Sustainability Checklist for Merchants

Transform your business with our actionable sustainability checklist. From energy savings to waste reduction, find everything you need to go green.
May 15, 2024 | Retail

Sustainability is a hot topic in the mercantile segment. It has been gaining value in the minds of consumers and affecting their buying decisions. According a study done by Directions Research, 72% of Millennials said they would pay more for sustainability, with 62% of Baby Boomers saying they would do the same. Sustainability initiatives can provide a competitive advantage in marketing your business, save you money, and attract new customers.


Starting an environmental sustainability program can seem daunting, but you can start small and make a big impact. Here’s a quick beginner’s guide to implementing a sustainability strategy in your business.


  1. Start with low-hanging fruit. Changing light bulbs to LEDs or compact fluorescents and setting up a recycling program are quick and easy ways to start your initiative. The path to sustainability can be started with something as simple as setting your default printer settings to double-sided to save paper. There are plenty of small things you can do with little to no investment that can reduce your environmental impact.
  2. Get your employees on board from the start. Ask for employee ideas of how to reduce waste, streamline processes, and improve environmental sustainability. Creating a culture that places significance on environmental sustainability and engaging employees in the process of starting projects will improve outcomes.
  3. Tell your customers. Put up signs telling guests about the new initiatives you’re embarking on. Make information available to customers to bring home. Going green can be a great marketing tool—use it in a way that feels most authentic to your brand.
  4. Look for local resources. Local and state governments often have certificates, grants, and resources available for greening your business. These can give you more information on getting sustainable initiatives started and resources available in your community. If you want more help, contact local colleges and universities. They often have programs where businesses are paired with interns to help with environmental programs.


Environmental programs can make things better, not only for the environment, but also for your business by saving you money and satisfying customers. Do you have some great programs you’ve implemented that you want to share? Have questions? Comment below!


Sustainability Checklist

Waste reduction

  • Have a recycling program
  • Compost food and lawn waste
  • Use reusable goods whenever possible instead of products that will need to be thrown away
  • Set printers to double-sided by default
  • Use paper products that are made of recycled material
  • Use and distribute as few plastic bags as possible
  • When construction is undergone, attempt to use as many environmentally sustainable materials as possible


  • Replace incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent or LEDs
  • Put “Turn off the lights” signs above switches
  • Put lights on timers to reduce unnecessary usage
  • Use ENERGY STAR windows and appliances
  • Insulate all pipes and equipment
  • Turn off all computers and other appliances when not in use and use smart power strips that keep you from having to unplug your appliances
  • Use windows that can be opened for temperature control
  • Use renewable energy sources like solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal
  • Close blinds when not in operating hours to control temperature

Water conservation

  • Use low-flow fixtures and dual-flush toilets
  • Use rain barrels for watering landscape
  • Find and repair leaking fixtures
  • Fill dishwashers to capacity before running them


  • Plant native plants in landscaping
  • Avoid planting exotic species
  • Dispose of trash securely to not attract animals
  • Use low-reflecting glass


  • Install bike racks for customers and employees
  • Use hybrid, biodiesel, or electric company vehicles
  • Use teleconferencing to minimize required travel


  • Buy local
  • Buy organic
  • Buy fair-trade
  • Buy reusable
  • Buy compostable

Local Community

  • Donate all usable materials to charities and shelters
  • Invest in local businesses
  • Purchase from local artists in decorating


  • Post signs about your environmental sustainability initiatives
  • Have flyers, brochures, or other handouts available for interested customers
  • Include environmental initiatives on your website
  • Hold staff meetings to get feedback and new ideas about sustainability and improving processes
  • Ask for feedback about environmental sustainability on customer feedback cards 


This post was written by Beth L. Beth L. is a Regulatory Affairs Analyst at Acuity where she specializes in researching regulations, understanding statutes, and working with compliance.. She studied regulation, policy, environmental studies, and business administration at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Beth has received degrees in in public administration and environmental policy and planning, and also has a certification in environmental sustainability in business. Outside of work Beth likes to run, cook, and play with her dog, Butter.