Have you ever considered the environmental impact of your business on the world? Global warming is real. Scientists say that if we don’t reduce our carbon footprint by 2050, the planet is doomed. In its best sense, sustainability seeks to protect our natural environment, human and ecological health, while driving innovation and providing a good way of life. For businesses it’s about management of environmental impact and reducing consumption, especially of energy, as well as eliminating wasteful packaging and promoting the use of recyclable materials.
Even if you are not a huge Fortune 500 company, your small business can still do a lot to help save the planet. You may think integrating eco-friendly practices is about buying plant based-soap from Seventh Generation. While this is a good start, there is a lot more to it! My hope is that you’ll be motivated to create a small business sustainability plan that guides your operations.
To begin, here are some sustainability questions to ask yourself about your business:
- How do you manage paper in your business?
- How much trash does your business produce each month?
- Are you recycling? Is there room to improve?
- How much water did you use this year? How does that compare to previous consumption?
- How much electricity did you use? Can you reduce this amount?
The Eco-Friendly Benefits of a Small Business Sustainability Plan
Once you’ve asked yourself questions like these, it’s time to start looking for answers to help make your small business greener. If you do, you’ll be able to:
Create a Better Company Culture: Being eco-friendly can create a positive working environment, where employees care about how the company buys and disposes of raw materials or waste. They’ll learn that even doing two-sided instead of one-sided copies can make a big difference. Businesses that implement a sustainability plan as a priority can provide leadership to their industry and their employees. This can help them attract and retain top talent.
Reduce Costs: All small business owners can relate to saving money. Want to cut back on operational fees? Simple changes such as using LED light bulbs instead of incandescent, letting staff sometimes telecommute, and being more conscious of turning off the lights and unplugging electronics can help reduce your carbon footprint.
In my business, we use electronic contracts and invoices to avoid printing paper documents. We also rely on conference calls and online services, such as Zoom and Skype, to communicate as a team, saving travel costs and the environmental impact of meeting in person. We also eliminated our use of a personal business server by turning to cloud-based services, such as QuickBooks online, Infusionsoft, Gmail, Google Docs, Mixmax, Dropbox, Teamwork, Insightly CRM and DocuSign.
Recycle Instead of Waste: Track your trash/waste and recycling collected annually. Even though we have a virtual team in my company, we train our employees on the types of material that can be recycled. We recycle paper, envelopes, soda cans, water bottles and packaging materials. We also send toner cartridges to the manufacturer for recycling, for a discount. Quarterly, we conduct a waste walk in the office to remove anything that is not in use or hasn’t been used in six months. Every summer, we do a major recycling of books that have piled up in the office. We also sponsor an annual book giveaway contest.
Improve Your Brand Image: Being an eco-friendly company can attract green-conscious consumers. People feel good purchasing products or services from a firm that embraces a small business sustainability plan. It reflects positively on your image, showing that you care about the community that you service and are not just about the dollar signs.
Another way to brush your brand is to cultivate green-conscious vendors. If they don’t currently recycle, you can teach them how to be proactive about consumption. In doing so, you’ll demonstrate that you care about the community, supplier partners and end customers.
Look for More Green Opportunities for Small Business
If this eco-friendly content is new to you, make sure you learn about how sustainability relates to your business or industry. Take some time to reflect on what small business practices you already support and which you neglect. Then figure out how you can do more, and try to get everyone in your company motivated and involved. Just like any good business initiative, take time twice a year to review your green activities and assess your progress, fine-tuning your approach as needed.
A sustainable future is one in which a healthy environment, economic prosperity and social justice are pursued simultaneously, to ensure the well-being and quality of life for current and future generations.
Let’s all do our part to make sure we have a safe planet to leave our children and grandchildren.