By Jona Jone
Why are more and more companies going green? Most businesses have this response: It is simply the right thing to do.
Corporate Social Responsibility has evolved through the years. Much more than doing charity work, most companies are now implementing green measures because they just have to — it improves corporate image, shows they care, and it is what customers demand. A survey by Grant Thornton, a consultancy firm composed of 2,500 companies, found a nobler reason — companies believe that it is their responsibility to do so. Among the eco-work that companies are doing are: improve energy efficiency (65 percent), making products and services more sustainable (39 percent), and calculate their carbon footprint (31 percent). Another development is the increase in companies reporting on sustainability.
The reasons for going green are not a one-way thing. Companies are not adapting sustainability practices just because they are concerned about the environment but because it benefits them too, and in a great way.
So what’s in it for these big firms? How does a company start incorporating sustainability measures?
Objective: Be Sustainable
If a company were to be sustainable, what should it watch out for? What should be its objectives? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a sustainable company should be able to incorporate “green thinking” into the company culture. This could be as simple as requiring employees to bring personal mugs and tumblers instead of maintaining a supply of plastic cups. Green businesses should also learn to eliminate inefficiencies, think long-term, consider impact to the environment, evolve and adapt to the changing world, and seek continual improvement.
Objective: Engage Your Employees
Define your green vision and plan your approach to achieve this. Employees are critical for implementing these plans that is why it is important that they are involved and know the direction you are taking. Pulling off green sustainability in business will require a cultural shift for your company and it is only the employees who can make changes happen.
Encourage employee participation and ask what they think. Consider creating a green team, provide incentives, and “walk the talk” as a manager.
Objective: Save Energy, Save Money
When these objectives are realized, businesses tend to save more money. In the Grant Thornton survey, 67 percent of firms said it is their primary reason for achieving sustainability through green measures. The efforts prove to be worth it.
In a related study, Buck Consultants surveyed 120 businesses and found that 69 percent have green programs in place. Among these companies, 78 percent reported savings in electricity cost, 68 percent in paper and heating/cooling, and 60 percent reported savings in water costs. How is this possible?
The EPA estimates that office buildings waste up to one-third of the energy they consume. Start with easy solutions to address this like replacing office bulbs. CFL and LED bulbs are more expensive than regular incandescent bulbs. A cost comparison shows using 25 CFL or LED bulbs over 50,000 hours can save up to $6,600 given the cost of electricity.
Heating and cooling systems also eat up energy consumption. This could be resolved by keeping unused spaces separate and reducing the amount of conditioned air that they receive. Make sure that thermostats are programmed and turned on less frequently during non-office hours.
Investing in energy-efficient appliances and products will also slash expenses. However, remember that the easiest and biggest savings come from a behavior change in a building’s occupants like turning off the lights when not in use. Using solar energy can also be a long-term solution.
Objective: Go Digital, Save Paper
The Natural Resources Defense Council found that a typical office disposes of about 350 pounds of waste paper per employee, per year. It is no wonder that the most common green initiative of companies is 97 percent paper reduction, according to Buck’s study.
Reduce paper waste and save trees by going digital. Require employees to keep files in digital form, communicate through email, distribute documents electronically, print on both sides of the paper, think before printing, recycle paper, and use paper with a high percentage of post-consumer waste (PCW).
Objective: Always Recycle
Recycling is at the core of sustainability. Our natural resources will dry up eventually at the rate of our consumption and it is by recycling and reuse that we can save whatever that’s left.
Implement a recycling program and cut down your trash cost and the volume of waste that you send to landfills. Minimize food waste with a composting system. Keep a recycling box at each desk to collect used paper. Purchase products and supplies that can be reused. Look for environmentally-friendly disposal options for electronic waste. Donate unwanted equipment to reduce office waste and even get a tax deduction.
Objective: Green Branding
Doing these simple yet rewarding steps do not only save money and make work more efficient; it also enhances corporate brand image. A survey by GlobeScan and SustainAbility shows that almost nine in ten or 88 percent of experts believe that improving sustainability performance makes a stronger brand. This shows that sustainability is now a valid competitive business issue and branding around green efforts shows just how conscientious corporate leadership is.
Set goals and go for long-term objectives. Prioritize the goals that will help achieve your vision, make the most impact in the environment, and ones that make most sense for your business. Consider cost and benefits.
Progress in sustainability should be measured regularly to check whether strategies are working and what needs to be improved. Develop strategies to update your goals because sustainability is an on-going commitment to the environment and the future generation.
For businesses today, sustainability means so much more than just maintaining and growing operations and profits. Today, the concept has taken on a global effort to implement green initiatives and companies must be responsible enough to operate for the greater good. It is a good thing that carrying out sustainability efforts does not only help the environment and the future generation but also posts a significant return of investment for a company in terms of better branding and savings.
Jona Jone has been a mortgage originator in Philadelphia, PA. She is also a Business and Property Specialist. She has been writing articles about real estate investment, business, parenting and living.