Sustainability. You know… that kind of sustainability, the environmental one. The kind of sustainability where as a small business owner you may find yourself asking sceptical questions like “why bother?” or “what’s in it for me?” Or you might think “we already recycle, we’re doing everything we can!”

Questions are good, but it’s more important to make sure you have informed answers – because knowledge can be turned into profit!

The word sustainability has been overused and is now often misused. So it can be tricky for a small business to find the right information and advice. However, taking some time to consider sustainability in your business can be invaluable and can actually streamline your systems and processes.

It can be a bit of a minefield and you might not know where to begin, so we have clarified some common misconceptions to help you get started…

1. Sustainability isn’t strategy

While sustainability is on the agenda for many businesses, it is often seen as a ‘nice to have’ and may appear to compete with other priorities – a kind of philanthropic gesture that is disconnected from the core of your business. However, incorporating sustainability into day-to-day operations can lead to greater operational efficiency. An integrated approach is vital and evaluating your strategies can lead to new insights about the environmental challenges, risks and opportunities for your business. When properly aligned with the competencies and objectives of your business, sustainability becomes integral – and you will start to see new environmental and financial goals (think new market opportunities, cost savings, increased productivity and streamlined performance).

2. Changes in government policy don’t affect me

Are you sure? New developments in federal or state legislation mean new opportunities and challenges will emerge that will likely impact your business. You may not be directly affected by an emissions trading scheme and you may not have to report on your environmental performance – but what about your energy use or the cost of fuel and suppliers? Will carbon pricing increase the cost of your goods, change the viability of your investments, or make business travel more expensive? Could your suppliers pass additional costs on to you because of higher prices for energy, electricity and transportation? An energy audit will establish your carbon footprint and can reveal areas in your business that might be exposed to policy effects.

3. My customers don’t care about sustainability

Sustainability is more than using a logo, it reflects the values of your business. A survey by the ABS found that almost half of small businesses in Australia invest in environmental and energy management for ethical reasons, and 38% want to reduce waste to achieve greater profitability.

A sustainability strategy can make your business stand out from the crowd, and could be a point of difference that helps to improve your competitiveness. An increasing number of organisations now require suppliers to demonstrate environmental management capabilities (like ISO 14001 certification) and government departments are looking for evidence of sustainable supply chains in tenders and contracts. So is it time to review your procurement policies and suppliers? Don’t assume that your customers don’t care about sustainability – ask them!

4. Sustainability is just for big business

Sustainability should be a consideration for every business. As a small or medium-sized business you can test, adopt and change more readily – upscaling existing initiatives is easier, and the benefits can be realised more rapidly.

So there you have it, four sustainability myths busted! The benefits of incorporating sustainable business practices are many, and by taking a proactive, integrative approach to sustainability you can save money and get ahead of the pack (97% of Queensland businesses are SMEs so it can really make you stand out from the crowd).

This article appeared first on on June 12, 2016.