No matter your stance on climate change, green business practices are good business practices. Going green not only benefits the environment but can help to reduce your operational costs over time.
If you want to increase your sustainable business practices with affordability in mind, here are six key areas to consider.
One quick way to help support the environment and start to see cost savings is to scale back energy-wasting practices. Switching to LED light bulbs can have a big impact on energy savings since they use 75% less energy than traditional bulbs and last up to 25 times longer.
You also may need to take a hard look at another top offender — your HVAC system. Heating and cooling accounts for 48% of property energy consumption, and adjusting your thermostat is a simple way to reduce costs. You can cut costs by as much as 10% a year by turning your thermostat down seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day — to 78°F in the summer and 68°F in the winter
If you have the budget, switch out your shades for smart shades that raise or lower depending on environmental conditions.
Another easy and cost-effective way to save money and become a more sustainable business is to cut back on plastic water bottles. Consider investing in a water filtering option instead. Depending on your budget you could install a reverse osmosis system, upgrade your office refrigerator to include a water filter or spend a few dollars on a water filter pitcher.
The average daily cost of business travel, including car rental, meals and hotels, rose to $325 per day in 2018 plus an average of $450 for an airline ticket. Travel also accounts for 50% or more of business carbon emissions.
The most sustainable way to overcome these impacts is to simply avoid traveling when you can. Conference calls and low-cost video conferencing apps can help, but if you must travel, try to do so sustainably. Flying non-stop, booking coach — business class travelers have a larger carbon footprint — taking public transportation and staying in LEED-rated green hotels can all help make a difference.
Paper itself is cheap, but sourcing it is unsustainable for forests — 40% of trees are harvested for paper production. That alone is reason enough to cut back, but if you’re looking at your bottom-line you’ll find that paper waste is also costing your business. The average cost per printed page is between 3.9 cents and 8.9 cents, and that’s before you get into maintenance contracts on your office printers.
You can reduce your reliance on paper by practicing digital information sharing and collaboration as much as possible. Encourage your staff to review documents on-screen rather than printing them out. Use cloud-based tools to digitize previously paperwork-centric manual tasks and workflows like invoicing, contract paperwork or order forms. When you’ve gotten your business off of paper, ask your vendors and others in your supply chain to do the same.
If you’re serious about creating a more sustainable business, think about how you’ll engage and motivate your employees. In addition to communicating your reasons for going green and steps you’re planning to take, consider creating a green business task force to help reinforce and explore new ways to make sustainability a part of your business culture. Suggest monthly lunch and learns that focus on green topics and include guest speakers or challenges such as encouraging everyone to adopt one new green habit each month.
You can also look for solutions that think outside the office. After Dell implemented a large-scale telecommuting program, the company saved the equivalent of 6,700 metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions, which equates to driving 16 million miles.
Finally, develop a plan that will help your business stay green. Set goals, such as a plan to reduce your power bill each month or a pledge to work only with like-minded businesses in your supply chain. This will help you identify ways to weave sustainability into all aspects of your business. Having a plan of action will also help you avoid falling for bogus eco-friendly gimmicks and claims. Finally, include strategies for getting the word out to customers and the media about your sustainability efforts and results. It can provide a good boost to your company’s image and reassure eco-conscious customers that your values align with theirs.
The push for sustainable business practices isn’t going away — if anything, efforts to protect the environment will only become more important. Businesses can ensure they aren’t caught off guard by potential future regulations by implementing scalable sustainability practices as soon as possible.
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