The Environmental Responsibilities of Entrepreneurs and SMEs



In our current times, disregarding environmental issues or failing to comply with the minimum set of sustainability rules is not only bad for business but humankind as well. Whoever thinks that only “Big Oil,” or other corporations have environmental responsibilities cannot be more wrong. Solo entrepreneurs, small businesses, and even freelancers need to step up and up their ante when it comes to respecting and enforcing practices that strengthen our joint sustainability efforts. 

The First Order of Business: Compliance with Environmental Legislations and Policies

When you start building a business or become an independent contractor, among the first things you do is to fill out the paperwork and commit to comply with the current federal and state environmental laws. Depending on the sector you are active in, you might have to follow stricter or looser rules, but the current state of affairs mandate that you have to consider the environment in your daily business practices. 

Businesses that go green and implement principles of sustainability in their business models fare better than others do. But is it enough to use recycled paper in the office or to install LED lights in the room you work in as a freelancer? When it comes to walking the walk – not just talking the talk – what are your environmental responsibilities?

Understand Your Role in Environmental Protection

Indeed, you cannot compare an entrepreneur, an independent contractor, or an SME with one of the big players in the oil business, mining, fracking, transportation, agriculture, and so on. Still, you cannot dismiss the impact of small businesses on the environment, either. On the contrary, now more than ever, SMEs have a more significant say and power in the global environmental protection efforts. The most sensible thing to do in this case is to understand your responsibility and liability from both a moral and a legal point of view. 

Incorporate Environmental Policies into Your Business Model

The first thing you should do is consult with a team of environmental attorneys that know policies inside and out. Tell them about your business, start-up, or project and ask them for their help with drafting environmental policies for your firm or practice. With an ecological management system in place – one that you follow – you will minimize the risk of engaging in unintentional environmental violations – while building a brand that takes pride in its sustainability efforts. 

Having an environmental policy in place also reduces the risk of dealing with an environmental claim case from customers, the community you work in, and other parties. Instead of being on the wrong side of the law, it is preferable to become a genuine advocate of sustainability. A team of environmental attorneys can work with you to build an ecological methodology for your business that you can follow and improve as time goes. 

Here are some guidelines on how you can create environmental policies for your start-up or entrepreneurial project:

  • Identify the areas where you can improve the efficiency of your operations;
  • Put in place guidelines and procedures to ensure and verify that all your business aspects follow federal and state environmental policies and rules;
  • Draft guidelines and methodologies to reduce energy consumption and lower your carbon footprint;
  • Address recycling, waste reduction, and waste disposal;
  • Review your legal environmental requirements and focus on those policy elements that deliver verifiable proof of compliance with all parties involved;
  • Address the issues of the supply chain pollution challenges;
  • Create guidelines for your company or your name’s association with other businesses known for unethical environmental practices;
  • Draft guidelines and CSR procedures that encourage environmental charity and volunteering with your employees.

In a world where consumers are 60% more likely to buy products from a brand or hire services from a person that proves are environmentally aware, not having environmental policies in place means you are shooting yourself in the foot. Also, remember that the same customers could drop your brand in the blink of an eye if you associate with publicly known polluters.  

Keep Your Promises

Small businesses and entrepreneurs face plenty of challenges when it comes to implementing environmental management systems. Far from being perfect, these systems still need plenty of tweaks and adaptations from company to company. 

However, if you want to be relevant as a start-up, an entrepreneur, or a contractor on today’s marketplace, you need to walk that walk and allow people to see it and even follow your example. When it comes to bragging about going green, some of the most staggering examples of hypocrisy and lying by omission come from the fashion and cosmetic industries. Do not make promises, you cannot keep, and if you make them, ensure that you, your customers, and your business partners rise to the expectations.