How startups can stay sustainable when scaling
When you’re growing your startup, your to-do list can be never ending. From developing products and services through to building your team and securing those all-important first customers.
For many businesses, caring for the environment is rising up the to-do list. As world leaders prepare to gather in Glasgow in November for the United Nations’ COP26 summit, attention is focusing on the climate emergency like never before.
It’s rare to find a startup that hasn't expressed a commitment to sustainability. A recent survey of almost 300 European startups by TechFounders found that 86% had considered the role of sustainability in their business model.
The same survey revealed that 55% of founders believed sustainability is essential for their company’s long-term survival. Yet that recognition raises a key question – how can startups keep their green promises while growing in a competitive field?
Taking environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) seriously is now an essential financial step. Figures from investment house OnePlanetCapital showed that 70% of investors would avoid investing in companies that have a negative environmental impact.
And potential employees are voting with their feet. A study by Cone Communications found that 64% of millennials (25-40 year olds) wouldn’t work for a company without strong ESG commitments, including for the environment.
Pressure is mounting from consumers as well, with accountancy firm Deloitte’s annual review finding that Generation Z (6-24 year olds) is adopting more sustainable behaviours than any other demographic group, with 50% reducing how much they buy in total and 45% avoiding certain brands because of ethical or sustainability concerns.
While the impact for consumer-facing businesses is clear, companies working in the business-to-business arena need to sit up and pay attention too because of the increasing focus on supply chains.
With pressure from potential investors, customers, and employees, that question about maintaining green growth comes sharply into focus. Fortunately, there are steps that founders can take to stay true to their sustainable values.
Creating a sustainability plan should be your first step to align teams to a common goal and targets.
When it comes to sustainability, those targets should be based on science. The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) helps companies large and small to set and stick to those goals, with SBTi offering targeted help for smaller companies that want to set science-based targets .
A good sustainability plan includes monitoring the carbon footprint of your growing supply chain. Organisations such as The Carbon Trust can help businesses to measure the emissions from their suppliers, which can also help to improve efficiency and reduce costs.
Making sure that your electricity is generated from renewable energy is a key step to fuelling your green growth. We've heard loud and clear from businesses that they want to go green and so we made the move to power all new fixed contracts with 100% renewable electricity from our UK wind farms and hydro plants.
Ultimately, the 'greenest' unit of electricity is the one you don’t use, and so improving your energy efficiency goes hand-in-hand with sourcing green energy. Having a smart meter installed in your premises is a great first step, so you know exactly how much electricity you’re using, and then linking it to an energy management system can help you to start analysing your usage.
As startups move into their own premises, it could be as easy as installing motion detectors, so lights turn themselves off when no-one’s around. Over the summer, our experts put together a useful video discussing lessons about energy usage that we can learn from the pandemic.
Sourcing the right energy and using it efficiently will pay dividends, not only for the planet, but also for startups that want to attract investment, recruit talent, and prove their environmental credentials to potential customers.