Environmental Sustainability and Your Small Business

One of the most important, and most talked about, trends for businesses today is sustainability. Simply defined, sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet theirs.


Consumers are also paying attention to sustainability and are choosing to engage with those businesses that are working toward making a positive impact. Attention to and investment in sustainable practices can be good for your small business’ bottom line.



What Is Sustainability?


Companies that are working toward a sustainable business model make conscious decisions about having a minimal negative impact on the environment, society, and/or economy. It is often referred to as aiming to achieve the triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit.


People. When a company is concerned with employee welfare and fair trade practices, they are working toward social sustainability. Businesses that actively support charitable causes with time and financial contributions are keeping their community as part of their goals.


Planet. Businesses that practice environmental sustainability consider resource consumption, land use, and waste management.


Profit. The third leg of the triple bottom line is the one most people are familiar with – the financial well-being of a company.


Many entrepreneurs and small business’ that Northern Initiatives supports have sustainability as part of their business plans. Highlighted below are two such partners, WaterFire Vineyards and Velodrome Coffee Company, and their efforts to become environmentally sustainable.



WaterFire Vineyards


Chantal Lefebvre, an environmental scientist by training, and her husband, Mike Newman, first sowed the fruits of WaterFire Vineyards in 2009. Located in Kewadin, Michigan, the couple is passionate about protecting the land in the Great Lakes Basin.


WaterFire Vineyards is the first vineyard in Michigan to be SIP certified. The Sustainability In Practice (SIP) Program is one of the most rigorous in the country, requiring not only organic farming practices but also specific guidelines for water and energy conservation, air quality standards, social responsibilities, and more.


The result is chemical free wines and a company that cares about its employees and preserving the environment for future generations. And WaterFire Vineyards customers are responding with rave reviews.



Velodrome Coffee Company


When Velodrome Coffee Company opened in 2016, Brice Sturmer set out to achieve a zero environmental waste impact within two years. “After announcing our goal…we learned a lot about recycling real fast,” says Brice.


Sturmer and his operating partner, Paul Vafa, worked on solutions in their Marquette, Michigan community for recycling, composting, and trash collection. For example, biodegradable waste, such as coffee grounds, now finds its way to nourish local community gardens. It has been an educational experience for the team, learning that some plastic-coated materials are difficult to recycle, as well as just teaching patrons how to sort their trash.


Sturmer sees standards improved every day from customer suggestions and collaborating with other local businesses. For a complete recap of what they learned, visit the Velodrome Coffee Company blog here.


While sustainability is a buzz-worthy trend right now, requiring extra time and attention, all indicators point out that it is here to stay. An investment in sustainable business practices is an investment for all of us.


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