Temperatures are rising worldwide. The polar ice caps are melting. And cities like Tokyo, San Francisco and Mumbai run the risk of drowning under rising seawater in the not-so-distant future.
Yes, we’re talking about climate change. It’s forcing corporations, governments and citizens’ organizations to come together and find solutions so we can leave behind a habitable planet for future generations.
As a business owner, you can do your part to save the environment you live in and benefit from. You also stand to be rewarded for showing a little consideration toward Mother Nature.
The benefits of going green
Your business can benefit from going green in multiple ways, including tax rebates, pricing incentives from various public bodies and environmental organizations, and increased interest from consumers. A green reputation for your business can be worth millions of that other green we all love: cash.
There are government incentives to going green.
The EPA has strict laws protecting our environment from businesses and their resulting hazardous byproducts. It’s not enough to follow the bare minimum EPA regulations for dealing with toxic substances like lead paint or mold.
The government offers businesses incentives at the state and federal levels in the form of tax breaks and credits. Maximize these incentives by checking out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to find out what government and state incentives your business is eligible to receive.
Going green creates new opportunities.
Going green can help with your business growth plan. More consumers prefer eco-friendly products, and many government procurement policies insist on using green businesses as their suppliers and for other business partnerships. By going green, you open up a large and lucrative market to which you can sell. Sustainable procurement is a real thing.
The Green Procurement Compilation, created by the General Services Administration in the United States, offers detailed requirements from an ecological perspective for various products and services.
Sustainability often equals cost savings.
If you’re looking for a way to cut business costs, sustainability and saving money often go hand in hand, according to Phillip Akhzar, founder of Arka, a company providing eco-friendly solutions for filling, manufacturing, and packaging products across the U.S. “Reduced costs come in many forms for green businesses, like tax credits, investment opportunities, etc., as well as inherent savings from sustainable practices.”
Green energy is a primary source of saving money. “Many local governments offer perks for companies that utilize green energy,” Akhzar said. “Future legislation will undoubtedly require more stringent green standards, so getting ahead of the game now is a sound investment.”
Green businesses are also more likely to be more profitable than their non-green counterparts because they can attract new customers who want to buy eco-friendly products and services, according to Thomas Niemczewski, CEO and founder of Dream Chasers.
“Green businesses can also attract new customers by providing discounts and promotions, as well as by promoting their products and services on social media, blogs, and other online platforms,” Niemczewski said.
Did you know? Socially responsible businesses can be profitable. For example, General Mills saved $600,000 after installing energy monitoring systems.
Sustainable practices bolster recruiting efforts.
Sustainability can make the hiring process easier and yield more quality candidates. Akhzar said prospective employees who see a company practicing sustainability will know that company is thinking about the future for everyone and naturally feel more comfortable working there.
According to a March 2021 Deloitte survey, leading organizations are moving beyond awareness to more substantial measures like adopting public policy positions that promote sustainability, encouraging or requiring suppliers and business partners to meet specific environmental-sustainability criteria, and using more sustainable materials. These actions make a company more attractive to prospective employees than companies that aren’t taking these actions.
Tip: Finding candidates who believe in your sustainability goals can help ensure cultural fit when hiring new employees. Follow this timeline for the best hiring process that reveals the ideal candidates for your company.
Quick tips to help your business to go green
Most businesses view the emphasis on ‘going green’ as an unnecessary headache that only adds to their expenses. That’s an extremely short-term view. Nearly every measure taken to reduce your carbon footprint and lessen your environmental impact results in long-term benefits.
So what can you do to show off your eco-friendly side without burning a hole in your pocket? Here are some ideas.
1. Reduce your consumption of natural resources.
The most straightforward way to become less of a burden on the planet is to reduce the number of resources you and your business consume. This reduction will save you money while going a long way toward conserving non-renewable resources like oil and natural gas.
Here are some areas where businesses can reduce their consumption:
- Reduce paper usage by opting for double-sided printing.
