Entrepreneurs have often played an important role in driving social change over the years. File Image: IOL

DURBAN - Entrepreneurs have often played an important role in driving social change over the years. 

It therefore comes as no surprise that a new wave of "ecopreneurs" – business owners whose businesses are not only driven by profit, but also by a concern for the environment – are leading the way for sustainable business practices. Outside of this movement, however, there are still many business owners who believe that sustainable business is less profitable.

Challenging this view, Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, refers to a study by global consultancy, McKinsey & Company, which shows a strong correlation between resource efficiency and financial performance among businesses.

"The same study revealed that businesses with well-rounded sustainability strategies were more attractive to investors and funders – something that is usually very important to entrepreneurs," said Mjadu.

To support business owners in their going green journey – Mjadu provides some simple and practical tips on how local entrepreneurs can embrace sustainable practices and strategies without breaking the bank.

1. Replace inefficient business assets

Something as simple as fitting energy-efficient lighting throughout your business can make a major difference to energy consumption. "In fact, the replacement of incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient (CFL or LED) lights is said to reduce electricity consumption by around 80 percent to 90 percent, depending on the sector.

For South African entrepreneurs especially, Mjadu believes that this should be a no-brainer considering the ongoing electricity tariff increases that are expected to continue over time. "So even though energy-efficient lighting may cost you fractionally more at the outset, this initial capital expense can be easily offset by the electricity savings that you’ll accumulate over time," she said.

2. Create a sustainable company culture

It is important to ensure that everyone involved in the business venture is on the same page as you in terms of sustainability. Mjadu says that the easiest way to do this is by making green thinking a part of your company culture through adhering to simple initiatives such as recycling drives and utilising green vendors or suppliers where possible.

"Other practical measures such as encouraging carpooling and public transport among employees can help in limiting the business’ pollution yield, while allowing employees the option to work from home on certain days can remove a great deal of this transport-related pollution altogether," added Mjadu.

3. Utilise resources more efficiently

As paper is still a major cause of concern for any business committed to sustainable best practice, Mjadu believes that entrepreneurs should consider going paperless wherever possible. Similarly, considering that only 16 percent of plastic is recycled in South Africa, she said that simply installing a water filtration system in the office can do wonders in terms of eliminating the need for plastic water bottles.

While many entrepreneurs may be tempted to delay the greening of their business until they are more established. Mjadu advises against this, she said, "Implementing sustainable practices and strategies into a business is only going to become more complicated as a business expands, and it is significantly more expensive for established businesses than for those that have included sustainable practices into their growth strategies from the beginning". 

"To assist with this process, winners of the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition can use their mentorship or technical assistance vouchers prize to develop their green strategies," concluded Mjadu.