It is increasingly common for us to hear about sustainability and “going green”. This is because society has realized that our needs are infinite and natural resources are limited. For this reason, organizations have invested heavily in social and environmental responsibility actions and programs.
This type of investment proposes a new way of working, as the activities carried out by the companies are reviewed, seeking to identify the impacts that they may cause to the environment and how they can be reduced or even eliminated. And it is not just the environment that wins as, in fact, organizations also benefit from this practice.
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Profitability and growth go hand-in-hand when it comes to success in business. An important factor contributing to profitability is optimising business expenses without impacting quality.
Almost every successful entrepreneur I know has resorted to bootstrapping at some point in the evolution of their business. From downsizing office space to right sizing the workforce, businesses sometimes need to make drastic changes simply in order to survive.
Every dollar you can cut from your cash outflow is a dollar you can allocate to growth and expansion. However, not every cost saving decision has to be extreme. When a business incorporates sustainable practices into its operations there is a direct result on the bottom-line.
Nike is keeping millions of pounds of plastic and other manufacturing waste from going to landfills by transforming them into new materials it incorporates into environmentally friendly products. Not only are the products well received by consumers, the company has cut down waste management costs.
Nestle has reduced the amount of plastic used in its packaging and has started using recycled bottles for certain brands reducing the harmful environmental impact and their transportation costs due to lighter materials. The business case for going green has never been stronger as companies find ways to make more from less.
Most companies now know that having a sustainability strategy in place is important, although only about 25 percent of those have developed a clear business case for such a strategy. You don’t need to be a Fortune 500 company to support sustainability. Every business has the ability to incorporate simple green initiatives into its everyday operations.
Before a company takes a leap toward going green, there are a few important things to know. First, a business should only consider this initiative if they are committed to the change. Saving money will come over time and implementing a sustainability policy will only be successful if a company is committed. Next, if a company wants to successfully implement sustainable practices, it should share the change with its employees. Encourage them to contribute their own ideas and create a rewards program that will encourage employees to go green as well.
Here are five ways to go green and save money:
- Limit Paper Usage
Nearly every office, large or small, relies on large quantities of paper. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most wasteful aspects of a workplace. Not only is it bad for the environment, it is also costly for businesses that utilize paper every day. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, of which around 6,800 sheets used are thrown into trash.
You do not have to completely eliminate paper use, but you can be smart about how you use it. For eg, use both sides of the paper if you must print documents. Reduce your margin settings so that your printer uses less paper. To conserve ink, print in draft mode which lightens the shade of your text but can still be read clearly. Put a paper recycling receptacle next to every printer, copier and fax machine so that employees can deposit unwanted paper in them.
Rather than printing articles, business plans and other documents, utilize a digital system. There are dozens of affordable digital tools available today that allow people to collaborate, contribute, review, edit and even approve documents online without having to print a single sheet of paper.
- Shut Down Electronics
This go green tip might seem obvious, but many businesses do not realize how much energy their electronics are costing them. Consider your business. Start by looking at how many office areas you have. In each office and desk area, count the number of computers and other electronics. Then check how many lights run 24 hours a day.
All of the electronics in your business can be costing you serious money every day when you head home. Encourage employees to turn off their computers and laptops before they head home for the day. Turning off electronics is also good for the life of the product, while saving you a pretty penny in energy use. Change the light bulbs in your office to LEDs, which use much less energy and last 10-20 times longer than halogen or incandescent light bulbs.
Leave a sign inside your building that says something like, “If you are the last to leave, turn all the lights off.”
The type of devices your employees are using can also make a difference. Laptops are far more energy efficient than desktop computers. They run off battery power for long periods, while the desktop needs to be constantly plugged in. If you're hoping to substantially save on your energy bill over time switching to laptops is the smart choice.
- Host Work-from-Home Days
This going green tip will depend on your business and what kind of processes work for your employees. There are many companies that allow their employees to work from home, and this is not only because they want employees to have a good work-life balance. Having employees work from home can also save you money as a business.
Let’s say that you allow employees to work from home every Wednesday. Whether you have 10 or 50 employees, your business will be saving money by giving the energy system in your office a break. It also reduces the costs related to computers, phones, electricity, heating and air conditioning and all the other little necessities that keep an office operating.
Also, several workplace studies have shown that remote employees tend to take less time off, report in sick less frequently, and are more productive.
- Say no to Plastic in the workplace
A significant amount of plastic waste in the office is a result of staff lunches. Packaging from take-away meals, disposable cutlery, single-use beverage cups etc. Encourage your staff to bring their own lunches by providing them with appropriate facilities to store and reheat their food. Have reusable utensils available in your pantry. Investing in glassware is a great option. This can also be better for health, as there are many chemicals in plastics that people use every day.
Photo source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKrLywiP3tY
When a new employee starts at your company, provide them with a coffee mug and a glass water bottle. This will also encourage employees to get coffee at the office in their personalized cup rather than buying coffee on the way.
- Create a Culture of Sustainability
A report by Bain & Company that surveyed more than 300 companies showed that 93% want to be sustainable and believe sustainability is important to the future success of the business. However, only 2% achieve their sustainability goals. And one of the biggest reasons sustainability fails has to do with culture change issues.
Your sustainability/going green efforts would be useless without the support and participation of everyone in the company. Building a culture of sustainability involves everyone, from the leadership to the support staff. Document all your sustainability guidelines and policies and make sure that these are properly communicated to all employees.
Encouraging employees to recycle and making it easy for them to do so can help you get started. Set recycling goals for your team, and reward team members for meeting them. You could also make it fun by setting up competitions between departments challenging them to decrease their footprint through recycling and more conscious energy use. For eg, departments with the least landfill-bound trash or the lowest electricity use in a quarter wins a prize.
This op-ed piece was written by Vijay Eswaran, Executive Chairman and public face of QI Group.