By Liz Greene
Though corporate sustainability initiatives have been going strong for years, many small business owners have been reluctant to go green. They often think that their business is too small to make a difference or that making the necessary changes will be too costly. Not only is this line of thinking incorrect, it’s actually easier for small businesses to change gears and go green than it is for their larger corporate counterparts. Let’s take a closer look at both why and how you can start 2018 with sustainability in mind.
Why Go Green?
Beyond being good for the environment, going green is also surprisingly profitable. Taking steps to make your business more eco-friendly is a key strategy for growth and staying competitive in the global market. Here are four reasons why it’s time to embrace sustainability.
As it currently stands, the number one reason why most corporations establish sustainability initiatives is because it strengthens their brand’s public image. Consumers love corporate sustainability practices, which is why being green actually generates more revenue. It attracts customers who care about the environmental footprint of the brands they support. In fact, a 2015 Cone Communications study found that 91 percent of consumers expect companies to operate responsibly in an effort to address social and environmental issues. With so many consumers choosing to spend their money with environmentally responsible companies, going green gives you a competitive advantage.
Much like your customers, your employees want to be environmentally responsible as well. They prefer to work for a company that shares their concerns and allows them to work toward a larger cause. By demonstrating that you value sustainability, not only will potential employees take notice, current employees will remain loyal and engaged.
Sustainability practices also have the potential to save your business hundreds or thousands per year by lowering operating costs. Installing energy saving lighting and water saving fixtures can significantly reduce your bills. Implementing a work-from-home policy can allow you to downsize your office space. Measures like these (and many more) prove just how cost effective going green can be!
And last, but certainly not least, the most important reason for your business to go green is to protect the environment. Our planet is incredibly fragile, and many of us simply won’t be able to continue doing business at all if we continue to deplete precious natural resources. By launching your own sustainability initiative, your business could emerge as one of the leaders in social responsibility.
Ways to Get Started
This may surprise you, but it doesn’t actually cost an arm and a leg to get started on greening your company. You can start with something as simple as placing a recycling bin in your break room, or you can opt for something a little more challenging, such as implementing a zero-waste policy. If you’re looking for a few ideas on how to move forward with sustainability, consider one (or more) of the following.
When it comes to the office, paper documents and filing cabinets have been the chosen method for organizing information for decades. That said, they’re definitely not the most efficient option available. In fact, offices that depend on paper documentation actually cost more than their paperless counterparts. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and going paperless doesn’t happen overnight — it’s an arduous process that takes considerable time and effort. However, as intimidating as it may be, paperless offices are soon to be the norm, and switching now will save you a lot of time in the long run. Here’s how to make the change:
- Start by explaining to your employees just how beneficial it is to go paperless and how it will make their jobs easier. They’re more likely to be on board if they know how it will positively impact their day-to-day lives.
- Choose a document management system and purchase any equipment you may need to help facilitate the change (i.e. scanners).
- Create a detailed filing system and ensure everyone is aware of (and follows) it.
- Divide the work between departments, setting clear goals for when the work is expected to be done. You can even plan a reward to be given when the goal is met to encourage employees to put their all into participation.
- Regularly follow up with each department to make sure they’re on track to meet their goals.
- Take responsibility for your own documents. Demonstrate that you are just as willing to put the same amount of work in that you expect from your employees.
Once the goals are met and your office has finished going paperless, take some time to celebrate. Going forward, much less effort will be needed to remain paperless, and you’re sure to see a number of benefits, such as savings in time and cost, and increased document security.
Save Energy & Water
Putting in the effort needed to save energy and water not only protects our natural resources, it ultimately saves your business a ton of money. Fortunately, doing both can be fairly painless, requiring a little capital upfront and a small change in daily habits.
- Install automatic dimmers to reduce lighting based on the amount of free and natural daylight available.
- Install occupancy sensors that will turn off lights in unoccupied areas and turn them back on when movement is detected.
- Install daylight sensors which will turn exterior lights on and off automatically.
Heating and Cooling
- Change your air filter regularly as a dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep the office warm or cool.
- Schedule yearly HVAC tune ups to improve efficiency and comfort.
- Install a programmable thermostat to reduce heating and cooling during periods when the office is unoccupied throughout the week.
- Seal and insulate HVAC ducts to improve efficiency.
Computers and Office Equipment
- Use power management features to place computers into a “sleep mode” after a period of inactivity.
- Ensure there is a three-inch air-gap between the wall and the back of refrigerators, water coolers, and freezers. Make sure the condenser coils are regularly cleaned.
- Run dishwashers only when they are full.
- Install water efficient fixtures in restrooms, such as:
- Repair any leaks.
- Make sure automatic sprinkler systems are set to water when conditions prove most efficient.
- Use drought-tolerant plants in landscaping.
As you can see, it doesn’t take much to save both energy and water — so there’s no real excuse to delay any longer!
Start a Recycling Program
In the average American office, much of the solid waste tossed out is actually recyclable. With many municipalities now offering curbside recycling services, recycling in the office has become easier than ever. That said, starting a recycling program does take a little work. Here’s what you can do to get the ball rolling:
- Appoint a coordinator to organize and oversee the recycling program. Alternatively, you can create a recycling committee if you’d prefer to spread the work out over many employees.
- Find out exactly what’s going into the office trash cans. This will allow you to determine which products you included in the workplace recycling initiative.
- Encourage employees to participate by ensuring everyone in the office is familiar with the program and its goals. Publicly track progress and announce what’s been accomplished each month. Adding incentives or rewards is always a great way to boost participation.
- As with going paperless, it’s important for employees to see you taking part in the recycling program as well.
- Place recycling bins in places where the most trash is generated — e.g. near printers, in break rooms, and so on. If you really want to encourage recycling, place a bin at each employee’s desk.
- Discuss your recycling initiative with building management so they can make sure janitorial staff are following through.
Though a recycling program isn’t the most formidable of undertakings, it does require everyone to be on the same page. Drum up as much enthusiasm in the project as possible in order to keep everyone happily doing their part.
As a business owner, it’s your job to do everything in you power to retain a competitive edge and keep your company growing. From higher revenues to engaged employees, going green provides a multitude of benefits. So, take the time to do what’s right for the environment and right for your business. Not only will you see the positive impact it can make, you’ll also prove to be an excellent example to others.
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Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.