How I started a sustainable small business

It’s no secret that small businesses reflect the values of the communities they work within. Increasingly, that means embarking on a sustainability journey to show that their success is not at the expense of the planet.

Of course, that’s easier said than done.

Our research1 shows the cost of becoming sustainable, finding sustainable suppliers and lack of time and resources are the top reasons small businesses struggle to embed sustainability into their business model. Our award-winningSustainability Action Tool can help small business owners understand how to lower costs and reduce environmental impact. Being agile, creative and innovative by nature puts small businesses in a unique position to lead by example.

Building a sustainable business

Growing her catering company, Blak Tapas, has been a labour of love for Temali Howard, of the Jaru and Kija people from the East Kimberley region of WA.

“I’d always liked creating grazing boards for friends so the idea was to build on something I already enjoyed and that I knew people liked. I started selling boxes of meats, cheeses and fruits for events within the Kununurra community. I didn’t have access to a full-time commercial kitchen and I was still working my day job so I was adamant that I didn’t want to cook.

I wanted to focus on native foods and after testing bush foods out on friends, I started offering crocodile smallgoods, kangaroo dishes and other native ingredients. After a lot of hard work, I was able to leave my job in 2023 to focus on growing Blak Tapas.

Sustainability has been top of mind for me from the beginning. I source from local producers where possible to reduce our carbon footprint and I’ve always used reusable, compostable packaging. For me, it’s a matter of taking a look at the way we do things and asking, ‘How can we do it better?’

Kununurra doesn’t have access to domestic recycling but I’ve found ways around the issue by donating food wastage to locals who have chooks and using the local Containers for Change program, where glass bottles and cans can be recycled for money. We also take catering leftovers to a local community kitchen to feed people in need; there’s never only one way to be sustainable, it’s about thinking and evolving where you can.” 

Temali's entrepreneurial tips

  • Do your research: Local business advisory services may be able to assist with your start-up, free of charge. I’ve found Kimberley Small Business Support to be invaluable.
  • Know your worth: Resist the temptation to charge below market value to attract customers.
  • Do something you love: If you’re going to build a business, it’s going to consume you so make sure you’re investing your time and energy into something that’s a passion. 


Three ways to make your SME more sustainable (and save money) 

 1. Use our Sustainability Action Tool

Answer a few simple questions to get easy-to-follow suggestions for lowering both your costs and your environmental impact

2. Get tax cuts for sustainability expenses

The Federal Government’s Small Business Energy Incentive will give companies with an annual turnover of less than $50 million an additional 20 per cent deduction on electrification and energy-efficient upgrades.

3. Look for discounts 

Consider finance options that offer discounts for investing in new and used electric vehicles and equipment.

Want to reduce your environmental impact?

Explore useful resources and offers for your business with our award-winningSustainability Action Tool.

Things you should know 

  • The full version of this article was originally published in Brighter magazine.

    1 CBA launches small business Sustainability Action Tool

    2 Social, Sustainable & Responsible Banking Gold Winner, 2023 Qorus – Accenture Banking Innovation Awards.

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