For decades, there has been increasing interest in the sustainability movement and a shift towards more eco-friendly practices: composting is a trend, residential recycling bins are commonplace and products made with less plastic or recycled materials are available in most major retail stores.

But even with all the progress we have made, we have not done enough. There is still hope, however. A new generation of startups is carving a path towards making sustainability the status quo, and the impact they are having could quite literally change the world.

Making the shift to more sustainable practices isn’t a simple task, but startups are the key to ensuring that we’ll have a planet to call home decades into the future. Here are three ways startups can lead the way on sustainability and how you and your startup can be a part of it.

3 Reasons Why Startups Can (and Should) Lead the Way on Sustainability

  1. Their Smaller Size Allows Startups to Be Nimble
  2. Startups Are Born Innovators
  3. Being Closer to the Consumer Means More Direct Feedback


1. Their Smaller Size Allows Startups to Be Nimble

Major manufacturers may produce the largest share of consumer goods, but their strength is also their downfall. Most companies have their products down to a science and generate massive production runs, but their size makes it nearly impossible for them to shift gears quickly and adapt to changes in technology or consumer preference.

Startups, on the other hand, are scrappy and built to be nimble. They track trends and design products that can evolve over time, instead of remaining pigeonholed by an original design or scale of production. Where large corporations may see problems, startups see opportunities, and that perspective is essential.

When our company was just starting out, we had to pivot a lot. Our initial idea was to target a major commercial market with huge revenue potential, but we got a lot of feedback that suggested we had ignored a smaller consumer market that could be just as lucrative. By making that change to appeal to a different market than we originally planned, we’re seeing better margins. The growth may be slower, but it’s helping us to build up to what we ultimately want to do.


2. Startups Are Born Innovators

By definition, startups are innovative. Whether that means building on previous ideas or inventing something totally new, there is a startup out there tackling many of the major sustainability challenges we face today. Major corporations, by contrast, sit comfortably in the niches they’ve carved out over years or even decades, producing the same products with few changes, the perfect paradigm of, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Change is uncomfortable, but startups live and breathe that discomfort because they are often mission-driven in search of a solution. Instead of being satisfied with good enough, they question the things larger companies take for granted and intentionally seek better ways of doing things.

Innovation is the point at which traditional industries feel the crush. It’s particularly challenging to drive change within a conservative industry, because no one wants to pay for the risk if everything already works. But startups have it in their DNA to take risks and do new things, and in our case, the fight to make a business out of a sustainable solution has encouraged a lot of innovation and creativity.

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3. Being Closer to the Consumer Means More Direct Feedback

When it comes down to it, startups are on the ground floor of product and service creation, and the things that they produce are often based on direct feedback from the consumers they are targeting. Large companies often have the luxury of cornering the market share in a given industry, without a need to solicit consumer opinions or interest.

But sustainable practices aren’t built in a vacuum, they require a partnership between producer and consumers to be successful. Because startups are steeped in the reality of what everyday people want, they are able to produce products that are geared towards those needs and reach a larger audience of interested consumers as a result.

All three of these reasons point to one specific conclusion: the marriage of large corporations and startups is the key to helping businesses across the country become more sustainable. Startups lack the ability to scale, just as major manufacturers lack the flexibility to pivot, but by combining the strengths of each, we will soon see a world in which even the largest companies are incorporating sustainable principles into their business models.

No matter your industry, this collaboration is key, and seeking out a strategic partner with the power to make an impact is the first step towards real change. Each individual startup alone may not be able to reach the majority of consumers, but when paired with an industry powerhouse, the possibilities for a greener future are endless. Startups are leading the way towards a more sustainable world, and by combining forces with larger corporations, you can help make that goal a reality.

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