10 MISTAKES SMALL BUSINESSES MAKE WHEN STARTING THEIR SUSTAINABILITY JOURNEY
1. They don't document their plans
Many small businesses rely on a couple of people running them. They have plans, but they are all in their heads. Documenting business plans and procedures is important to reduce risks and ensure business sustainability. Writing down your processes and strategies makes you think of what you’re doing (and what you’re not doing) so that you can make better decisions and more easily introduce someone new to the business.
Did you know? You get access to templates and examples of business, marketing, operational and environmental management plans when you register for Ecotourism Australia’s certifications.
2. They don’t mitigate risks
Risk assessment can be overlooked by small business owners who sometimes stick to very basic categories. It’s important to take the time to brainstorm, list and prioritise risks, and find strategies to mitigate them. A crisis is always overwhelming and brings a lot of things to think about, all at once. Having procedures and strategies that were prepared with a clear head without all the emotions and stress can help make better decisions when an incident happens.
3. They focus only on the environment
When talking about sustainability, it is, of course, fundamental to consider the environment. But sustainability isn’t just about being eco-friendly. Taking care of the planet is only one side of it, and a business isn’t sustainable if it doesn’t consider the three pillars: planet, profit and people. Businesses sometimes overlook the support they provide to the local community, any issues arising in the community and how they respect the local culture.
Did you know? If you’re an Australian nature-based business, you can register for our Quick ECO Scan and find out how you’re performing across the eight sections of the ECO Certification.
4. They stick to the basic requirements
Aiming too big and trying to do everything at once can be counterproductive. However, it’s also important not to settle for basic rules. Recycling and offsetting are good, but they don’t make a business sustainable. Sustainable businesses should aim at having practices that go further than what should be the norm and always have measures for continuous improvement in mind.
“In ecotourism, it’s not enough just to do no harm. It's really by you being there, you are making the environment better.” – Rod Hillman, Ecotourism Australia CEO
5. They don’t engage with their staff in the process
Staff should be aware of the objectives of the business, as a minimum. But giving them opportunities to participate in developing the strategies and provide feedback on the implementation is the best way to have them engaged and use all the skills you can get to improve your practices. It can also be an excellent retention strategy as employees may find it important to make an impact and be heard and will be proud to be involved in your sustainability efforts. In The Sustainability Advantage (2002), a survey showed that 20% of employees were more likely to stay with their employers if they liked the business’ sustainability initiatives.
6. They don’t engage with their suppliers
It is complex to consider all the impacts of your supply chain, but can you really claim to be sustainable if you work with suppliers that aren’t taking care of the planet and their local communities?
Reviewing your suppliers’ credentials and policies and sending them your expectations or feedback so that they can improve their operations is important for your business sustainability. You should always consider the triple bottom line impacts (social, environmental, financial) when making purchasing decisions.
7. They don’t measure performance
There’s a common saying: “you cannot control what you don’t measure”. Businesses need performance indicators, not just a list of green initiatives. Can you claim that you reduce your waste if you don’t measure it? The same goes for carbon emissions, water or energy, to name a few.
Measuring can also help you focus on what’s important.
8. They don’t tell their story
There are no benefits from being quiet about your business’ sustainability efforts. Educating customers and all stakeholders about sustainability can have big positive impacts. Putting your efforts out there is also a way to formalise your commitment and inspire staff and other businesses. With more and more people and businesses aware of the importance of being sustainable, it can even become a selling point.
Did you know? Ecotourism Australia loves sharing their members’ stories. Once you are certified, make sure you share your news stories with us!
9. They expect quick results
Success never comes overnight, and that’s the same with sustainability success. Businesses that start the sustainability journey to get quick marketing results and more sales will be disappointed. Sustainability is a long-term journey with long-term benefits.
10. They don’t get audited
Audits are excellent to get expert feedback and improvement suggestions on your business’ operations. And they are also an excellent way to get efforts rewarded and gain trust from stakeholders that the business actually does what it says it does.
Did you know? Your certification with Ecotourism Australia includes regular audits with sustainable tourism experts who provide valuable feedback for your business.
“Our experience with our first Audit was made a pleasurable and encouraging experience. Fiona was professional, friendly and extremely helpful and reassuring. Her explanations and advice with each topic discussed was invaluable. We have found our business outside of the normal Ecotourism experience and her enthusiasm and advice to help us fine tune our experience and niches was invaluable. Thank you Fiona!” - Hook-A-Barra, Ecotourism certified, QLD (2019)
[Cover photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash]