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Kickstart your sustainability journey

Experts say it’s more important to have a plan and take small, steady steps instead of aiming for perfection.

One of the best strategic decisions a small business can make is realigning goals around sustainability. It can contribute to cost savings, enhance brand reputation, improve customer loyalty and even future-proof your business. The only catch: you have to bring everyone in your business on the journey for it to really have impact. Here, Camilla Waterhouse, Executive Manager of Environment, Social and Governance in CommBank’s business bank, discusses how to reach out for the right support, get started and stick with it.

When it comes to sustainability, understanding your unique operating context is key

No small business is the same, which means the path to taking those all-important actions will be unique, too. The one thing everyone needs to do, however, is come up with a plan. “Before diving into action, it’s crucial a small business gains clarity on their operating landscape and material sustainability issues,” says Waterhouse. “This will ensure actions are prioritised effectively and are meaningful to the business, people and the planet.”

If you’re not sure where to start, the right digital tool can help


CommBank research found that 28% of small businesses simply don’t have the time and resources to figure out how to act more sustainably1. “To help customers achieve environmental outcomes while reducing costs and enhancing performance, CommBank developed the Sustainability Action Tool that suggests potential actions businesses can take,” says Waterhouse, noting this may include conducting an energy audit, switching to new technology like cloud computing services and learning how to reduce or dispose of waste. The tool begins with a short series of questions to identify the areas of sustainability that an individual business can have the greatest impact on, before providing insights into potential actions.

Investing in actions now may save your business money in the long run

“It’s important to acknowledge that we’re operating in a context of cost pressures that are being felt by Australians and Australian businesses,” says Waterhouse. It’s tough for small businesses to decide whether it’s worthwhile adding to their financial pressures now, even when it’s clear that certain sustainable investments will lower their operating costs in the long term, such as power bills or waste disposal. Waterhouse suggests considering the upside, too: “These investments can open up new revenue streams or deepen relationships as customers start to see your business as a sustainable option.” They may also lead to profits that can be reinvested back into the business.

Sustainability steps can set your small businesses up for the future

With the world moving towards a low-carbon economy, many experts believe that businesses that don’t adapt may be left behind. “In addition to managing the increasing impacts of climate change – which include physical risks, such as damage or disruptions from weather events, and transition risks, such as increased regulation and heightened stakeholder expectations – embracing sustainability has the potential to unlock enormous opportunities,” says Waterhouse. “Operating an optimised supply chain with improved energy management and circular economy principles can lead to resource efficiency and overall cost savings.” First-movers in a new market can maximise these opportunities, building customer loyalty and market share.

There are smart ways to get around the costs

One of the major obstacles for small business owners when it comes to acting on sustainability is cost, according to CommBank research1. The bank’s Green Vehicles and Equipment Finance loan helps businesses switch to green assets that can support their sustainability goals by covering 100% of the purchase price and supporting infrastructure, such as charging and batteries.

Don’t forget to bring your people on the journey

“People are at the centre of each business,” says Waterhouse. “Companies that want to drive sustainability transformation must ensure they have the right capabilities and foundation in place to succeed.” Developing capability will set businesses up for long-term success and has the potential to build employee engagement. Potential actions include employee training, creating accountability and incentives, and ensuring robust data capabilities and reporting systems exist. “The more sustainability is embedded into the organisation as business-as-usual, the more successful it will be in achieving its goals.”


Want to identify opportunities to reduce your environmental impact?

Explore useful resources and offers for your business with CommBank’s award-winning2 Sustainability Action Tool.

Sustainability Action Tool


Things you should know

1 CBA launches small business Sustainability Action Tool
2 Social, Sustainable & Responsible Banking Gold Winner, 2023 Qorus – Accenture Banking Innovation Awards.
This article provides general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as personal financial product advice. The views expressed by contributors are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of CBA. As the information has been provided without considering your objectives, financial situation or needs, you should, before acting on this information, consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and Terms and Conditions, and whether the product is appropriate to your circumstances. You should also consider whether seeking independent professional legal, tax and financial advice is necessary. Every effort has been taken to ensure the information was correct as at the time of printing but it may be subject to change. No part of the editorial contents may be reproduced or copied in any form without the prior permission and acknowledgement of CBA.
Credit provided by Commonwealth Bank of Australia. These products are only available to approved business customers for business purposes only. All applications are subject to the Bank’s eligibility and suitability criteria and normal credit approval processes. You should view our current Asset Finance Terms and Conditions and consider them before making any decision about these products. All rates are subject to change. Fees, charges, terms, conditions and lending criteria apply.
For more information about the available products and services mentioned in this publication – including Product Disclosure Statements, Terms and Conditions, Target Market Determinations and Financial Services Guides that are currently available electronically – as well as information about interest rates and any fees and charges that may apply, go to commbank.com.au.
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