As consumers have become more aware of renewable resources, and of the impact that businesses have on the environment, the trend of companies touting the fact that they are “going green” or investing in renewable energy has grown. While sustainable businesses practices and the increased use of clean energy are admirable goals for any business to have, understanding what “green” truly means, and knowing the ways you are poised to make the best and longest-lasting impact will help you ensure that your company is truly choosing the most environmentally conscious initiatives to invest in. To build your business using an environmentally conscious model, there are several approaches to consider before jumping in, and the benefits of doing so can expand beyond your environmental impact, to the employees you attract, and supporting your local community.
In an economy that has companies vying for qualified employees, job hunters are looking for companies that align with and actively support their values, in addition to their career goals. Corporate social responsibility practices have become important focal points for companies, and many big-name corporations have established themselves as leaders in this regard, including Google and Microsoft. Ensuring that your green initiative is well-researched, impactful, and a part of your company’s story will help you reach an even larger pool of potential employees that align with, and reflect your goals.
The first step in becoming environmentally conscious is to understand what your options are for active changes you can make. You can invest in renewable energy, focus on reducing waste, and even align yourself with foundations to create a more far-reaching effect. Utilizing sustainable, renewable energy sources is a major first step for many companies in going green.
Invest in Sustainable Energy
Investing in basic sustainability measures and seeking out opportunities to utilize renewable energy can be extremely impactful to the environment and can save your company money. A great place to start is an energy audit. This will often come back with immediate ways to reduce energy waste like energy-efficient lighting and day-to-day electrical supply. This can be especially useful for companies that have multiple locations or warehouse storage.
Next, you will want to look into how your energy is sourced. Many companies are buying into solar and wind power, with wind power having created a 20% reduction in energy production costs between 2011 and 2012. Some power companies will let you buy wind credits, allowing you to actively support green energy, and ensuring that your energy is sourced from a sustainable resource.
Company-wide standards such as efficient lighting and utilizing the option to buy clean power are excellent places to build on. However, going green doesn’t just mean looking into how you keep the lights on. You can create a significant impact by making simple changes in office supplies, sourcing, and packaging.
Reduce Day-to-Day Waste
The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year, and 45% of which end up in the garbage by the end of the day. One way to make an impact is to investigate both where your products are sourced, and how they are treated once they have served their purpose. Make sure to order goods made from recycled materials, including office paper, breakroom plates, and single-use plasticware, and search out solutions to general office needs that are created from recycled materials. If you sell physical products, consider their packaging and if you can create environmentally sustainable designs or bagging and purchasing options.
Another step in making the day-to-day requirements of business more environmentally friendly is to find solutions that address convenience-centered waste. A major source of landfill material is single cup coffee machines that use individually packaged, plastic cups of preground coffee. Even if you continue using the same machine, reusable filters and a can of coffee can make close to a thousand cups, both of which are often recyclable. This reduces not only the per-person waste produced but the overall investment in these damaging materials.
Recycling common office supplies goes far beyond paper and plastic. By recycling electronics that are no longer useable, a massive amount of energy can be saved. Recycling one million laptops saves enough energy to provide 3,500 households with electricity for a year, and reduces air and water pollution associated with their processing and breakdown. You can also invest in fixing faulty equipment rather than simply replacing it, donating out of date electronics to charities, and utilizing manufacturer recycling and replacement programs.
Find a Charity and Get Your Employees Involved
An excellent way to make a direct impact is to align yourself with a charitable cause that you trust and that is making an impact you believe in. You can do this through donation collection, donated services, or even diverting a portion of your sales every year directly to the organization of your choosing. All of these choices will give you the chance to rally your employees around your investment in environmental and local support efforts.
By making environmental and charitable awareness consistent parts of your business model, you can engage with your employees, and utilize their passions to make an even bigger impact. Sourcing recommendations for local organizations to partner with, fundraisers to run, or efforts to sponsor will make your employees feel valued, their passions recognized, and help you make a direct local impact. Finding a cause to support not only gives your entire company a communal charitable focus, but it makes a clear statement to the public about where your values lie.
With many people looking for impact careers, the charitable, environmentally aware changes that you are making to your company are going to affect more than just your light sources and your coffee machines. The investments that you choose to make become a part of your brand’s story, something that will influence investment decisions, partnership plans, and even hiring practices. By making these changes, you make a tangible, visible statement about what your company stands for, the values it upholds, and the impact that it wants to make on the world.