How sustainable initiatives can help future-proof your startup

We all want to do the right thing for the environment, but amidst the demands of running a startup, well-meaning plans to be more sustainable are often put on the back burner until you have more time. 

As Dell’s Innovation Index found, 68% of respondents believe company leaders are more focused on the day-to-day running of the business than innovation. But what if implementing sustainable practices didn’t just help to secure the future of our planet, but that of your small business too?

Climate change is often seen as an innovation accelerator. As leaders seek to build sustainability into the fabric of their business, they add long-term value to customers, employees and potential investors.

Here’s how prioritizing sustainability will set your business up for long-term success.

Align with consumers’ values

The urgency surrounding the climate crisis has meant customers are making significant changes to their lifestyle and purchasing decisions in order to live more sustainably. 

Research by Deloitte found that sustainable consumer behavior is increasing year on year. Limiting consumption of single-use plastic, reducing how many products they buy and choosing products that can be recycled or repaired topped the list of sustainable consumer behaviors.

The higher value being placed on durable and locally-sourced products is compounded by the global economic squeeze, as consumers seek to cut long and short-term costs without compromising on their values. 

This shift can also be attributed to the changing demographics of customers. As the younger generations become consumers, they demand greater transparency from businesses about their supply chains and practices, and aren’t afraid to leave behind those that they find unacceptable. 

In fact, Deloitte’s research found that in 2023, 30% of consumers stopped buying certain brands or products because of ethical or environmental concerns. Additionally, 27% said they would trust a brand more if they actively pursued net zero.

Businesses that build sustainability into their practices, are transparent about their policies and take care to avoid ‘greenwashing’ will be putting themselves in prime position to win over these eco-conscious consumers.

Enable tech-led innovation

Innovation involves doing something differently to how it’s currently done – which means that pursuing sustainable initiatives is inherently innovative. But the potential for eco-friendly business practices and innovation to go hand in hand is even more significant than that.

Innovative technology plays a central role in helping startups identify ways to be more sustainable. You can use artificial intelligence to find unethical links in your supply chain, optimize delivery systems to reduce emissions and monitor your own energy usage. All of these changes will improve your startup’s sustainability, but also make you more resilient to future market challenges.

Cutting-edge tech like AI can be used to make your business more efficient and productive as well. It can automate tasks such as data reporting, saving you time and freeing you up to focus on more strategic activities. You can also use it to analyze your internal processes and find inefficiencies or bottlenecks that could be streamlined.

Attract and retain sustainability-minded talent

A strong innovation culture is essential to attracting and retaining top talent. Dell’s Innovation Index found that almost six in 10 employees fear their organization will be irrelevant in three to five years, based on how well it’s currently keeping up with the innovation pipeline.

Adopting sustainable initiatives demonstrates that your startup is a place where innovation is celebrated. It’s also a clear indicator that your business is actively staying ahead of the curve and building a structure for the long term – essential criteria for employees looking for a business they can grow alongside.

Keep in mind that the upcoming generation of employees are acutely aware of climate change too, and have a strong commitment to sustainability. They tend to make decisions that align with their own ethical values, whether it’s what to buy or where to work. 

When you’re competing against large companies that are able to offer higher salaries, being a sustainable startup offers something more than just a transactional relationship – it’s a chance to help implement the changes they want to see.

Add value to your investment pitch

If you’re ready to seek investment to grow your business, it’s essential to be able to differentiate your business from other startups.

Just like employees, investors will be looking for evidence of financial resilience and opportunities for long-term growth – but sustainability is fast becoming a valuable addition to pitches.

Green credentials go a long way with startup investors. Impact investing, the practice of choosing investments which generate positive social or environmental change as well as financial returns, is on the rise and will continue to be a major trend over the next few years.

But the truly innovative startups are the ones that can demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, not just talk about it. Make sure you can show investors the sustainable initiatives you’ve implemented and the results they’ve generated, as well as what you want to improve in the future. This will demonstrate your passion for sustainability as a founder and the exciting investment opportunity that your startup presents.


Be inspired by other women founders

There are so many ways to embed sustainability into your startup that it can be hard to know what to pursue. Getting advice and ideas from other entrepreneurs is a valuable way to kickstart your sustainability initiatives.


The Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) brings women entrepreneurs together from around the world. As a member, you’ll be able to connect with like-minded individuals, share experiences and get advice from founders who have been on the same journey.


Find out more here.


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