Image of a Green Tech - Why Sustainability in Your SME Matters

Green Tech: Why Sustainability in Your SME Matters

Running a Small-to-Medium-Enterprise (SME) in South Africa is demanding and keeping Green Tech in mind doesn’t need to add to the burden. Not only are you competing with big organisations for a “slice of the pie”, but you also need to go the extra mile to build trust in your small brand. Added to this, SMEs need to innovate and adopt trends.

One such a trend is sustainability, particularly investing in green technology. This is important because SMEs contribute to approximately 34% of the country’s GDP and employ 50-60% of the labour force. This means that SMEs are also responsible for subsequent carbon emissions. But there is another, perhaps more important reason to going green: Consumers now expect it from you!

Read on as we look at the benefits sustainability poses for your SME and offer some practical tips on getting it right.

The Relevance of Green Tech & Sustainability in SMEs

What is Green Tech?

Green tech refers to technologies and innovations designed specifically to minimise their environmental impact or to promote sustainability. These can include renewable energy sources like solar or wind power, energy-efficient appliances, vehicles, waste reduction, recycling technologies, and more. Technologies that focus on developing solutions that contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing resource consumption, minimising pollution, and mitigating climate change.

What does sustainability mean and why should SMEs care?

Sustainability extends beyond the technological innovations and focusses more on the everyday practical side of doing good. It involves implementing a holistic approach to adopting more environmentally friendly and charitable business practices, and ensuring your business makes future-minded decisions.

Due to SMEs making up such a substantial part of the economy, there is a responsibility toward their communities and customers. And consumers do tend to watch ‘who is doing what’.

According to research conducted by Mastercard, South Africans are becoming more eco-conscious. The survey revealed that 76% of South African participants believe it is crucial for businesses and brands to prioritise environmental efforts. Additionally, 45% of respondents expressed a preference for brands that demonstrate responsibility, transparency, and honesty in their actions.

The good news is that SMEs are generally more adaptable, allowing them to take on sustainability more easily than larger corporations. Sustainable practices also do not require an everything or nothing approach. It is all about consistency.

The benefits of becoming environmentally aware in your business.

While it is interesting to learn that consumer behaviour is changing, many SME owners might wonder if it is worth the effort. These advantages could perhaps answer this question.

Attract and retain talent better.

Attracting and retaining talent is challenging at the best of times. But did you know that demonstrating a commitment to social and environmental responsibility can contribute to meaningful employment? These practices normally create a positive work environment, boosting employee morale and productivity.

Reduce costs on energy bills etc.

Every SME wants to cut costs. And adopting sustainable practices can help you do that. When you decrease energy consumption, minimise waste generation, and optimise resource usage, it all leads to lowered utility bills, waste disposal expenses, and operational overheads.

Improve your brand’s reputation.

By showing a commitment to the environment and being consistent about it, you can build a positive image for your brand and attract environmentally conscious customers.

Stand out as trailblazers in your industry.

Look around. Not enough SMEs are making the effort. It is therefore an excellent approach you can take to differentiate your business from your competitors and showcase your innovative leadership.

Image of a Globe with a green buildings - Differentiate your small business and stand out as innovators in your industry by going green.

10 Sustainable Practices to Implement

While sustainability is a journey, the smallest of changes can make a difference right now. Don’t wait until you have more staff or more time, start implementing sustainable practices as soon as possible. Here are some examples of green tech to give you a start:

1. Be More Energy Efficient
  • Upgrade to energy-efficient lighting, appliances, and equipment.
  • Implement smart energy management systems to monitor and reduce energy consumption.
2. Reduce Waste
  • Implement recycling programmes for paper, plastics, and other materials.
  • Minimise single-use items and opt for reusable or compostable alternatives.
  • Encourage employees to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
3. Conserve Water
  • Install water-saving fixtures such as low-flow toilets and faucets.
  • Implement leak detection systems.
  • Encourage water-saving practices in daily operations.
4. Reduce Commuting
  • Motivate employees to make use of alternative transportation options such as carpooling, biking, or public transport.
  • Consider virtual meetings to reduce travel-related emissions.
  • Implement hybrid working conditions.
5. Choose Greener Supply Chain Management
  • Collaborate with suppliers who prioritise sustainability and ethical practices.
  • Source materials manufactured locally.
  • Use eco-friendly packaging.
6. Buy Eco-friendly Products and Services
  • Choose eco-friendly products and services, such as recycled office supplies, energy-efficient electronics, and non-toxic cleaning products.
7. Volunteer & Donate
  • Participate in and donate money to local environmental initiatives, carbon offset and volunteering programmes, or community clean-up efforts.
  • Support and collaborate with local organisations working towards environmental conservation.
8. Invest in Green Website Hosting
  • Choose web hosting providers that prioritise renewable energy sources and energy-efficient infrastructure.
  • Green website hosting reduces the carbon footprint associated with website operation and contributes to sustainable energy practices.

