Consumers are becoming more aware and educated about the environmental actions of companies they choose to do business with. Twenty years ago when a company talked about “going green” it focused around how cost-prohibitive it was. However 10 years ago, companies began to shift their thinking, seeing a benefit to embracing sustainable practices which gave them a competitive edge with consumers.
As climate change continues to make headlines, more and more businesses are asking how they can be socially and environmentally responsible and support sustainability. The promise of sustainable business is twofold: being “green” isn’t just ideological, it’s fiscally responsible because it saves money on energy, paper, and other resources.
The “green” business is the lean business that uses data on past resources to consume only the resources it needs now. Small businesses have a leg up in the green department because they are viewed as being more agile and flexible and able to make quick changes at any time.
The Case for Sustainable Business
Business sustainability is defined as managing the triple bottom line – a process by which companies manage their financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. These three impacts are sometimes referred to as profits, people and planet.
To put it in more easier to understand terms, sustainable practices are those that:
1) at minimum do not harm people or the planet and at best create value for stakeholders
2) focus on improving environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in the areas in which the company or brand has a material environmental or social impact (such as in their operations, value chain, or customers).
Companies who decide to go “green” and invest their time and finances into more sustainable practices are:
- saving money,
- signaling a business’ ability to change for the better,
- retaining employees who value sustainability (such as millennials),
- attracting customers and clients who are attracted to sustainable business practices.
Consumers are starting to take notice of companies’ green and sustainable business practices. A 2017 international study by Unilever reveals that a third of consumers (33%) are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. As well as confirming the public’s high expectations of brands when it comes to having a positive social and environmental impact, the study’s findings uncover an unprecedented opportunity for companies that get it right. More than one in five (21%) of the people surveyed said they would actively choose brands if they made their sustainability credentials clearer on their packaging and in their marketing.
Companies that incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business are helping the bottom line as well as the environment. Keep in mind that your efforts to “green” your business practices must be genuine if you advertise or promote them as such. Consumers may actually punish or stop doing business with you if they feel they have been misled by false claims of sustainability. And word travels fast when a company does something perceived as wrong or deceitful.
How to Start the New Year Green
There are so many great ways to start the new year off “green” in your office or place of business. In fact you may already be doing quite a few “green” things and not even realize it. Even the smallest changes can have a big impact. For many small businesses, they are thought to be particularly well-equipped to make “green” changes on a quicker basis due to their small size and structure.
Here are some good starting suggestions on things you can do in your workplace to be more green:
- promote recycling in the office,
- use green cleaning products,
- make the office “paperless”
- minimize paper usage by using cloud-based software that everyone can edit and collaborate on,
- change office light bulbs to the energy conserving kind,
- encourage employees to bring their own cups and refillable water bottles (instead of using paper cups or buying plastic bottles of water),
- allow employees to work from home,
- seek out green vendors — source goods and services that are produced and supplied in a sustainable fashion,
- save time and money by eliminating redundant data entry when it comes time to do taxes (yes! you can even be green at tax time!), then use that time work on going green with your team
This list can continue on with more things you and your team can do to make your workplace more “green.” Consider holding a “green meeting” with your whole staff and discussing what you are (or are not) doing now and what else you can reasonably do to incorporate more green practices into your everyday activities. You’ll be surprised at how motivated your team can get when they are doing good for the office and the environment!
What to Do with Old Office Computers
One question comes up frequently when going green is “what to do with old office computers?” You’ve probably spent quite a bit of money on them and don’t want to just toss them in the trash with yesterday’s fridge clean out. But at some point, they do become outdated and are no longer useful to the business and need to be replaced. Don’t let them go to waste but at the same time, don’t let them waste your company time and power.
It’s important to note that your old office computers are considered assets while they are in your possession — so even if you aren’t using them, you still need to keep track of them. They need to be accounted for when you are conducting a company audit. Looking at the usage and maintenance history on them can also help you make financial decisions on how they performed for the company and if you want to invest in that brand again or if it’s time to move on.
According to the Electronics Take BackCoalition, over two million tons of E-waste is disposed of every year in the U.S., and only 27 percent is recycled. If your business is replacing electronic items such as computers, monitors, tablets, smartphones, etc. that are less than 5 years old, chances are they can be re-used by schools or charities in your area.
Some computer manufacturers have technology recycling programs that allow credit for trade-ins on used equipment and donation programs for charities. Electronics retailers such as BestBuy and Staples also have programs for trading in used electronics for cash or recycling older devices that cannot be reused.
If you are donating or recycling your computers or any other type of electronic equipment, make sure you remove all sensitive company/personal information from any devices. You don’t want that type of information to get into the wrong hands. That’s a whole different type of nightmare!
How to Plan Ahead for Sustainability
Now that you have some green practices under your belt, it’s important to think about how your business will plan ahead to stay green and sustainable. Analyzing your company’s assets and inventory while researching ways to prioritize sustainability in the future will continue to benefit the company. Looking at what’s working now and what you want to do next will get you on the right track. Foresight is essential to ensure you are making the right choices and investments.
First and foremost, you need to establish your sustainability goals. Do you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve? Get buy-in and support from all of your employees and stakeholders that they are onboard with the initiative. Sometimes this requires a cultural shift or change in how your company does things and may require enhanced communications.
When you plan for future sustainability initiatives, you demonstrate that your company is forward-thinking and environmentally conscious. And people will take notice.
How to Make the Most of Your Green Efforts in 2019
Congratulations! Now that you are going green you want to share this new way of conducting business with your staff, vendors, and customers. This is the time to spread the word and create awareness about your new initiative.
Engage your community by sharing your green actions on social media. Encourage your staff to discuss the activities amongst themselves, with vendors and with customers. When the company is excited and engaged, it becomes viral and can be promoted to all who are willing to listen. Make more of your marketing efforts digital in accordance with your new practices. Share how your office is using less paper. Promote vendors you partner with that are sustainable.
Maybe even consider a charitable fundraiser that incorporates your green activities. Like for example, collecting plastic bottles for a year and giving the proceeds from recycling them to a charity of choice.
Inspire your employees as well as your customers to be part of this change. The way in which you engage your staff (and customers) will ultimately affect how connected they all feel to your sustainability mission and its success.
And speaking of success, having digital tools at your fingertips that contribute to your green practices are a great way to get started. Many companies have loads of paper invoices, receipts, contracts, instruction manuals, etc. just sitting in filing cabinets taking up space. Incorporating a digital asset and inventory tracking and management platform like Asset Panda can change the way you keep track of these items and help your office go paperless.
Learn more about how Asset Panda can contribute to your sustainable green initiatives by visiting www.assetpanda.com and signing up for a free 14-day trial. All that paper could be a thing of the past sooner than you think!
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