10 Ways to Boost Your Business and Help the Planet
Our planet is our most precious resource, and managing that resource wisely is everyone's responsibility.
Global, national and local initiatives are driving environmental responsibility from the top, while shoppers increasingly seek out "eco-friendly" alternatives to their regular products.
Household names such as Toyota and General Motors are leading the way in greener working, and many more brands are using their influence and purchasing power to encourage sustainability.
In this article, we explore why green management matters to your organization, what it really means to be "green," and how taking even small steps can have a positive effect on the planet – and on your bottom line.
What Does It Mean to Be Green?
Ask 100 people what "green" means and you'll get 100 different answers, from "living off the land" to "recycling plastic bottles."
But, at its core, green management is about becoming aware of how your behavior, working practices or production methods impact the environment, and making changes that reduce your environmental "footprint" and make your business more sustainable.
This often includes measures to reduce the raw materials, water and energy that you use, and to minimize the waste that you produce.
Why Green Management Matters
Many of us want to "do our bit" for the environment, and there are many good reasons to do so. Preventing pollution, for example, can improve our health; protecting wildlife means that we can continue to enjoy our natural world; and reducing consumption preserves resources for the future.
For organizations, failure to comply with your country's environmental legislation can result in prosecution and financial penalties. But greener working practices can also reduce costs and save you money. For example, the car manufacturer General Motors reported that they saved $5 million in 2016 by using renewable energy sources.
Businesses that demonstrate their commitment to the environment may also benefit from enhanced brand reputation, engagement and employee well-being. (For more on this, read our article, Corporate Social Responsibility, and listen to our Expert Interview, Do Good.)
And, green initiatives can stimulate innovation and reveal new sources of revenue, or even entirely new products.
Toyota, for example, recognized the need for more energy-efficient motoring, and this led it to develop and launch the first mass-produced hybrid car, the Prius, in 1997. This set the company apart from its competitors, and opened up a new market by appealing to eco-conscious drivers.
10 Tips for a Greener Office
With all of these benefits in mind, what can you do to make your own workplace greener?
The first step is to make a commitment to changing your behavior. Then, consider the following 10 ways to make your workplace kinder to the environment:
1. Assess Your Current Position
Audit your organization's working practices, and assess their environmental impact. This will highlight potential areas for change.
For example, you might be spending more on utility bills than you'd expect. Your waste production may be higher than the industry average, or your team might be purchasing items that they don't really need. Or, you may just be printing out documents when you could send them digitally.
2. Set Goals
Once you've assessed your environmental impact, set goals for reducing it. Make sure that they are realistic and achievable, and track your progress toward achieving them. If possible, conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis for your green initiatives to demonstrate the savings that they will make.
3. Think Twice Before You Buy
The best way to prevent waste, and to reduce the need for recycling, is to use less in the first place. So, remember the words "reduce, reuse, recycle" – in that order!
Look for areas where you can switch to reusable products: items like dishware and cutlery, for example. And use cloth towels or energy-saving hand-dryers instead of paper towels in the bathrooms.
And, before you make a purchase, ask yourself: do I really need it? Could I use something that I already have? Where's it coming from? Is there a more eco-friendly alternative, with less packaging, for example?
4. Make Recycling Easy
Place recycling points in prominent spots around the office, and clearly signpost which items people can and cannot recycle.
Also, consider how you can responsibly dispose of larger or potentially hazardous items, such as electronics and batteries. For example, you can often donate computers to charity, or use specialized services to recycle them. If in doubt, check with your local authorities before you throw something in the trash.
5. Watch Your Power Use
Office lighting is an "easy win." After the initial investment, energy-efficient LED bulbs can use 70-75 percent less energy, emit far less heat, and last up to 50 times longer.
Get into the habit of turning off the lights when you leave the room, too. You could even install motion sensors that turn off lights automatically in bathrooms, break rooms and conference areas.
Computers, printers, and other AC- or mains-powered devices consume energy even when they're not being used. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, switching them off fully could save your organization $25-$75 per machine, per year. "Smart" power strips, which stop power consumption completely when you turn off the machine, are a good way to tackle this.
Then, when it's time to upgrade, consider switching to laptops, which can use up to 80 percent less energy than desktop computers.
6. Switch Energy Suppliers
Many utility companies use renewable energy sources. Changing your supplier could save your organization money, and reduce or offset your organization's environmental impact.
If it's feasible, you could also consider installing solar panels or "micro" wind turbines on the roof of your offices, to generate your own energy.
7. Plant Trees
Not all workplaces will have the space to do it, but planting trees can save energy and make your work environment healthier and more attractive.
Planting large deciduous trees where you get afternoon sun (the west and southwest sides of your building in the northern hemisphere; the west and northwest in the southern hemisphere) can significantly reduce your air conditioning costs.
Trees also help to block cold winter winds, so planting coniferous trees (on the northern side in the northern hemisphere, and the south in the southern hemisphere) could also keep your winter heating costs down.
If you can't plant trees, placing plants around the office can help to clean the air and promote natural climate control.
8. Cut Down on Car Journeys
If it's appropriate, allow people to work from home one or more days each week. This saves on commuting time, and reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
Carpooling is another great option. You could set up an information board or intranet page to connect people who travel similar routes to work.
You could also encourage people to walk, cycle or use public transportation, by posting transit schedules and bike routes, and by arranging cycle-to-work schemes.
9. Use Technology
Do you really need to fly to that face-to-face meeting in another city or country? Using technology to conduct training, catch-ups, conferences, or even job interviews online is often more cost-effective, as well as more environmentally friendly.
10. Review Your Suppliers
When you're auditing your organization's environmental impact, consider your extended network, too: how green are your suppliers?
If you have concerns, investigate (or discuss with your procurement department) whether you could change your supplier, or encourage an existing one to work in a greener way. Perhaps they could package items more efficiently to cut down on waste, or use electronic invoices instead of paper.
Green initiatives have the biggest impact when they are a group effort. And, regardless of your role or position, you can inspire others to join in. For example, you can:
- Share your passion. If you feel strongly about making your office greener, don't hide it. Start discussions and share your knowledge! Sometimes, simply raising awareness is enough to prompt action.
- Offer to be the "point person." Some organizations don't have the resources to focus on green working practices, so offer to take the lead.
- Keep an eye on the latest developments. Consider how an environmentally friendly approach might apply to your office and your organization, now and in the future.
- Build a business case for your ideas. If your initiatives require investment from the organization, a "yes" is more likely if you can clearly demonstrate the potential savings or returns.
- Set realistic targets. Pick one thing that you can all do to be greener, and commit to it. By focusing on one activity at a time, you can gradually form new, more beneficial habits.
- Celebrate your wins. If you've made a difference, celebrate it! Acknowledging success is a great way to encourage long-term change.
Environmental issues are now integral to the way that many businesses operate. Being "green" is great for the planet, but it can also strengthen your brand and save money for your organization.
To help your company to become greener, assess your environmental impact and identify areas for improvement. These could include reducing waste, recycling more, and using less energy.
Set realistic goals for your green initiatives, track your progress toward achieving them, and celebrate your successes. This can raise awareness, add credibility to your actions, and inspire others to join you in taking action.
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