The push for environmental protection continues as the world’s population expands and global resource conservation initiatives gain buy-in from many nations. Far from trendy, green business practices more than likely will continue to find traction. Whether your business has made green changes out of necessity or out of altruism, many shades of green can be accomplished by your company, some quite easily.
In-House Green Business Practices, The Low-Hanging Fruit
Believe it or not, your business already participates in a few environmental measures because of recent changes in attitude. Many building codes reflect higher efficiency standards for electrical and plumbing systems. Consumer products, like lights, are transitioning to LEDs. Low-flow faucets and toilets are called out on new construction. And who throws away an aluminum can anymore? A simple visual inspection at your business can determine whether these consumer-driven changes have filtered into your workplace. And, if not, the amount of room for improvement.
Recycling waste is another area that has changed due to consumer and commercial forces. Many communities require sorting waste products at the curb. Making a quick in-house assessment of your business’s waste stream will determine if your trash is ending up in the landfill or at the recycling center. Can employees choose between recycling and waste receptacles? How about your customers? How much of your recycling is mis-sorted? Does your company buy recycled paper, a better green option? Or bottled water, a waste-producing product?
Your company’s in-house recycling program should become systemic, taking on a life of its own without supervision. In-house waste recycling programs operate best when:
Recycling is easy.
All employees take accountability for their own habits.
It occurs by second nature rather than due to the efforts of one or two conscientious employees.
A formal way to assess your in-house green business practices is to conduct an energy or waste audit. Local environmental, governmental or energy advocates often offer these programs for free or at a reduced cost as an incentive to improve the larger environmental impact on a community. Check your local Chamber of Commerce or United Way to find assistance. Good green ideas can also be found the tried-and-true method: by networking. Find local or regional companies that have green business practices in place. Word about them has probably spread, and they can be your best resource.
Patagonia, for instance, hasn’t always been as green as it is now. It started reluctantly when its employees at Patagonia’s first retail store became sick due to formaldehyde used to process the cotton in its clothes. This prompted the company to make changes to safeguard the health of its employees and, consequently, its customers – by sourcing organic cotton that met better environmental standards. Now, Patagonia offers free advice and guidance about green business practices to any company interested in changing its patterns.
The Bigger Picture, Your Product or Service
What your company produces, builds, or sells has an environmental footprint. A zero footprint is ideal, but if you are in business, your company impacts the world in some way. To reduce your strain on precious resources, knowing their source and how your company stewards them is Priority One. You must understand your materials as much as possible before and after use.
For example, does your company use wood? Many businesses in traditional logging states are moving toward the use of sustainably harvested timber certified by the FSC, the Forest Stewardship Council, which has become a significant agent of change in construction. Companies are encouraged to become members of FSC by upholding principals that promote the use of sustainably harvested wood.
Measuring your environmental impact should encompass a wide spectrum of resources, not just the obvious ones that top your line-item expense report. Resources to review may include:
Fuel and other CO2 emitting processes (car/air travel)
Electricity (source and efficiencies)
Water (source and quality, pre- and post-use)
Minerals (collection practices and scarcity)
Human (environmental working conditions, carpools, home offices)
At times, implementing green business practices on a large scale can also save your company money. This is a common occurrence when waste is reduced; you spend less to dispose of your waste when you have less of it. For many businesses, this can equate into a significant cost savings and off-set the price of more expensive green ideas, such as retro-fitting a building with solar panels for electricity or hot water needs.
For example, in New Jersey, waste disposal fees are around $80 a ton, which caused Lockheed Martin to consider greater recycling efforts, including composting food waste. In 2011, the company reported it saved $145,500 by recycling asphalt, bottles, cans, concrete, metal, wood, paper, cardboard, and electrical scrap.
Greening Beyond Your Business
Opportunities to be more environmentally friendly can also be fostered by doing business with green companies. More companies are experimenting with and using green business practices that may help your company make a wider impact. Seek out suppliers and vendors that are good green corporate citizens. Many cities offer incentives or award programs to create a critical mass of green businesses in their communities.
Perhaps one of your suppliers uses solar energy for all or part of its energy needs. Yet another may offer carbon offset credits for each purchase. You might find a janitorial service that uses all environmental friendly products. In both small and big ways, partnering with conscientious businesses ensures their success and widens your positive green business impact.
If reducing your costs and generating good community relations evolve from your changes, don’t be surprised if you catch the “green spirit.” Then you’ll be the business others are talking about as the company to model.
To stay on top of the news and trends for green practices, find pertinent articles and information online at Green Business, a news source for all things green. The site offers thousands of resources, daily news, checklists, case studies, and links to organizations and programs to help any business make changes.