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How Businesses Can Be Environmentally Friendly and Still Make a Profit

Words by Scott Huntington
Leadership & Transparency
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Businesses don't have to compromise profitability for an eco-friendly restructuring of their current practices. More often than not, they benefit from the transition.

In a market where the carbon footprint of a conglomerate can tarnish its reputation, companies large and small should make a concerted effort to reduce their negative impact on the environment. They have a responsibility to the public to produce goods and services sustainably.

So where does an executive in upper management even begin? What changes can they make to their current procedures to ensure both the continued health of their company and the planet? In other words — what are cost-effective, sustainable solutions that won't be impossible to budget for?

In this article, we'll detail how a business can move toward environmental friendliness while not moving away from their goals.

Sustainable Procurement

For the manager who feels ensnared between environmental responsibilities and economic realities, sourcing is the most common issue. Fortunately, sustainable procurement is an option that's growing in both popularity and availability as prices fall. As an alternative to conventional sourcing, it has a significant impact.

The products that an average business consumes, processes and discards as waste can accumulate at an alarming rate. Sustainable procurement allows managers to source their necessary supplies in a renewable way, using recycled materials and substances that aren't toxic to the environment.

Should a manager shop around, they'll likely find a supplier that provides the same goods they've grown accustomed to without a serious increase in price. The price is often lower, a result of the growing pressure of corporate accountability that urges manufacturers to replace outdated means of production.

Energy Restructuring

Shifting the energy infrastructure of an entire office building is an admittedly expensive task. It's time-consuming and labor-intensive, with noisy work crews disturbing the peace of an otherwise serene white-collar ecosystem. For many companies, that scale of restructuring simply isn't in the budget.

But the benefits of renewable energy on large-scale operations are undeniable. EnergySage market data suggests that an average commercial property in the U.S. can save up to 75 percent by investing in solar power. The average monthly electric bill for a commercial property reduced from $1950 to $500 after the switch.

Still, the price of installation on a commercial property often represents a barrier to entry that's too steep for smaller businesses to afford. But with the steady increase in the popularity of alternative energy, business owners can expect a drop in price as the incentivized technology becomes more available.

Green Building

An executive asked to decide between constructing a building from conventional materials or green materials might flinch toward the former. The word "green" connotes "different," and anything that strays from the status quo is more often than not expensive — or at least, costlier than the standard.

Fortunately for indecisive executives, sourcing eco-friendly companies to construct their building doesn't have to break the bank. It's a common misconception that green buildings are far more expensive to produce, but the rise in cost is marginal and easily supplemented by the eventual gains.

In sourcing safe concrete and renewable materials from the best providers available, savings accumulate for both power and water utilities. A business can operate their LEED-certified building at an almost 20 percent reduction in maintenance costs. Carbon emissions see a drastic cut, as well.

Embracing Eco-Innovation

A relatively new addition to the sustainable business leader’s vocabulary, eco-innovation is defined as an economic effort that operates with respect for the environment. It may seem like a synonym for "eco-friendly," but the term "eco-innovation" is far more complex with a greater depth and scope.

Sustainable companies with a focus on eco-innovation receive more attention from potential investors interested in supporting a company that displays moral integrity and fair business practices. Having a strong voice in the conservation community can attract attention from wealthy contributors.

In addition to good publicity, companies that adopt eco-innovation change their policies to reflect their responsibility. They're able to avoid the costly consequences of environmental regulations and win the good favor of eco-conscious individuals. In short, it's a powerful way to rebrand and rebuild.

Replace Outdated Appliances

If the total conversion of a building's electrical infrastructure seems unrealistic, there are small ways that a manager can ensure that his or her office runs at peak efficiency. The solution is as simple as replacing the current appliances and light bulbs and replacing them with eco-friendly alternatives.

A universally popular brand for both commercial and residential buildings, Energy Star is a trusted name in sustainability. In addition to the impressive energy efficiency of their models, each Energy Star appliance has a label that shows the user the amount of power the device will consume over time.

However, Energy Star appliances do tend to sell at a higher cost than their inefficient counterparts. But an office building's monthly savings in their electricity bill accumulate over time to make up for that initial cost. With patience, a small change now will yield a sizable result down the line

It Begins With a Single Step

Executives early in their journey toward sustainability should assess their office, crunching the numbers to note its efficiency in different areas. How much goes toward electricity, water and other necessities? Of these monthly expenses, how much unnecessary waste do the employees produce?

By having an outline of the office's expenditure, a manager can research possible solutions with a clear perspective. But they should strike it from their mind that they're making an expensive sacrifice. Instead, they're making an investment not only in their business— but in the world.

Scott Huntington

Scott Huntington is a freelance writer based in Burlington, Vermont.

Read more stories by Scott Huntington