There’s little debate about why small businesses need to go green.
- Green is good for the bottom line: saving energy saves money.
- Green resonates with consumers: consumers increasingly favor businesses that promote green practices.
- Green practices are the right thing to do.
Recycling and using compact fluorescent light bulbs are, at this point, standard operating procedures. Let's a look at two green business moves that will elevate your capacity to attract and retain top talent.
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Business Benefits of Bikes
Everyone knows that pedaling to work is good for the environment. Is it also good for business? Yes, it yields many benefits, from health care cost savings to more productive employees. Here are two more pro-business benefits of bikes:
As an HR perk: Need top talent? Consider this: The League of American Bicyclists estimates that it costs just over $300 a year to operate a bike on a daily basis. By contrast, the average employee will spend over $8,000 a year to own and operate a car. You can court talent by emphasizing a bike commuter option because it translates into more take-home pay. That's a raise that doesn't cost you a nickel more! Moreover, adding bike racks — even adding on-site showering facilities and changing rooms — costs far less than gym maintenance and staffing.
Additionally, the Bicycle Commuter Act of 2008 allows employers to be reimbursed up to $20 a month per employee with commuting benefits. This is similar to other qualified transportation benefits (QTF). Consult your tax accountant for more information.
As sales driver: If you own a retail business or building, a customer bike-friendly policy can boost sales by 10 to 25 percent, which is why communities such as Chicago and Montclair, New Jersey, encourage residents to shop and bike.
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Providing Employees Sunny Days
You'd have to be living in a dark cave not to have heard of solar power's many business benefits — once, that it is, you've crossed the installation hurdle. Let's review: solar power helps offset both the expense and pollutants of traditional coal-powered electricity. There are state-supported, cash-back incentives that reimburse you for a portion of the cost of the solar panel systems. There are also a number of federal grants specifically for solar energy programs installed by small businesses.
A recent Roper Survey commissioned by Sharp Electronics Corporation shows 90 percent of Americans support solar power as an option on new construction. In colder and darker areas of the country, between 63 and 65 percent of people supported solar, the study revealed.
Why go to the hassle of researching rebates and on-site usage? Besides the cost savings, promoting and using solar power is a powerful marketing statement. Increasingly, solar power can even be used as an HR benefit to attract talent. Last fall four major firms — 3M Co., Cisco Systems Inc., Kimberly-Clark Corp. and the National Geographic Society — joined forces to offer the nation's first "bulk solar purchase plan" as a perk to employees. Joining forces, these companies can offer pricing at 35 percent below the national average, according to a World Wildlife Fund report.
"Officials estimate that if 1 percent of eligible participants chose to power their homes with solar, it would avoid more than 74,500 metric tons of carbon emissions — the equivalent of taking more than 15,000 cars off the road," reports Scientific American.