It’s hard enough for manufacturers to take their product to market, from design and production to marketing and logistics. And as we learned last month, emerging brands have their hands full just trying to find the right manufacturer to partner with.

Yet Carolyn Casavan, a sustainability consultant, recently profiled on The Art of Manufacturing podcast and a guest speaker at our MAKE IT Monthly series last month, argues that it’s equally important for companies to consider purpose-driven practices. And fortunately, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

In her talk on purpose-driven manufacturing, Carolyn gave an overview of why and how to impact your bottom line with sustainable practices. Sustainability includes the financial, environmental, and community components of building a company that lasts. She describes it is as “a systems-based approach that focuses on integrated solutions which results in co-benefits and minimize negative impacts.” Not only is it a good thing to do, Carolyn says, but it actually makes sense from a business point.

Carolyn highlighted two studies. One was a Deloitte survey of over 6,000 retail shoppers that found green consumers shop more frequently, purchase more per trip, and less price sensitive than the average shopper. They were also loyal to brands and the sustainability practices of the company drove the buying decisions of over half of the shoppers surveyed. A Harvard Business School study also concluded that high-sustainability companies outperform others both in market performance and in market performance.

But sustainability isn’t just a branding statregy. And you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company or run your own factory to have a sustainability program. According to Carolyn, all companies big and small can do it.

Here were some of her tips:

  • Find Your Fit: “Sustainability is a spectrum, and not everybody is going to be on the same place on that spectrum,” Carolyn said. For instance, a company just starting out can use simple, low-cost solutions that can later be assessed and formalized into a plan that can be integrated into all levels of operation. This can lead companies to see gaps in the market and possibilities for sustainable products.
  • Do Your Research: Get ideas from your competitors and your supply chain. Also assess what you’re doing within your own company such as characterizing your operations and looking at the sustainability of your product.
  • Get Your Team, Get To Work: You’ll want to gather people from all aspects of your company, from finance to HR even to people who will actually implement the plan you want in place. From there, you should understand existing needs within your operations that can be achieved with sustainable practices. Then understand available resources such as funding and manpower to keep the program running.
  • Set Out the Vision: Set up guiding principles with your team, which will help in making decisions. In terms of setting goals, Carolyn recommended as per advice from a friend, “Start small, and think big…” Short goals should be easily achieveable, and long term goals are where you can aim high.
  • Stay Open: And most importantly, keep an open mind in the process. “Let people come up with ideas.” It’s impressive how invested the team gets when they feel they are doing good, and they are empowered to come up with solutions. And it’s amazing what you learn when you dig in.

Carolyn shared numerous surprising stories of how companies improved their sustainability and what they learned in the process, such as finding massive solvent waste, getting a co-benefit of reduced sick days, and discovering that the biggest source of energy waste isn’t during peak hours but at night.

Sustainability should be an essential part of your company’s business strategy. With a little focus, your business will see the benefits throughout its operations.

If you’re interested in learning more, watch Carolyn’s talk here or listenening to her interview here.