With Earth Day (April 22) having just passed, this seemed like a good time to start thinking about green business: what this really means and how it can be achieved.
What is green business?
Being a green business can mean different things to different people. I generally define it as a business that recognizes that its operating processes have an impact on the environment and wants to take steps to reduce or eliminate those impacts. All businesses have some environmental impact regardless of the type of industry or the size of the business. Even a home based business still has some environmental impact, albeit typically a smaller one.
Why Go Green?
There are a number of reasons for making the decision to go green. Often the largest driver is to save money and reduce operating costs. Just think of the costs to heat and cool your business and to keep the lights on. For many businesses, this can be the single largest expenditure. Any improvement in reducing your energy costs will definitely help the bottom line.
Going green is also an excellent way to gain access to new markets and business opportunities. Many large corporations have strong environmental and social responsibility mandates and look for business partners and suppliers that can help meet their goals. Increasingly, corporations are including requests for environmental performance information in their RFP process.
Embracing a green business ethic also provides a competitive advantage over your non green counterparts and helps to better position your business within the local community.
For many, this is a key component of their brand and is marketed as such.
How Do I Green My Business?
I always recommend that before a business starts to implement any action, that they conduct a review of their operations. This ensures they are targeting those areas that will generate the biggest return, both financially and in terms of overall effort. Depending on the size of the business and availability of time, a high level review can be completed in-house.
Typically, the biggest savings can be found by reviewing the following three areas: energy use (electricity, fuels), waste management and purchasing. Coincidentally, these are the areas where companies have the greatest ability to make changes but often the least insight into performance and costs.
Employee engagement is crucial not only in terms of buy-in, but in identifying areas for improvement as they are often closer to day-to-day operations. It’s vital that employees are kept informed of the plan and your overall progress. Many companies successfully develop volunteer Green Teams to help the company achieve its green goals by ensuring that new policies are implemented and followed up on.
And never forget the power of persistence! Going green takes time and dedication but the rewards are there.
Michelle Marley, owner of Terra Sustainability Consulting, is a recognized sustainability leader with more than fifteen years of experience in both the public and private sectors. Prior to founding Terra Sustainability Consulting, Michelle was Director of Environmental Affairs at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts (a portfolio of 60 properties worldwide) for more than four years, and Director of Sustainability at Indigo Books & Music for three years. Michelle currently serves on the Board of the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Industries Association (NEIA). For more information about Terra Sustainability Consulting check out their Facebook page or connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.