Sustainable development for small businesses: simple actions in 3 parts

While many large corporations, organizations and municipalities have already integrated sustainable development practices into their daily lives, for small local businesses, following suit does not always seem easy.

Yet sustainability for small businesses is undeniably profitable. Environmentally and socially advanced companies show superior financial performance. They attract and retain employees more easily and face lower financial and reputational risks.

So why are some of them still reluctant to get started? Lack of manpower, lack of access to expertise, funding and lack of tools that stick to their own reality are the most cited reasons. This is why the SADC and CAE advisors who support small businesses in the field are able to guide you through simple, realistic sustainable development practices that are adapted to the available resources.


What is sustainable development for SME’s?

The approach aims to ensure that the activities of the company have a positive impact on its business environment and its community through the progressive adoption of management practices that improve its performance in terms of:

  • financial
  • environmental
  • social

The process can be applied to all types of businesses and can be adapted according to the available resources, even minimal ones. Where to start? Sustainable development for small businesses is accessible, starting with very simple actions that focus on 3 axes. It’s your turn!

1. The environment and sustainable development for small businesses

When we talk about sustainability for small businesses, the first idea that comes to mind is the impact on the environment. But how to include practices that will help its preservation without a large financial investment?

Starting with simple, but consistent actions is often the best way to generate lasting change. To achieve this, you could comb through certain elements that are part of the daily operation of your business. Here are some examples of small gestures with a big impact:

Energy efficiency :

  • Installing electronic thermostats can save up to 10% of your annual heating costs.
  • Develop an incentive to remind employees to turn off behind them to avoid leaving lights on unnecessarily.
  • Changing your traditional lighting to LED technology saves 85%.
  • Maintaining your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system can reduce your bill by approximately 15-20% annually.


  • Try to generate as little as possible.
  • Recycling costs less than $5 per cubic meter, compared to a cost of $6 to $15 to dispose of the same amount of waste.
  • Have you been interested in the circular economy? Is there another business in your area that could use your waste?
  • Dispose of your obsolete electronic equipment at the drop-off point closest to you.
  • Activate the duplex option of your photocopiers and printers.
  • Avoid unnecessary packaging, to save money.
  • Large volume of cardboard? Get a cardboard compactor and resell them.


  • Prefer telephone or videoconference meetings when possible.
  • Would planning carpooling within your team be possible?
  • If you offer a delivery service, would it be possible to equip yourself with a hybrid car for this task?
  • Consolidate your routes with delivery route optimization software.
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated once a month and save 3% fuel.

Eco-responsibility is increasingly one of the priorities of our governments. It is easy to predict that in a few years, new standards will be applied in this direction. Why not start changing your habits now?

2. Sustainable development for small businesses: social component

Carrying out sustainable development actions for small businesses is an excellent way to address the problems of attracting and retaining workers. Here are some simple things to think about that could help you contribute to the well-being of your employees:

  • Offer a supervised telework option to your employees.
  • Invest in the health of your employees and benefit from better performance on their part, for example: workstation ergonomics, physical activity incentive, gym membership, bike rack, etc.).
  • Invest in the skills development of your employees.
  • Demonstrate your recognition and highlight the successes of your employees. Social media can be a good platform to do this. Feeling that you are making a difference within your team is extremely rewarding and helps create a sense of belonging.
  • Foster team spirit by organizing activities outside of work. It can be as simple as gathering outside when the weather is nice.
  • Encourage your employees to rest. For example, if an employee works in the evening, avoid, if possible, having him return first thing the next day.
  • Involve your employees in your sustainable development approach.
  • Create a sustainable development committee if your employees show an interest in it.
  • Make time and money available to your employees to support them in carrying out environmental and social initiatives.

3. Sustainable development for small businesses and the economy

To respond to the economic aspect of sustainable development, small businesses can make some eco-responsible changes in their production method and in the purchase of their raw materials. Entrepreneurs enjoy economic growth without harming the environmental health and human resource health of their region. Become a partner of your local economy:

  • Favor local suppliers: saves on transport costs. At the same time, inform consumers.
  • Encourage local retailers for your regular purchases (paper, hygiene products, household products, light bulbs, etc.).
  • Buy fair trade coffee and mention it to your customers when they come to meet you.
  • Buy and use reusable coffee filters.
  • Choose paper containing post-consumer fibres.
  • Provide local Christmas gifts to your employees.
  • Subscribing to daily newspapers or magazines in electronic format instead of paper.

Ready to integrate sustainable development for your small business? SADC and CAE advisors will be able to advise you and guide you to the right resources to optimize your actions.

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