Sustainable environmentalism is growing rapidly, and hopefully signaling the near end of business as usual. It’s now easier than ever to start your own green company… but what about those not-so-green that have been around for a while? Applying sustainability to a business can be very challenging, especially when it means rethinking one’s business model.

Here are 5 unexpected ways that businesses can contribute to the sustainability movement:

  1. Be an integral part of your community

Today’s consumers expect more from their companies, and community involvement is where businesses can get very creative. Companies can build a strong, positive public image while giving back by creating opportunities for their employees to volunteer for community development projects. And if you’re planning a conference or event, get local businesses involved rather than big firms. In other words, just focus on building relationships with your neighbors. A sustainable community is one that is environmentally, socially and economically healthy and resilient. Sponsoring fundraisers, investing in public space, and gifting educational tools can set the stage for a strong local network with many benefits.

  1. Consider hiring employees beyond training

If you want your business to stand out for the right reasons, consider hiring your staff beyond their traditional training. Although a criminal record isn’t the kind of qualification employers are normally looking for, ex-offenders can add value to your business. Most people who have spent time in prison struggle to get a job afterwards; if you hire them, it’s likely that they’ll be extremely grateful and look out for your company’s interests, too. Once hired, they are unlikely to quit. Not only will you help them build a life and stay out of trouble, but your business might be eligible for a tax cut and other financial benefits. No wonder Google, Facebook, Starbucks and American Airlines are already doing this!  

  1. Improve your workplace

Treat your body like a temple, and your workplace too. It might be too pricey to upgrade your whole business to being planet-friendly all at once, but every little bit helps, and periodical small improvements, according to your potential, can go a long way. If you can’t go 100% green in one go, it doesn’t mean you have to give up. Even with a lesser budget, you can start by ditching non-recyclable materials at work and ask everybody to do the same, turning the lights off when not in use, and using energy-efficient light bulbs, arranging carpools with your coworkers and/or rewarding your employees who commute rather than drive to work.

  1. Voluntary corporate carbon market

Despite all your efforts, it might just not be possible to directly lower your business’ emissions to zero for the time being. That’s why some companies are joining voluntary carbon markets, funding projects that reduce greenhouse gases elsewhere to make up for their own emissions. After calculating the emissions of your company, you can choose to purchase ‘offsets’ to counteract your impact on the planet by funding something good. Just remember that offsets do not, in any way, reduce the amount of emissions released into the atmosphere!

  1. It’s all about the culture

We like to think of sustainability as a domino effect, where one small change can propel a behavioral chain reaction all the way through society. Businesses have the power to create and shape culture, and in the end, that’s what it’s all about: identifying areas for improvement, getting everybody on board to understand what sustainability means for your business, and promoting positive values in the workplace, will make your employees and customers proud of themselves. There is no limit to what can be achieved!