Good to know:

Domains.co.za’s web hosting servers are hosted at Teraco. Teraco is the biggest data centre in Africa. Their green tech solutions include; generating a substantial amount of their own power from a large solar panel system. It also allows natural cooling down, doesn’t use a lot of water, and recycles 37% of its waste each month.

9. Install Rooftop or Vertical Gardens
  • Utilise rooftop or vertical garden installations to maximize green space.
  • These gardens help reduce heat island effects, improve air quality, and provide habitat for pollinators.
  • It is also looks beautiful and can encourage productivity at work.
10. Invest in Rooftop Solar Energy
  • Install rooftop solar panels to generate clean, renewable energy onsite.

How to develop a sustainable action plan.

Unfortunately, sustainability isn’t a plug and play solution. You need to make it your own. Take the time to talk, brainstorm and strategise a unique sustainable action plan for your SME.

Try these steps:

Obtain the relevant knowledge.

Conduct thorough research to learn what can be done and what the benefits would be for your business. This will help you make more informed decisions and be better prepared when it comes to implementation.

Consider the opportunities and talk to employees.

It is crucial to obtain the involvement of your employees as they will be the ones affected by the changes. Talk about the opportunities and get a feel for what your teams will be open to.

Set goals and strategise.

You need to hold your SME accountable and grow steadily in your efforts. Do this by setting goals and strategising. It will also help to provide direction and allow you to measure progress.

Train & reward employees.

Many sustainable practices need the ongoing involvement of employees to be effective. Everybody needs to know what they need to do and how to do it correctly, for this, training is necessary. Keep your employees motivated by incentivising them.

Make your efforts known.

It is commendable for an SME to take the time and energy to do its part for toward becoming eco and environmentally aware. But let’s be real for a moment: That’s not the only reason you are doing it. So, make your efforts known.

Be mindful of “greenwashing”. Greenwashing is when companies convey false or misleading information about their green efforts. Be factual and don’t oversell it.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • SMEs’ significant contribution to the economy means sustainability applies to them and consumers have come to expect it.
  • Green Tech refers to environmentally friendly technologies like renewables and energy-efficient products.
  • Sustainability entails adopting environmentally friendly and socially responsible business practices.
  • Becoming environmentally aware in your business can attract talent, reduce costs, improve brand reputation, and distinguish your SME as an innovative leader in the industry.
  • Every small change an SME makes can make a difference.
  • Every SME is different, and its sustainable action plan will therefore be unique.

FAQs

Why is sustainability important for SMEs?

Sustainability is crucial for SMEs because it enhances their competitiveness, reduces costs, improves brand reputation, and mitigates environmental and social risks

How can SMEs finance sustainability initiatives?

SMEs can finance sustainability initiatives through various means including grants, loans, crowdfunding, venture capital, green bonds, and government incentives for eco-friendly projects.

How can SMEs engage with stakeholders on sustainability issues?

SMEs can engage with stakeholders on issues by transparently communicating their sustainability efforts, seeking feedback, collaborating with suppliers and partners, and actively participating in industry initiatives.

What role do SMEs play in achieving global sustainability goals?

SMEs play a significant role in achieving global goals by driving innovation, adopting sustainable practices, influencing supply chains, and contributing to local economic development and social progress.

What are the challenges SMEs face when trying to be sustainable?

SMEs often encounter obstacles such as limited financial resources, lack of awareness about sustainable practices, difficulty in finding suitable green technology solutions, and navigating complex regulations and certifications. Additionally, balancing sustainability goals with immediate business priorities and maintaining competitiveness in the market can pose significant challenges.

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