Small businesses are a big part of the climate solution
Large businesses attract more attention for their sustainability progress – or lack thereof – but small businesses have an equally important role to play when it comes to combatting climate change. In this post, we’re shining a light on why small businesses should go green, what challenges they face, and how companies and their communities stand to benefit.
Why should small businesses focus on sustainability?
Many of the small business leaders we spoke to were quick to point out that while their company is small, their collective impact is huge. Olivia Onderdonk, Head of Sustainability and Impact at Neuron Mobility, noted that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) make up 98% of all businesses across Canada and can be a driving force in how businesses contribute to decarbonization.
According to Statistics Canada, small businesses employed 10.3 million Canadians in 2021 – nearly two-thirds of the total labour force. Medium enterprises employed a further 3.4 million people. “Small hinges can open large doors,” said Tom Collver, Co-Founder of pb+j. “It’s important for small businesses to consider the ways they can make a positive environmental impact.”
How do SMEs benefit from going green?
The small business we reached out to have a variety of reasons for bullfrogpowering their operations and lessening their environmental impact. For many successful SMEs, sustainability is at the core of their mission and brand identity. Others spoke about how important the climate is to their staff and customers.
“Initially, sustainability can be your point of differentiation,” said Brian Titus, President of Garrison Brewing. “As more businesses follow suit, you’re still a pioneer and early changemaker. That’s something that should create a real sense of pride for your employees and customers alike.”
As a property developer, owner, and manager, Kallo Developments sees going green as a responsibility rather than a choice. “What we build today will last for generations,” said Tom Kanellopoulos, Vice President of Kallo Developments. “If we want to continue to work in urban environments and enjoy this planet, we need to design new projects to higher sustainability standards.”
Larry McCabe, CEO of Pazzo Pizzeria and Café Bouffon, said that good environmental practices attract young workers to the restaurant, and that the company’s green initiatives always see the most engagement on social media. He’s also noticed the influence that small businesses have on one another. “Small businesses have always been a source of innovation in our economy, and seeing how others are greening their operations enhances our own ability to think outside traditional categories.”
Erika Froese, owner and creator of Mother-ease, believes that the biggest advantage to small businesses going green is making customers aware that they’re doing their part for the climate. “Our customers may be choosing our cloth diapers for environmental impact reasons, and we want to actively show them that sustainability is important to us as well.”
What are small businesses’ biggest sustainability challenges?
For small and medium enterprises, the biggest sustainability challenge is often knowing where to start – or finding the time to figure it out.
As a restauranteur, Larry is trying to address several areas simultaneously. That includes diverting waste, sourcing locally, switching to renewable energy, composting, and evolving their takeout program. “With so many options and no clear roadmap, sometimes you run into a fatigue wall,” Larry admitted. He recommends making quarterly decisions to keep things moving without getting overwhelmed.
PB&J has a long history of reducing their environmental impact – they’ve been bullfrogpowered for more than a decade! But finding reputable solutions isn’t always easy. “Outside of choosing green electricity, we did find it challenging to allocate more time into researching and vetting other ways to reduce our footprint,” Tom Collver said. “Bullfrog helped us find opportunities to make an impact and implement those initiatives seamlessly.” Seeking out sustainability experts and talking with other small business owners is a great way to find simple and impactful ideas.
As a small business spread across more than two dozen cities, Neuron Mobility devotes a lot of time to ensure they’re meeting their sustainability commitments everywhere. “Given our global spread and our commitment to measuring our emissions across Scope 1, 2, and 3, our emissions accounting process is quite intensive,” said Olivia. “But it’s something we believe strongly in and are committed to getting right.” Weaving sustainability into the fabric of your business, and distributing resources accordingly, ensures that environmental action isn’t left behind.
Tom Kanellopoulos revealed that the main challenge in real estate is cost – both capital and operational. “Reducing the environmental footprint of existing properties can be difficult, but we make the effort to carry out upgrades like LED retrofits and mechanical equipment replacement. Greening our energy supply with Bullfrog Power allows us to achieve our goals faster at a reasonable cost.”
Big impacts from small businesses
All of the SMEs we spoke to mentioned how happy their customers and partners are to hear that their business is working to address their environmental impact.
Erika told Bullfrog that customers often reach out to say that they chose Mother-ease’s brand of reusable diapers because they’ve been bullfrogpowered since 2007. Larry said that choosing green electricity has received a very positive response at Pazzo Pizzeria, particularly among the large group of people who bullfrogpower their homes.
Olivia noted that Neuron's riders are more conscious than ever about the decisions they make. "The fact that our e-scooter and e-bike rides are bullfrogpowered gives them confidence that they're making the sustainable choice," she said.
Garrison Brewing has also connected with patrons over green energy. “Our customers are curious about what it means to be bullfrogpowered and proud that their favourite brewery takes environmental action seriously,” Brian told us. “Either way, it’s a great conversation to have over a local craft beer!”
Choosing green energy or starting another sustainability program at a small business may seem daunting at first. But no matter how small your green team is, you’ll never be alone – shared values like environmental action go a long way towards making a community.