The economic reality is that sustainability’s triple bottom line includes planet, people and profit. The great news for businesses and individuals is that there are a growing number of sustainable best practices on how to grow business profits or individual wealth. These best practices have been developed by credible and experienced people. Their best practices are proven to cut costs, reduce environmental impacts and increase human health. Most can be implemented in a relatively short time often without investing a dime.
Five proven sustainable best practices that grow individual wealth
The following are five sustainable best practices proven to put money in your pocket, improve your health and make a difference:
1. Use cash, not plastic. People who use cash rather than debit or credit cards buy less. People who use cash rather than plastic have more money available for building wealth. By buying less these people also have a smaller environmental impact. The behavioral economics of using debit or credit cards is called “time shifting.” Using plastic rather than cash breaks the time link between buying and paying. Impulse purchasing is too often the result from breaking this time link. It can also lead to overdraft fees or credit card debt or both. Impulse purchasing and its associated costs from banking fees is the number one barrier to creating individual wealth.
2. Measure your impact. I put measuring second in this list for two reasons. One is that we do what we measure. The second reason is to soften the pretty hard line I just took on using electronic commerce.
First, let’s deal with the issue of measurement. Research on dieting provides telling insights on the importance of setting goals. This research finds that most us fail at dieting typically within seven days of starting a diet. The reason for this colossal failure is tied to the setting of unrealistic goals that seek losing too much too fast in the wrong ways.
Life cycle analysis (LCA) is a key tool used by businesses to identify leverage points that enable sustainable results. Applied to an individual seeking to lose weight a life cycle analysis would quantify how you are sourcing and burning calories. This data is then analyzed to identify realistic performance goals and rank leverage points that enable the highest amount of result for the least amount of input.
This is where I soften my hard stance on e-commerce. How many of us really account for our spending and environmental impacts? We would never run our businesses like we run our lives. Tracking costs like water bills, utility bills, gasoline purchases and the size of waste streams is a proven path for reducing business costs and environmental impacts. It also works on an individual level. And one of the key advantages of e-commerce is that much of this cost tracking data is readily provided.
3. Drink tap water. At a penny a gallon there is no better bargain than tap water. In comparison the average American spends $850 per year on soda. In total, Americans spend $65 billion per year on soda. There is also the human health costs tied to soda measured by our obesity and diabetes epidemic. Soda also generates a significant environmental impact on our water systems because it takes four units of water to produce one unit of soda. Then there is the waste stream and its costs tied to discarded soda bottles and cans. Drinking tap water is a guaranteed path for saving money and the environment.
4. Walk to affordable health care. Walking briskly for 20 minutes everyday will reduce the risk of diabetes by 50 percent, cut the risk of heart disease by 30 percent and for women reduce the risk of breast cancer by 20 percent. If you want to control the cost of your health care then the most effective step you can take is walking 20 minutes per day. And its free!
5. Stop “feel good” shopping. Most of what we buy today is not out of need. We buy because it makes us feel good. I started my business career as the youngest buyer for what was then America’s largest department store chain. The two keys to my success were price promotions and fashion trends. In behavioral economics the consumer susceptibility to promotion is called optimizing short run satisfaction. Snagging a bargain-priced item, even if we do not need it, is thrilling at the point of sale. Emotional satisfaction and increased self-imagine occurs when we discover a fashion item that we can share with friends and immortalize through postings on Facebook and Pinterest. Price promotions and fashion-trends are the crack cocaine of retailing.
There are two best practices for avoiding impulse purchases. The first is to avoid recreational shopping. Find another way to have fun that is healthier, like walking!
The second best practice is to always shop from a list. Make a list at home and then absolutely follow this list in the store. To build buying behavior discipline begin unloading your shopping bag at home into two piles between purchases on your list and those that were not. You will be surprised at how much you spent on things you felt you did not need prior to entering a shopping environment that is designed to generate impulse purchases.
Your sustainable best practices?
Have you got a favorite proven and sustainable best practice? Please take a moment and in the spirit of giving share one or more of your sustainable best practices in the comment section below. Thank you!
Bill Roth is an economist and the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017