Seven ways to make your business more sustainable

An energy label requirement, emissions-free zones in city centres, and high energy rates. Making your business more sustainable is becoming a necessity. But that takes time and money, neither of which you as a business owner always have to spare. The good news: you can make your business more sustainable in small or bigger steps. Discover 7 ways to make your business greener.

Becoming more sustainable looks different for every entrepreneur. Do you often take your van into the inner city? You will have to deal with emissions-free zones from 2025. If you have an office, it must have energy label C since 1 January 2023. See which sustainability laws and regulations affect your business the most, and make those business areas sustainable first.

You can apply sustainability within your business in these 7 areas:

1. A sustainable business plan

Making your business sustainable, where do you start? Get insight into this with the Business Model Canvas. You can use this to map out your business model, making it easier to focus on and adjust for sustainability.

Example: as the owner of a catering business, you will have to deal with the ban on disposable plastic. You have 2 options: replacing coffee cups and meal containers with recyclable variants, or passing on the cost of the plastic to your customer. Pay close attention to your customers’ wishes using building block 1. Are your customers environmentally aware? Then it makes sense to go for recyclable packaging. If convenience is most important to your customers, you can charge extra for plastic packaging.

2. Sustainableproducts and production processes

You can make your products and your production processes more sustainable in several areas. For example, you can opt for sustainable raw materials (in Dutch) that are recyclable or biodegradable. Or use recycled materials instead.

Do you need to comply with the energy saving obligation? Then check the Approved Measures List for Energy Saving (Informatiebank erkende maatregelen energiebesparing, in Dutch) to see how you can make your production process sustainable. And through the Social Sustainability Fund, you and your suppliers can get subsidies to make the production chain more sustainable.

You can also make a difference in your product design. Use parts that are easy to replace. Then your customer does not have to throw away the entire product if a part breaks.

Example: you have your own clothing line. You make the clothes from cellulose. These are wood fibres that are ultimately completely recyclable. You collect clothing your customers no longer use and process these into new garments. Is the clothing still repairable? Offer a repair service.

3. Disposing sustainably

Organise your production processes to reuse or resell leftover materials as much as possible. Separate production waste, for example. Be careful here: clean plastic waste can be reused, while contaminated plastic materials cannot. In the office, avoid waste by replacing cardboard cups with reusable mugs. And try to offer as much paperwork as possible digitally. For example, send digital invoices instead of invoices by post.

Example: you have an online electronics shop and your customers return 3 out of 10 parcels. Often the customer has already opened the packaging, so you can no longer sell the products as new. By offering returned items as “second-chance items” at a discount. Then you avoid having to throw them away and you also limit negative impact on your profits.

4. Sustainable purchasing

In your purchasing process, do not only look at price and quality, but also at the impact on the environment, people and society. Determine what is most important to you and your customers, and what parts of your procurement process you can make more sustainable.

Use the CSR Risk Checker and find out more about the origin of the products you prevent and export.

Do you supply to large businesses? Then from 2024 you will probably have to account to these partners for the impact your business has on the world.

Example: as a developer in construction, you notice that your customers are increasingly interested in the material origin of your window frames. Take a close look at your purchasing policy. Are your window frames are not being produced sustainably? Look for another supplier that provides sustainable raw materials and uses electric transport to cut CO2 emissions.

5. Making your business premises more sustainable

For your business premises, consider the energy saving obligation. Do you have an office? Then you must also have at least energy label C. You preserve your premises by using less energy and getting rid of the gas. Or invest in triple glazing, solar panels and insulation for the entire building. Smaller adjustments also help. Switch to LED lighting, for example.

Example: you rent space in a business premises for your accounting firm with 10 employees. Place time switches on lights and equipment. This will prevent lights being on outside working hours and the printer being left on unnecessarily.

Energy saving checker

Use the Energy Savings Checker (in Dutch) to check which legal obligations apply to your business or premises in terms of saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions.

6. Sustainable transport

The easiest way to make transport more sustainable is to reduce commuting. You and your colleagues may be able to go by train, bus or bike more often. Is that not an option? Consider purchasing or leasing an electric car for yourself and your employees. Or start hybrid working: switch between office and home working days. Do you often need to be in city centres? More and more zero emission zones are appearing in cities. Buy an electric van, or investigate if electric cargo bikes are an option.

Example: you own a bakery in a city and do home deliveries 3 times a week, using a van. Your van is due for replacement. In 2025, you will no longer be allowed to enter the inner city with a diesel van, as it will become a zero-emissions zone. So, now is the time to think about going electric. Based on the number of orders you have now, and on the number of orders you are expecting, you can either choose an electric van or a cargo bicycle.

7. Sustainability: get your staff involved

Get your employees actively involved in making the business more sustainable. Ask them for ideas and expectations. Motivate them to actively contribute to this change. Make an annual plan together that includes concrete steps to become more sustainable. The Business Model Canvas is a good tool to map out all the steps.

Example: you own a marketing agency, and you want to make your business more sustainable. You start a work group with colleagues who are passionate about sustainability as well as those who have little or no interest in it. This group looks at your commuting. The idea comes up to exchange lease cars for a first-class public transport pass. This would allow employees to use their travel time as working time.