Sustainability is a key buzzword in business at the moment. Implemented properly it can drive profitability, attract new customers and highly talented employees, reduce costs and boost morale. Sustainable business practices have also been known to increase efficiency, all while doing good for the local and global environment. So what can your business do to promote and encourage sustainability?
1. EMPOWER YOUR EMPLOYEES
When it comes to implementing change in business, communication with your employees is critical. Explain how and why you will be making changes and provide insight regarding the benefits of introducing new processes and procedures. One of the most important first steps when it comes to adopting sustainable practices is creating organizational-wide buy in and understanding. Encourage your employees to provide leadership in moving towards sustainability and give them the opportunity to share their ideas, whether that’s online, via a drop box or in company meetings.
2. FORMALIZE YOUR COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY
Many organizations shy away from making a formal commitment to sustainability until they have reached a set level of ‘green’ or have experienced notable improvements. However, it’s important to demonstrate that you are committed to sustainability and making an official statement to this end holds your organization to a standard. Be mindful not to mislead your clients, and stress that sustainability is not a destination but rather a process. “The most honest statement regarding sustainability a business can make is that it is more socially and environmentally responsible today than it was yesterday and will be even more so tomorrow,” advises the North Carolina Centre for Sustainable Tourism. By making your commitment to sustainability official, you are more likely to see continued improvements.
3. TURN OFF LIGHTS AND ELECTRONICS
It may seem obvious but one of the most simple and effective ways to reduce your company’s environmental impact is to turn off lights and electronics when they’re not in use. The best way to do this is to get all of your employees involved in the initiative, but to also give one designated member of staff the task of ensuring all lights and electronics are off at the end of the day. In an office environment especially, there can be multiple workstations and pieces of equipment that need turning off (for example printers, televisions, desktops, projectors and DVD players). Adding power strips to these electronics means that they can all be turned off from one source making power conservation much easier. Finally, turning down heating or cooling systems when nobody is in the building will lead to considerable savings – talk to your provider about timing systems and green alternatives.
4. GO ENERGY EFFICIENT
Even small steps such as installing energy efficient light bulbs can help reduce your carbon footprint and your utility bills. Before making the switch on a grand scale, test a number of different options in different places in the office. While sustainability has to be a priority, it cannot hinder productivity or indeed safety in more manual environments. Motion sensor lighting solutions are also gaining in popularity – as soon as people leave an area the lights will turn themselves off automatically.
5. CONSERVE WATER
It can be easy to overlook, but water conservation continues to be of vital importance. One easy and cost effective way to reduce your water consumption is to install water aerators in sinks. They reduce the volume of water, while maintaining the water pressure.
6. RECYCLE PAPER
Organizations often underestimate how much paper they waste on a daily basis. But when you think about it, the volume of printed documents and handwritten notes that get thrown away isn’t insignificant. There are a number of ways that organizations big and small can reduce the amount of paper they use. Firstly, encourage employees to think twice before printing any documents. If its an email or a report, can they view it online rather than on paper? Secondly, adjust the default setting on your printers to double page so that both sides are used for draft documents. And thirdly, consider reusing the non-printed side of used paper for note taking where possible.
7. REDUCE BUSINESS TRAVEL
Your sustainability efforts can extend outside of the office space and have an even wider impact thanks to modern technology. Business travel – be it by car, train or plane – vastly increases your company’s carbon footprint, however a lot of travel can be prevented in modern business owing to the rise of video conferencing technology such as Skype and GoTo Meeting. Sometimes personal interaction is important in business, however a lot of meetings can now be conducted from afar. Aim to reduce business travel - not only will you reduce your impact on the environment, but you’ll save money too.
8. FORGE LOCAL PARTNERSHIPS
By giving preference to local suppliers and vendors, not only are your supporting your local economy but you are seriously reducing your impact on the environment. Consider ordering supplies from local companies, even if their product is slightly more expensive, because in doing so you’re reducing the supply chain.
9. INVEST IN A DIGITAL FILING SYSTEM
Larger organizations should consider digital filing systems (cloud based options are a good idea for many businesses) – not only do they reduce the need for paper documents, but they are safer, easier to access and take up less physical space. In today’s agile working environment, digital filing systems also have additional benefits, for example employees can access vital documents on multiple devices, anywhere in the world.
10. CREATE A GREEN TEAM
In order to see continuous and ongoing improvement at your company, it’s advisable to create a ‘Green Team’ – a group of elected employees who can represent the thoughts and opinions of their peers. These employees are not only charged with sharing ideas at committee meetings, but also research new sustainability trends and initiatives, monitor progress and buy in across the company and help achieve new targets. Once again, employee empowerment and thus commitment to change is essential.