With a new generation of sustainability-minded consumers establishing itself on the global scene, smarter business practices have become the price of entry. According to a report from Nielsen, 81% of respondents in a global survey strongly believe that companies should do their part to improve the environment. Where established industry titans fail to meet expectations, disruptors have a golden opportunity to take control.
Startup founders and other business leaders should consider the advantages of a sustainable overhaul. Not only do consumers appreciate environmental friendliness, but more sustainable practices at one business can start a chain reaction throughout an entire industry. It only takes one person with a vision to spark a sustainable revolution. And in most cases, setting a new trend for the market comes with a hefty payday.
Sustainability opens up opportunities for entrepreneurs in a wide variety of industries.
Not sure where to start a sustainable enterprise? Don’t worry — plenty of industries have room for newcomers. These three thriving industries pose serious opportunities for entrepreneurs with an eye toward sustainability:
Everyone wears clothes. Not all clothing makers take their responsibility for the world’s well-being seriously, however. A few brands have emerged to change that narrative, and their efforts are finding traction with a generation of consumers eager to put their money where their morals are.
Clothing company Alternative Apparel has found a way to stand out in a crowded fashion space by putting sustainability at the core of the company. Alternative Apparel makes its products using low-impact dyes and biodegradable fabric softener to ensure every part of its manufacturing process remains earth-friendly. From materials to packaging to workplace conditions for workers around the world, Alternative Apparel has set an example for the fashion industry to follow.
Not all clothing brands have hopped on the sustainability train, but fortunately, the trend is catching on. Brands like H&M and Columbia’s Prana have turned toward more sustainable production processes and clothing lines, spurred by small businesses paving the way.
Don’t mistake the fashion industry’s growing enthusiasm for sustainability as saturation, though. This market offers ample opportunity for new brands to connect with sustainability-minded audiences that crave clothing that makes them look good and feel good at the same time.
2. Small Consumer Goods
In today’s throwaway society, small goods can turn into trash in the blink of an eye. From costumes to tape dispensers, all those little luxuries that fill the gaps in human life come from somewhere.
Sadly, most small goods makers barely know the meaning of the word “reuse.” Most products don’t cost much to make, so until now, everyone has felt comfortable turning unused goods into trash.
New attitudes toward consumerism have changed that dynamic. Consumers today are far more aware of all the little things they buy, and most people don’t want to fill up their dumpsters any more often than necessary. Companies that find ways to declutter the small goods industry can quickly build up their fan bases and steal some of the market share that mass manufacturers have dominated for so long.
Mobile phone case maker Pela has taken this call to heart by bringing sustainability to an industry not known for environmentalist roots. Pela allows its customers to send in their old cases for recycling or reuse, dramatically cutting down on waste and creating a closed-loop manufacturing process. Hopefully, other brands in this industry will follow Pela’s example and make sustainable practices the norm in an industry that still has a long way to go.
3. Information Technology and Computer Hardware
Shortly after the bitcoin bonanza hit consumers in 2017, environmentalists began to reel at the hidden cost of all that digital currency. Estimates put global bitcoin power consumption at about the same level as all of Ireland, for context. That’s a lot of energy for a technology that prides itself on accessibility.
As much as businesses today focus on data and smarter tools, the hardware and IT solutions powering those priorities face steep challenges to remain sustainable. Some devices use inordinate amounts of power, and many require rare metals in their construction. To address these issues, businesses must be careful about how they source their materials and how their clients use the finished products.
A few companies have risen to take on the challenge. One contender, TCO Certified, prides itself on its environmentally and socially responsible IT solutions. This company not only seeks to create sustainable products on its own, but also to empower its clients to use TCO Certified products and infrastructure to reach their own sustainability goals. Like other B2B industries, IT could lay the foundation for a massive shift in the popularity and feasibility of sustainable business.
Sustainability entrepreneurs can change the world. The more work they do, the better off everyone will be. The New Climate Economy report found that a global switch to sustainability would save the world $26 trillion by 2030. Not every business is on board yet, but as those savings turn into revenue and increased market share, more companies will wish they’d jumped on the sustainability train when it was leaving the station.