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Wake up, go to work, go home, repeat…. 24 actionable bullet points on how to make this more Sustainable

We’ve got it all wrong. We’ve misunderstood the whole time.

We keep talking about sustainability as though it’s an ethereal concept that's disconnected from our everyday lives. This isn’t true, and I'm going to show you why sustainability matters and how it can be firmly grounded in our everyday lives and can fit your routine as naturally as putting your socks on feels.

Our business activities are part of a giant ecosystem. We work with employees, suppliers, the earth, our time, and money every day. None of these things are free, all of them come at a cost and are constrained by finite resources:

  • There are only 24 hours in a day. We can’t increase the amount of time available to us (even though I wish that the day was 36 hours long so I would have more time to read books).
  • We have a fixed amount of money to pay ourselves and our employees
  • We live on one planet that provides everything that we enjoy

The million-dollar question: how do we maximize these constraints to provide the best possible outcomes for all of our stakeholders in a way that can endure for a lifetime?

Why Sustainability Matters

Sustainability can seem like just a buzzword or a boogyman that you hear about from people on the fringes, but this isn’t true; it’s a way of life that all of us implement.

For example, consider the following actions that are unsustainable:

  • If you go to bed at 5 AM and only get three hours of sleep, you probably aren’t going to feel very good at work the next day. If you continue to do this for a long period of time you’ll start to feel sick and it will be harder to healthily function.

  • Instead of eating three meals a day, you decide to only eat chocolate ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s of course….), foregoing the nutrition and vitamins that you need.

  • You don’t pay your bills for an entire month. Your car bill, credit card, and house payments get sent to collections.

Hopefully, you wouldn’t do these things. All of these actions are part of personal sustainability; we have to stay on top of our responsibilities to live a good standard of life.

The same exact same principles apply to your business. As a business owner, you are a steward to your employees, yourself, your customers, and the environment. All of these actions ripple across each one of these categories and have a subtle but massive impact.

The most complicated challenge that we face involves navigating these constraints in a way that we can continue be profitable while also being wise and considerate stewards.

Why does this matter? What’s in it for me by being sustainable?

In order to take action, we have to understand what’s in it for us. All of us are inherently motivated by self-interest.

Sustainability won’t just help your conscience feel well, it’s the only true way for your business to endure the test of time; if you’re burning yourself out, treating your employees like shit, or engaging in shady dealings with your customers, your business obviously isn’t going to be around for that long.

Surprisingly, this knowledge isn’t as commonplace as you think. Companies of all stripes from relatively obscure ones to corporate behemoths like Google are being held accountable for the scope of their impact in all of these dimensions. Your business is certainly no exception. The great resignation is an indicator that employees are tired of the malaise and that they aren't going to accept being treated poorly. 

Successful owners only achieve lasting success by creating a sustainable lifestyle and business operation. There is an enormous upside to gain by doing this, but if you forego sustainable investment in human capital you do so at your own peril; you have everything to gain and everything to lose.

Below are some actionable steps that you can start taking TODAY in your business when it comes to managing human capital and interactions with other people. These recommendations are universal, every business owner can start implementing them today. 

Honesty in marketing and advertising

Customers buy from people that they trust. Trust is in short supply today. We receive more offers soliciting our attention than we ever have in human history and people are understandingly skeptical.

Trust doesn’t just get you over the hump, it’s the foundation of an entire relationship.

  • You build trust in your business by sharing a value proposition and creating marketing material that effectively conveys this message.

  • You want your marketing to be noticed and creative, but in order to keep your customers coming back, it also needs to be honest and authentic. Bad marketing (or any dishonest interactions with your customer) is unsustainable.

Transparency in Your Operations

  • If your customers understand what they are paying for, they will be more likely to stay loyal and use your services.

  • Make sure that you are upfront about this.

  • Costs will continue to rise, and customers will only be able to justify the expense if they sense honesty and transparency in your dealings. Let your customers know upfront what they are paying for and what they are getting. This article here provides a good example of the type of dishonest communication that you want to avoid.

Close-up image of human hand and pot with money treePay Your Employees a Fair Wage

My friend recently told me that the local amusement park is now charging 80 dollars for single-day day admission. This increase from their 60-dollar ticket price is far from unusual. In today’s economy, everyone is raising prices. What disgusted me is that this theme park is hiring summer staff for a mere 10 dollars an hour. In essence, their margins likely went up, while wages at the park haven’t grown at all. This is unacceptable. Don’t be that guy or girl.

  • Everyone has loved ones to take care of and personal responsibilities.

  • Your employees show up every day and put in hard work to make your business successful. Because of this, there are lots of ways in which you are responsible for their success.

  • When you pay your employees what they are truly worth they will be loyal to your business and will treat your customers even better because they will take more pride in the work that they showcase.

  • Expenses have greatly increased over the last year, and they will continue to do so in the future. None of this absolves us from the responsibility to care for the people that are most responsible for our success. There will be more to go around for everyone when we are generous with our earnings.

Give Back to your Community

  • Our community is the lifeblood of our personal relationships. It provides the structure, tools, and relationships that connect us to each other.

  • As a business owner, pick a project that you care about in your local community and invest in it. Whether it’s time, money, or other resources, whenever you do this, you’re investing in the next generation of leaders.

  • Your investment makes the world a better place for all of us to live.

  • Every small bit counts, every effort is something that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you


Spend time with your loved ones and make sure that you have a good work/life balance

 streetball basketball game with two young player at early morning on city court

Continue to Educate Yourself

  • We have an unprecedented level of knowledge available at our fingertips; it has never been easier to learn something in human history than it is now.

  • Knowledge makes it possible to become a better version of ourselves, to do more, and become more. There is truly no limit to our progression and what we are capable of. You’ll be a better business owner, a better leader, and contribute to a better future.


Invest in your employees’ success and training

  • People are motivated by purpose in every aspect of their life including work. It’s easy to forget this sometimes when we have to work long hours and go through our daily work routine.


The Golden Rule of Sustainability: Give more than You Take

All of these guidelines involve giving more than you take.

  • A sustainable action by nature is something that can exist in perpetuity and is reproducible by its nature.

  • As a steward and leader, you should always give more than you take.

  • Give more in your time, relationships, education, etc. in order for our efforts to make our business efforts make a difference, we need to give more than we take.

Portrait of an African American family looking very happy outdoors


Sustainability is here to stay.

It’s not just a clever PR strategy to make your business look chicer or keep up with the times. In reality, sustainability is about conducting your business activities in such a way that they can endure profitably over the long term. It’s acting ethically, dealing honestly, not burning yourself out, respecting the environment, treating your customers right, and so much more. We all inhabit a finite ecosystem that we must treat with judiciousness and prudence.

Many of the topics covered in this article might not be ways that you initially considered to fall under the category of sustainability, but they are all vitally important.

Everyone has something in their power that they can start implementing today to make their business practices more sustainable. Sustainability will pay dividends for you. Your customers will respect you more for doing these things and you will also respect yourself more. All business owners are leaders. You are one of them. Lead out, and be an agent of change in this world that we all have the privilege to share.

This post is part of a multi-post series on sustainability.

My next post in this series will address the environment and how we can implement sustainable environmental practices in our business operations.

sustainability, Grow your business


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