- Reduce paper consumption even more by going electronic. Take your recordkeeping, internal communications and customer communications to the cloud via cloud document storage and save money on printing, paper and filing expenses.
- Reduce electricity use by using the stairs instead of the elevator. There’s a health benefit wrapped up in a green venture!
- Install low-flow faucets and toilets in your office to reduce water waste.
- Business travel, whether local or international, has a huge impact on fossil fuel consumption. Reduce consumption levels by opting for virtual meetings with clients, partners or remote co-workers. Skype, Google Chat and FaceTime are free alternatives to expensive business trips.
- Set up a remote work plan for employees and identify remote work best practices. With collaboration tools like the best video conferencing services, it’s easy to communicate with team members worldwide.
- Reduce the amount of packaging your product uses. Or, switch to eco-friendly packaging to lower your environmental footprint.
2. Switch to greener alternatives.
Making some minor changes can boost your sustainability efforts. Here are a few tips:
- Switch to reusable mugs. Ditch those wasteful plastic or paper coffee cups in your breakroom and switch to reusable mugs.
- Encourage public transportation or carpools. Where feasible, encourage employees to use public transportation or create carpools instead of burning up fossil fuels by driving to work. Many organizations offer reimbursement for public transportation costs as an incentive.
- Use energy-efficient appliances. Switch to more energy-efficient appliances that come with Energy Star ratings. The higher the rating, the lower the appliance’s energy consumption.
- Take advantage of natural lighting. When designing your office space, maximize natural light to reduce your dependence on artificial lighting. Consider incorporating large windows, skylights and glass doors to brighten your workspace. Partner with companies specializing in designing energy-efficient buildings with eco-friendly waste management systems and sustainable materials. [Related article: How Lighting Affects Productivity and Mood]
3. Prioritize recycling in the office.
Institute a culture of recycling in your organization. Whether that means recycling cans and bottles in the breakroom or installing gently used office furniture in your spaces, there are hundreds of different ways to extend the life of pre-owned products.
4. Practice accountability as you go green.
Reinforce your sustainability efforts with accountability systems. “If you want to establish green habits in your company, it takes constant practice and check-ins,” said Jeff Zhou, co-founder and CEO of Fig Loans. “You can integrate environmental aspects in your company’s performance audits to see where you stand and how much progress you’ve made.”
Going green as a business means constantly evolving and adjusting practices to fit with new green standards. It’s crucial to monitor your progress – or lack thereof.
5. Make sustainability part of your company culture.
Your sustainability efforts will go further when you get everyone on board. “Involve your staff in developing your new vision,” said Steven Walker, CEO of Spylix. “Create efficiency targets and celebrate your accomplishment to make it fun and inclusive. Get suggestions and feedback from your employees, and they will support your new objective.”
If employees feel like they’re an active part of your vision, they’ll be more engaged. You’ll likely experience lower employee turnover as your business becomes more desirable to potential team members.
“Changing employee habits and behavior in business can be extremely hard to do,” said Samantha Peters, marketing director at Certero. “One of the key things to do is to make sure you have the means to measure your achievement, and you can communicate that far and wide across the business – employees do care, and you’re far more likely to win the support of your workforce and maintain the executive buy-in programs if everyone can clearly see the positive results.”
6. Think about what you want to achieve.
Have a clear plan about your sustainability end goals, and clearly communicate that goal to your team.
“In order to create more environmentally friendly habits, it is important to understand why you need to do so,” Niemczewski said. “Take a step back and think about what you are trying to achieve with your business.”
Niemczewski advises creating a sustainable business model. He said it’s also critical to examine your products and offerings to ensure they aren’t harmful to the environment and are as eco-friendly as possible.
“Make sure that your company’s products or services are not contributing to environmental damage in any way,” Niemczewski said. “For example, if you’re selling a product that relies on fossil fuels for its production process, then it might be time for some adjustments.”
Pratik Dholakiya contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.