Degrowth Guide for Small Businesses

Surprise! You might already be using Degrowth Concepts

When I bring up degrowth with sustainable business owners they usually get uncomfortable … but I want my business to grow! Are you saying I should shut down?

But degrowth doesn’t mean scaling back or closing your business, and it actually favours and supports purpose-driven small businesses – you might already be using some degrowth principals without realizing it!

What is the Degrowth Movement?

Our current economic system relies on continuous growth, but this is clearly unsustainable and exploitative. Instead, degrowth advocates for a shift towards a more balanced and sustainable model – including reducing resource consumption, redistributing wealth, and prioritizing well-being over profit.

Degrowth For Small Business Growth

Small businesses can play a crucial role in this paradigm shift. So how can you (or maybe you already?) incorporate degrowth principles into your operations to foster sustainability, happiness, and resilience.

Re-Thinking Growth & Success Metrics

One of the first steps towards embracing degrowth is redefining success beyond financial growth.

Small businesses should include holistic metrics around social impact, environmental sustainability, and community support. Set goals and measure success not just financially, but with your impact. Financial milestones should correlate with making greater positive contributions to your community, environment, and employee well-being.

Prioritize Quality Over Quantity

With a degrowth-oriented business, the focus should be on sourcing high quality materials and producing high-quality products that have a long lifespan. Businesses can also support the longevity of items through repair, resale, or upcycling initiatives.

Additionally brands can encourage a degrowth mindset through their marketing by not using scarcity tactics, flash or buy-more sales (eg. BOGO), or seasons/trends, and instead promoting a culture of mindful consumption.

Embrace Circular Design

Degrowth and circularity go hand-in-hand.

Move away from the linear take-make-dispose model by incorporating circular practices. Real circularity starts with design and incorporating waste-reduction at all stages, not just end-of-life.

Localize Operations

Degrowth emphasizes local economies and self-sufficiency. Small businesses can contribute by sourcing products and services locally where possible – reducing their carbon footprint and keeping money in the community.

Traceability and transparency around sourcing and supply chains should also be prioritized.

Employee Well-Being

Degrowth includes prioritizing employee happiness and well-being (which actually benefits both employees and your business productivity overall). This can include offering valuable benefits, supporting skill development, promoting a healthy work-life balance, offering flexible working arrangements, and more.

At minimum degrowth businesses should also be ensuring workers throughout their supply chain make a local living wage.

Education & Awareness

Transparency and education are also key components of degrowth. Communicate with customers, suppliers, adn industry members about the principles your business is embracing and the positive impacts of these choices. Encourage consumers to make considered choices about what they need and how their purchases can have a greater impact on their community and environment.

Community Engagement

Actively engage with your community and seek out diverse perspectives to better understand local needs, challenges, opportunities, and how your business can best contribute. Partner with organizations and get involved with reducing inequality, advocating for policies, and supporting systemic changes.

Incorporating degrowth principles into your small businesses is not about sacrificing success but redefining it. Small businesses can be a key component of a degrowth economy that prioritizes people and the planet over profit.

Want to learn more about degrowth? Read:

Degrowth and the circular economy: Reflecting on the depth of business circularity

Outline of a Degrowth Business Model Framework