Actionable Steps to Building a Sustainable Business
With the new year rapidly approaching, it is a good time as individuals, and as businesses, to look at ways we can reduce our environmental impact, or as a large part of our environmental impact is known as today, our "Carbon Footprint".
Faced with the reality of dwindling natural resources and man-made damage to the environment, today's businesses recognize more than ever the importance of reducing their environmental impact. However, when it comes to actually putting sustainable practices into action, many businesses don't know where to begin. Therefore, the following is a list of proposed actionable steps any business can take to reduce impact on the environment.
- Set realistic goals and make small changes over time: Building a sustainable business practice requires long-term planning and implementation across the entire organization. Therefore, setting realistic sustainability goals and benchmarks is the key to success. While it might not be realistic or feasible in month one to completely convert your office’s energy use to solar power, you can start to reduce your business's energy consumption by changing simple everyday behaviors and procedures, such as turning out the lights when not in use or recycling paper and trash throughout the office. All of these small changes have a long-term impact on the environment.
- Make sustainability a core part of your company's vision and values: Changing your business practices and behaviors to become more environmentally responsible requires a shared commitment and vision throughout the organization. Therefore, sustainability must be a core part of your company’s vision and values. This requires integrating sustainability goals and practices into your overall business strategy and committing to actual change. A good place to start is to build an environmental business plan or to establish a "sustainability task force" to carry out the plan.
- Get involved in worthwhile activities and causes that help protect the environment: Show your company's unified commitment to environmental responsibility by participating in related events and causes. Whether it’s through volunteering in the community or making a donation to a charity or cause that you believe in, Corporate Social Responsibility is an important part of demonstrating your business’ commitment to the environment.
- Reward employees for making positive changes: Show your staff appreciation for their commitment to achieving a more sustainable organization and reward them for their contributions and milestones. For instance, launch a company-wide competition, challenging the staff to reduce your office's monthly electric bills by 5 percent in six months. If that goal is achieved, the entire company will be treated to dinner or with a group outing to a baseball game.
- Make changes in your purchasing decisions: Reducing your company's environmental impact also requires making responsible purchasing decisions. For instance, start purchasing paper products for the office that are recyclable or consider replacing your dry cell supplies with rechargeable batteries.
- Recognize the long-term benefits and return on investment of reducing your business's environmental footprint: Some businesses think that going green is too expensive, preventing them from adopting sustainable practices. Therefore, it’s important to both understand the long-term value of environmental sustainability and communicate that value to senior management. While installing solar panels may require a significant upfront financial investment, the long-term return is significant in terms of the energy savings. Being environmentally responsible can also increase your company's sales and profitability. According to Consumer Reports on Climate Change, 79 percent of consumers said they would rather buy from companies doing their best to reduce their environmental impact.
- Share your environmental accomplishments with customers, stakeholders and the public: Sharing the good news about how your business is making a positive difference in the environment improves how your customers, stakeholders, employees, and the public perceive your organization and its products/services. Don't keep your environmental accomplishments a secret. Share the news with the public wherever possible through press announcements, during trade shows, on your Web site, in customer e-newsletters, etc.
While creating a sustainable business practice requires time and consistency, implementing positive changes within your organization, even small ones, go a long way.
Aaron Fowles, is a Specialist, Corporate Communications at SANYO North America, a leading company for energy and environment, providing energy- and environmental-related products and solutions, offers tips to help businesses reduce their footprint on the environment. To learn more about SANYO North America, please visit www.us.sanyo.com