Consumers want to do business with firms that are more sustainable and you probably know that your employees want you to go in that direction too. Becoming more eco-friendly or green doesn’t have to cost a fortune or require revamping everything you do. Nor should it be mere window-dressing (a strategy labelled as greenwashing) if you want to reap the benefits of a better public profile.
In this article, we discuss the strategy behind becoming more sustainable and the importance of measurement and getting staff buy-in to the success of the process. We have included some links in the article to more resources with specific ideas about how to cut your office’s carbon footprint.
Get Hard Data before You Start Making Changes
Business guru Peter Drucker said what gets measured gets managed. The first step is collecting hard numbers on a variety of fronts. How much waste do you generate? How much water and power do you use each month? What are you spending on maintenance contracts? When you start collecting metrics, you will start managing your business to better your performance. Read more about recycling facts here.
There’s a clear business case to starting with a measurement of your business’s carbon footprint and related measures. When you know what factors have the biggest impact, you know what actions have the biggest bearing on your business’s environmental impact, or that have the greatest return on investment. Don’t spend a fortune on little things that don’t make much of a difference, and focus on changes that are relatively low cost but have a big benefit.
One benefit of having hard measures like your business’s carbon footprint or energy consumption is that you can defend your actions later. You can tell your shareholders that you reduced energy consumption by 10% this month in ways that lowered your carbon footprint by X percentage points. You can present business decisions as both economical and environmentally friendly because you have that data to hand.
Compare the Financial and Environmental Impact of Each Decision
Don’t spend money on green initiatives without running the numbers on all fronts. Being able to charge more for a product or service with a green label can generate more profit even after paying more for using sustainable materials or green energy. Investing in supply chain documentation and renewable resources may be necessary to keep up with the competition.
Factor the environmental impact and benefits into each decision. Don’t throw out your existing equipment and buy new simply to say you’re now eco-friendly. Instead, run the numbers and determine when the energy savings make a retrofit of your building or upgrading your equipment worth the expense. When the reduced energy bill along with the lower maintenance costs make financial sense make the change.
Instead of hiring an expensive consultant, ask your team for their suggestions. They may know a lot of things you could do that neatly dovetail into your existing processes. Do some research online. If you’re looking for ways to create an eco-friendly office on a budget, you can find inspiration online.
You can also ask the companies you already contract with what they could do differently to help you meet environmentally friendly standards or what they have already acheived. For example, you may be working in a building that already has LEED certification or are using recycled materials. Your utility providers could also recommend ways to save energy or switch to renewables as part of a program they already have.
Moves to make the most of resources may be made in-house or with other firms. If you share servers with other businesses, you could save energy and lower your IT management costs. Encouraging employees to share servers could lower their IT equipment needs and your power bill. Sharing offices reduces HVAC needs and saves money on rent. Find ways to consolidate and eliminate redundancies wherever you find them. Combining maintenance depots, warehouses and district offices can save you money on all fronts. Encourage carpooling over people arriving in their own vehicles.
You often find that green initiatives reduce costs. Most environmental measures relate to reducing waste and making better use of resources and this nearly always translates into reduced costs and increased profits.
Identify Business Policies that Benefit People and the Planet
Consider allowing people to work from home more often. They’ll drive less, and you may need less office space as a result. Encouraging people to share information digitally or sending reminders that they should print less often could save paper and ink. Make it a business policy to encourage people to receive notices digitally instead of print. Authorizing the use of fans or space heaters in offices may allow you to set the thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter.
Create a program that rewards people who come up with solutions that save money and resources. Small things like only buying sustainable business gifts all add up so incentivise people to think about environmentally sounds options during every decision. Make energy audits part of your facility maintenance regimen. Make virtual meetings the default over travel. Make recycling the priority over simple disposal. Consider buying public transit passes for employees or setting up bike storage and changing rooms at each work site. Then you’ve truly made the sustainable choice part of corporate culture.
The first step is understanding where you are. Measuring the impact of each decision and seeking little changes results in a major impact without breaking the bank. Creating a business environment that seeks financially and environmentally responsible solutions results in a truly sustainable business model.