Sustainability has become quite the buzzword these days. From major corporations issuing annual sustainability reports to smaller organizations working toward greener practices, it seems as though everyone is jumping on the trend of doing more with less and keeping our future global resources top of mind.
So what’s the best way to operationalize an eco-friendly concept from the idea phase to launch? As someone who walked in those shoes before, a guy with an idea for a truly eco-friendly laundry concept, I can relate to feeling both excited and overwhelmed in knowing that I have a great idea, yet not quite knowing how to launch it.
With that in mind, I wanted to offer advice to any entrepreneurial minded person with an innovative idea in the eco-friendly realm of work on how to launch a sustainable (eco-friendly) business. First, critically assess your business idea and then walk through the following steps:
Table of Contents
- 1. Define Your Purpose
- 2. Commit to Authenticity
- 3. Determine if Your Concept is Truly Sustainable
- 4. Ask Yourself Whether Your Eco-Business Can Withstand Another Recession
- 5. Does The Idea Have The ‘Wow’ Factor? Can I Create Enough Buzz About My Brand To Help it Last?
- 6. Hire Brand Ambassadors
- 7. Have Fun
1. Define Your Purpose
Identify the problem you’re trying to solve. Have you researched it extensively? Who else is trying to solve this issue? Can you carve your niche within this narrative?
2. Commit to Authenticity
Consumers are not stupid. If your business isn’t authentic, it simply will not stand up in a rapidly changing marketplace. You have to live and breathe the sustainable mission you’re presenting to the public.
3. Determine if Your Concept is Truly Sustainable
Plenty of concepts out there have latched onto the trending “green business” label without really being green. Everyone wants to be green but very few businesses succeed.
One thing our franchise, The Eco Laundry Company, has done to hold ourselves truly accountable is become a certified B Corporation. For anyone unfamiliar with what this means, B Corp certification is one of the most rigorous and trusted levels of certification available for businesses today. We are part of a handful of companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. We have to continue to meet these standards on a regular basis. B Corporation is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee, or USDA Organic certification is to milk. We’ve also partnered with nonprofits, including 1 % for the Planet, to make public our company standards to give back to environmental causes.
A suggestion I have for anyone considering launching an eco-friendly business concept: Do your homework. Look beyond your great idea and figure out practical ways you can take the serious step toward being an actively involved green business. Play devil’s advocate on your sustainability concept: How sustainable are you? Do you meet industry or best practice standards? What makes your concept truly different from the current industry paradigm?
4. Ask Yourself Whether Your Eco-Business Can Withstand Another Recession
There are certain industries that tend to withstand economic dips. They may bend, but they won’t break during a recession. One of the reasons why I chose to develop a sustainable laundry and dry cleaning company was the consistency of the industry. Our industry is tried and tested – people need to wash and dry clean their clothes.
As much as people who actually value sustainability want to leave a lasting legacy and establish businesses that reduce our carbon footprints, we need to realize that, in order to have the greatest impact, we must establish viable businesses that will provide us with both the voice and buying power to spread the good word.
5. Does The Idea Have The ‘Wow’ Factor? Can I Create Enough Buzz About My Brand To Help it Last?
In a short period of time, our brand has been fortunate enough to build a large following on two continents. Our first location, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and our second location in New York City have each received local and international attention. We’re proud to have a 4.5 out of 5 review on Yelp – something that isn’t easy to come by.
Most importantly, though, our business has generated enough word-of-mouth support to really grow from the ground up. When people give you good ratings and positive feedback, it serves as a fantastic customer lead generation source – probably the best on the planet. Our eco-friendly model has helped us provide sustainable, non-toxic dry cleaning and laundry service to customers and launch a newly established franchising program.
Our reputation has opened other doors for us that continue to help us carry The Eco Laundry Company forward. As an example, we just announced a partnership with international denim retailer G-Star RAW to offer free dry cleaning for life on any garments from the brand’s RAW for the Oceans collection. The Oceans collections is a clothing line curated by Pharrell Williams and made with fabric spun from recycled ocean plastic.
Key partnerships like this one help us continue to spread the word about our sustainable dry cleaning and laundry business and support our overall mission.
6. Hire Brand Ambassadors
Your staff are on the front line, and your customers will only know as much as your employees do. Make sure they fully understand the organization’s story and have empathy for its mission. Commit to ongoing training to keep the narrative polished.
7. Have Fun
Building any business is incredibly stressful, but it’s important to create a positive atmosphere. It’s your responsibility to set that tone no matter how difficult things get along the way. Happy employees beget happy customers. Customers who meet engaged employees will respond to the positive energy by coming back again and again.
When it comes to considering whether or not you have the next eco-business solution, be sure to vet your idea. Talk to others who have done it before. Do your homework and due diligence. Be hard on yourself.
And when you feel like you have something special, jump all into your business. It’ll be one of the best decisions of your life.