Dirty secret: it’s actually easy being green
Small businesses thrive on efficiency. That's always been true with respect to financial decisions and business processes, but it's become increasingly important in environmental terms as well. Environmentally-friendly companies enjoy a host of benefits while also making a positive impact on their communities.
Going green may seem like a short-term trend, but growing environmental concerns and the broad success of green businesses in recent years suggests that most companies would do well to invest more time and effort into sustainability initiatives.
Leadership in sustainability drives business success
Environmental and social responsibility have become deep concerns for many people in recent years. Consumers are increasingly voting with their wallets, preferring to seek out goods and services from companies that they believe align with their values. In fact, nearly half of U.S. consumers make purchasing decisions at least partly based on environmental factors. Additionally, 85% of global consumers are willing to pay more for products from companies they believe are environmentally responsible, this is up from 66% just a few years prior.
Millennials mean business when they’re considering who to purchase with. It’s estimated that one-third of this demographic will opt to choose a more sustainable alternative when available and gravitate to businesses who have a clear earth-friendly vibe in their value proposition – whereas older generations are less-likely to seek out other sustainable options. This is important for businesses to recognize moving forward as this generation makes up a fairly large segment of customers. And Gen Z consumers could be even more likely to consider a company’s values when deciding where to purchase.
Employees, too, often prefer to support sustainable, eco-friendly organizations. Going green in business has become a great way to attract and retain more top talent. Environmental concerns have become some of the most important considerations for prospective employees. Linking your business to these causes also engenders more excitement among employees and boosts engagement. Of course, embracing sustainability also serves as a powerful example for others to follow.
Saving green by going green
Going green in business also offers a number of more practical and tangible benefits. Perhaps the greatest payoff is in terms of reduced waste and improved efficiency. Whether it's cutting down on energy use or reducing material waste, a more efficient business is a more profitable one.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, businesses can save on utility costs alone simply by implementing a few free or low-cost measures. Greater investments often lead to even greater returns.
Environmental initiatives can pay off in other ways as well. Federal, state, and local governments frequently offer tax incentives to encourage investment in green technologies. Completing energy-efficient renovations and making other upgrades to your facilities may also allow you to take deductions on your taxes.
Energy-efficient properties also tend to have more favorable financing terms. For instance, facilities that bear the ENERGY STAR certification typically have lower interest rates by 30 to 35 basis points. According to some studies, a greener workplace can even boost employee productivity by up to 16%.
4 Ways to become an environmentally friendly company
The best news of all is that there are many ways to go green. Many of the simplest ways to boost your sustainability revolve around reducing unnecessary energy usage.
Businesses are notorious energy-wasters, but cutting your consumption doesn't require major effort. Here are a few convenient ways your business can save energy without incurring significant expenses:
- Replace applicable lighting in your facilities with compact fluorescent light bulbs.
- Maintain heating and cooling equipment and change air filters regularly.
- Use programmable thermostats and occupant sensors to reduce energy waste.
- Regularly evaluate energy use to find opportunities for improvement.
Another great way to commit to sustainability is to reduce your material waste. Paper is among the most common waste sources in the business world. You can reduce your environmental impact by seeking out paper products made only from postconsumer waste. These products are composed entirely of recycled paper and require substantially less energy and water to produce. Of course, your business should also make an effort to recycle as much waste as possible.
A more eco-friendly workforce
In addition to reducing the amount of waste your company produces, it's also important to ensure that your employees are working in a sustainable way. One way to cultivate a more eco-friendly workforce is to encourage the use of alternative transportation. Offering small incentives to employees who choose public transportation, carpooling, or biking is a great way to make an environmental impact by reducing the number of cars on the road each day.
It's also worth considering whether all of your employees even need to be in an office to perform their work. Along with improving work-life balance and leading to greater productivity on average, allowing employees to work from home can drastically slash gas consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, the U.S. Patent Office runs a telework program for some of its employees and tracks the results. In 2020 alone, they found that allowing 7,324 employees to work from home four or five days per week saved more than $6.8 million in gas and reduced emissions by more than 42,600 tons per year.
There are many reasons to consider going green. Environmentally-friendly companies save money, have greater productivity, enjoy competitive advantages, and set a positive example through their actions. With so many easy ways of going green, there's simply no reason not to adopt environmental responsibility as a core part of your business strategy.