Sustainability is a vital aspect of how every business should ideally operate. To be successful, all businesses should be sustainable, but this element comes naturally to small business firms. More than an ethical framework, sustainability is the very core of their existence and survival. Given the limited capital and other resources, small production firms judiciously utilise every inch of the raw material available to them to acquire and maximise gains. Besides, the future course of the firm also relies on its sustainable working pattern of a firm, be it economic sustainability, environmental sustainability or social sustainability.
In small-scale businesses, achieving economic sustainability is paramount as making a basic amount of money is important for its survival to cover the fixed costs, minimum wages and to provide a basic income to the owner. Then comes environmental sustainability. It brings into consideration the optimal utilisation of energy, water, raw materials, and smart treatment of waste products – disposal and creation of by-products.
It also brings into account the quantitative and qualitative control over operations as using any resource more than its fair share burdens the firm with an extra and hidden cost to bear. This issue, which until recently was seen as a secondary issue or even a non-issue, is now a high-priority action required at both individual and state levels.
Now comes social sustainability, which forms the face of a company. It is important for a firm to treat its customers, employees as well as suppliers/ partners with utmost respect and consideration. This element helps the firm in relation-building, which eventually leads to growth and profit-making.
The tricky element in managing sustainability emerges when businesses step out of production to look into packaging, branding and additional multifarious post-sale services. Starting with the packaging, most of the factories that support these processes require a minimum order. That minimum order is even a huge mark for small-scale producers to reach and indirectly benefits bigger firms, given the economies of scale.
Larger firms have huge profit margins as well as have the ability to place larger orders which adds to their investment and re-investment ability and further brings down their overall cost of production, giving them a competitive edge. Small-scale manufacturers can beat their unfair scale issue with the use of CNC plotters and cutters/laser cutters. It allows businesses to create their own packaging. It not only gives them a better outlook but also helps them save their overall packaging costs, as these businesses can even reuse existing boxes (especially from Amazon).
Apart from branding and packaging, marketing plays a huge role in the success and position of any business. There has been an ongoing trend of using sustainability as a firm’s USP. The external and rosy projection of sustainability without generating much real impact is termed “Greenwashing”. Many businesses, especially big brands, use this harmful and deceitful practice as they claim they are using sustainable materials, whereas the fact is far from reality. Smaller companies need the proper support and right channels to publicise their truly sustainable practices and make their message reach their targeted customers.
Therefore, sustainability is way beyond following greener environmental practices. It comprises techniques which help businesses sustain, survive, and thrive. It is directly linked to the growth and resilience of any business and acts as the ideal and secret component behind the long-term success of any business.
Sarwarish is the founder and accessories designer at HSIRA WRAS.
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