Five ways we’ve built sustainability into every aspect of our business


What does sustainability in business mean to you?

You might immediately think of things like a paperless office or recycling waste. But for a small business to be truly sustainable, we need to take a holistic approach.

1. Managing risk

The highest level interpretation of our sustainability is how sustainable we are as an entity in our community.

We have responsibilities that can destabilise the future of the business if they aren’t managed well. Risk is part of business, but responsible and sustainable approaches to risk can include market testing and measuring (as boring as it is), innovative inventory management solutions, and applying lean frameworks to systems to avoid wasted time and work hours.

2. Managing cashflow

The responsibilities previously mentioned also include profitability. And this includes paying ourselves as business owners a sustainable wage.

In the entrepreneurial mindset, we can be prone to underpaying ourselves simply because we’re holding a vision that’s rewarding in itself. Profitability is one of the key markers of a sustainable business because an unprofitable business is never going to sustain itself.

3. Regular systems assessments

We run a ‘sustainability framework’ that assesses every aspect of what we do. It looks at where we’re at, what’s working and what’s not, what ‘Good’ looks like, what ‘Better would be and a vision of the ‘Best’.

An example of this framework in action was our packaging. During due diligence, we came across so many options for green alternatives that were actually more environmentally hazardous than plastic.

The 100 per cent post-consumer recycled PET we eventually used was made from recycled water bottles, which could then be recycled again.

Once we reached a level of production that could meet the larger MOQs required for other options we were able to move into the ‘Better’ column and found a supplier who could level up our packaging with 100 per cent recycled paper made in Australia and printed with our gorgeous designs in full colour using vegetable inks.

Our vision in the ‘Best’ column includes pie-in-the-sky ideas like package-free products and Apiwaps-as-packaging.

4. Watch everything that comes in and goes out

Every purchase the business makes is checked against our values. Is it really necessary? Can we find it second-hand? Will it last? Is it made from sustainable materials? Will those materials end up in landfills?

Our new office had a tin roof with no insulation when we moved in. I delayed making a decision because my initial research showed that many options for insulating were not meeting our values. My hesitation led to damaged stock during a summer heatwave, and I realised I had to compromise.

When it comes to our waste, the cardboard cores from our textiles head to the local preschool for play. Pallet wrap goes to commercial soft plastics recyclers and the cardboard cartons get used over and over until it’s time for recycling. We have a factory outlet store that sells our offcut scraps as firestarters and creased Apiwraps as seconds.

5. Sustainable staff

Hiring for sustainability means that a cultural fit is more important than skills. Having a team who loves the business, shares the same values and cares about that mission is fundamental.

Keeping those people learning and excited about their role and growing with the business is key to making their passion sustainable. Taking short courses, training and career development on the job, as well as making space for changing personal needs means a mutually beneficial long-term arrangement that will survive the ups and downs of business and life.

Sustainability in small businesses isn’t just about using less paper in your office. It’s about considering the future your business is contributing to, and building longevity into your vision.