbonation and flavor options.
  • Grow your own snacks with hydroponic and space-saving planters.
  • Install sensors to turn off lights and thermostats when the break room is not in use.


Create a Win-Win with Telecommuting

Covid-19 has forced businesses across the globe to adjust their day-to-day. For many, this means telecommuting. Working from home can, indeed, work for you and your employees. It’s not always ideal, but smart HR departments are problem solving with work from home capabilities. Working remotely benefits the earth, too. Fewer commuters means fewer emissions from cars. Bonus: Working from home increases employee retention and decreases operating costs.



  • Give employees the option of working from home one day a week. If it’s working out, increase the number of days they can work out of the office.
  • Look for helpful management tools such as Slack or similar platforms which have dashboards for communication and can keep employees on the same page, even when they aren’t even in the same area code.


  • Ditch the office: Rent space as needed for company get-togethers and meetings, but keep employees at home.
  • Make efforts to travel less as a company. Weigh the costs and benefits of travel. Maybe it makes more sense to drive instead of fly? And when you do drive, perhaps spring for that electric car and utilize car pooling. Or perhaps the tradeshow you go to every year can be attended virtually.

Rethinking the status quo can save time, money, and the environment.


Re-think Paper Use

Going paperless saves trees and makes a lot of financial sense. The UK’s NHS has estimated a savings of 4.4 billion pounds with its “Paperless 2020” efforts. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that the US government spends $930 million in unnecessary and redundant printing. Additionally, it’s estimated that the annual cost of filing, storing and recovering paper was estimated by Gartner to be between $25 billion and $35 billion.

Reduce your paper use and you reduce your spending. Plus, you’re helping to stop dangerous paper production practices that destroy 30 million acres of forest annually.

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When you do have to use paper, opt for recycled paper. In the early days of paper recycling, we felt good about doing our part for sustainability, but the outlook was grim, literally, thanks to the gray paper that was our only option. Luckily, we have come a long way when it comes to recycled paper. Now, it’s crisp and bright.

Currently, China and the United States hold the top two spots for largest global paper consumption. Initiatives to use less paper globally are important--and nowhere is more urgent than in these two countries.


  • Keep a scrap paper box by the printer so mistakes can be reused and not just thrown away.
  • Encourage employees to convert to electronic files.
  • Protect the paper you have--not every employee needs access to the printer and reams of copy paper.


  • Convert to online programs that can manage your correspondence and files. It’s a lot easier to quit paper than you might think. It’s also more efficient.
  • Relying on paper is an antiquated way of doing business. Explore online editing tools and signature pads that make going paperless even easier.


Temper Temperatures

We’re not here to tell you that keeping the office at 67 degrees year round will make all the difference in the world. It could, theoretically, if by “all the difference” you mean half the office is always miserable, but it’s not worth it. Instead, get smart with your temperature controls. Employees can be comfortable at the same time your business can be sustainable.


  • Set your heating and cooling temperatures at the most eco-friendly setting on evenings and weekends.


  • Consider getting a smart thermostat to maximize your sustainability efforts.
  • Reconfigure offices to make better use of space--or better yet, encourage employees to work from home when possible.


Keep Humans Healthy

Caring for the health of your employees should always be a top priority. And, it can also improve your sustainability scores. Fewer sick days reduce cost, and healthier habits go hand-in-hand with sustainability.

But it’s not just your employees’ physical health you should be concerned with. Mental health plays an important role in retaining employees and reducing waste as well. Having a strong sustainability plan can help with that, too.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “One study found that morale was 55% better in companies with strong sustainability programs, compared to those with poor ones, and employee loyalty was 38% better.” These factors translate to reduced absenteeism and improved productivity. Companies with environmental standards report a 16% increase in productivity over firms that do not have them.

Moreover, employees feel better about themselves, their roles, and their employer when they feel part of “a broader effort.”


  • Offer health savings accounts
  • Include mental health coverage in compensation packages
  • Incentivize healthy habits:
    • Offer discounts on CSAs
    • Encourage biking or walking to work
    • Give breaks for walks
    • Offer lunch yoga
    • Provide gym memberships or onsite workout equipment


  • Develop a long-term plan with HR to work towards improved employee health
  • Connect your employees to health apps on their phones that monitor weight, steps, and caloric intake and overall health goals
  • Use education and guest lectures to create a culture of healthy habits


Create a Culture of Collaboration

Great ideas happen everywhere and come from everyone. Don’t let sustainability efforts be top down or dictated by a few members of a committee. Get everyone onboard and let the ideas come from all levels of the company. Engage your employees and they will engage with sustainability efforts.



  • Offer gift cards or other incentives for helpful sustainability suggestions
  • Have company clean up days where teams work on a sustainability project


  • Start a company-wide sustainability task force. Get input from all levels and departments
  • Educate employees on the importance of sustainability
  • Collaborate with experts to train all levels of leadership about sustainability trends and best practices



Sustainability when approached from with scalability, is more accessible than your company may have realized. Better, scalable practices are within reach. Start small or make a big impact right away. It’s up to you. Don’t forget, there are plenty of resources out there. Companies like Overlap are committed to helping organizations of all sizes connect with sustainability experts for education, content, training, and more. Check out Overlap [hyperlink OVLP site] today to learn more about our easy to use booking platform.


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