By Lewis Robinson
These days, if your business isn’t going green, it’s going extinct. Consumers aren’t only looking for businesses that offer high-quality products and competitive prices; they want to know that the organizations that take their money are going to use it to make the world a better place. Recent studies have found that green initiatives can significantly improve a brand's value. Because of this trend, more and more corporations are including green initiatives in their marketing campaigns, in order to show that they are willing to play a part in the push to preserve and sustain the environment.
But beyond simply improving company reputation, taking on an environmentally sound and responsible position benefits businesses in more practical ways as well. For example, many organizations have found that by taking steps to reduce energy use, they end up saving a great deal of money.
These efforts at improving sustainability give brands a boost in value, and help businesses to find success and longevity in their respective markets.
One such business that has seen improvements in value perception through its green initiatives is Honda. Due to the rising cost of petroleum fuel, Honda turned its attention toward finding a way to manufacture a more fuel-efficient car. As it implemented this particular green initiative, customers took note, and Honda’s sales figures rose dramatically. Compared to numbers from four years prior, the company's figures improved by 28 percent after launching more fuel-efficient models.
A similar effort was made by GE in 2005 -- when the company publicly declared that it intended to take on clean technology to reduce environmentally harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and also adapt green technology for other uses, such as in locomotives, wind turbines and jet engines. The company saw a rise in consumer satisfaction, and its revenue rose by $6 billion.
If your business hasn’t already begun to adopt green initiatives -- and talk about them in your marketing campaigns -- you might be confused as to how to go about doing it. The good news is that there are a number of green initiatives that are simple, cost effective and environmentally impactful that you can institute starting today. Here’s how:
1. Start measuring
The easiest way to put your company on the path to sustainability is to reduce your energy use. However, in order to be able to figure out how you can cut back, you’ll first need an accurate idea of how much energy is being used, and where. Keep track of how much is being spent on gas, electric, water and other energy-associated costs, and get a feel for where your organization may be using more energy than it should. When you have this data compiled and presented, it will be much easier for you to know where you should make changes.
2. Cut down on paper use
Despite the reputation that it has gained over the years, paper really is a sustainable resource. However, when 45 percent of office paper ends up being thrown away on the same day that it’s printed, it may make sense for some organizations to switch over to a paperless office environment. Even if you don’t choose to go entirely paperless, consider reducing paper use wherever possible by relying instead on electronic communication. Remember, even if you recycle all of your paper, there is still an energy cost associated with it.
3. Embrace alternative energy
The electric grid is not the only way to get electricity for your company; by investing in on-site solar cells, you’ll be able to generate some (or all) of your own clean energy directly from the sun. If buying and installing solar panels doesn't seem like a possibility, consider purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) from your local utility provider.
4. Involve employees
Although we tend to think of businesses as being run by CEOs and other management, the reality is that it is the employees who actually determine an organization’s direction. If you want your company to be one that recycles, conserves and protects the environment, you had better make sure that the employees are on board. Make things fun by setting energy-conservation goals and providing rewards when those goals are met. The fact is that most people are willing to do what they can to help the environment, but you have to be willing to meet them halfway.
Lewis Robinson is an eco-business consultant specializing in small business and non-profits. He’s helped start multiple corporations and currently freelances as a writer and business consultant.