By Elisabeth Pechs
There are many articles about large companies implementing sustainable practices successfully. They mention benefits like saving money, improving the bottom line, retaining customers and increasing productivity. All these results sound very good. But despite the enthusiasm to start, most companies are paralyzed with the basic question of: How to start?
The basic principles of sustainability are common sense, and they are actually not even new ideas. The steps companies take to conserve energy and reduce waste rival the most basic practices that our grandparents used in their households. Yet, if it is so easy why aren’t more companies doing it more? Business owners are overwhelmed trying to maintain their companies’ profitability in an already very competitive world. The thought of bringing more work to an existing business is not appealing. But do not despair. The answer is different work – more efficient and more effective – not necessarily more work.
Start with education
A company needs to know where it’s going before it starts. Through research and education, you can find easy ways to implement sustainable practices. Do a little reading or networking with companies that are already operating sustainably and ask them how they managed. Through these methods you will learn about best practices from successful firms, avoid failures and find possible rebates and incentives to facilitate implantation of sustainable practices. Most importantly, you will understand what sustainability is and what it can do for your company. With the right knowledge, you can begin a plan that includes timelines and goals.
Know where your company stands
You will be surprised how much data is already available within your grasp about the energy and water your business consumes and the waste it produces through your existing bills. Your monthly bills are valuable tools that can be used as a “score card.” Spend some time analyzing your bills throughout a 12 month period. Identify cost-saving opportunities by checking the utilities websites for no-cost opportunities, incentives, and on Demand Response Programs. Demand Response Programs are offered by utility companies to reduce energy usage during peak periods (normally between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. during the summer time). Companies that participate in this program can earn financial incentives and/or other benefits.
Pick something that is easy to do. If your company has not engaged in any sustainable practices, there are probably opportunities that represent low hanging fruits that can yield impressive results. Get your company employees engaged by providing information about the goals that have been set, how to contribute, and why it matters. Education is key. Once employees are educated, encourage their participation for ideas as this will increase their ownership of the project and guarantee better results.
Elisabeth Pechs is the founder of Three Dots Sustainable Consulting, offering consulting and training on sustainable practices.