There was a time, not so long ago, when “going green” was thought to be both exotic and expensive. While CEOs liked the added value that came with having a greener brand, they wondered whether the cost made sustainable business better only in theory rather than in practice.
Lately, however, creating a green (or greener) business has become far more mainstream as business owners understand that sustainability is both good business and good for business. Here are a few reasons:
- It saves money by encouraging waste reduction, recycling and reuse;
- It improves efficiencies;
- It creates a competitive advantage;
- It lowers costs; and
- It increases goodwill.
These days, consumers are more apt to expect that any business they interact with has green operating procedures, and many are willing to spend more for green products. This is especially true among Millennials, who far more than their consumer-oriented Baby Boomer parents, take green values seriously and are willing to use their buying power to enact change.
Given this attitude shift, it makes sense that small business owners are looking to promote sustainability in their business practices, among their employees and with their customers. Here are three ways to do just that:
1. Reduce energy and water use: There are many easy and affordable ways to create a green business. One city that really encourages this is Portland, Oregon, which was recently named the Greenest City in America. In Portland, both small and large businesses are implementing creative ways to make their businesses, and thus the region, more sustainable. Some of the ways you can create a greener business include:
- Purchasing Energy Star-certified goods when buying new technology;
- Purchasing green-certified products;
- Installing power timers so that equipment and lights go off at night.
2. Encourage your employees to be greener: One nice by-product of having a green workplace is that it is good for morale, as people generally enjoy working for businesses that have values. Helping your staff live the green values you set is pretty easy:
- Encourage employees to take public transit or bikes to work by creating a bike room for storage or offering financial incentives for leaving the car at home (e.g., offer to subsidize a transit pass). You can also reward employees who carpool to work.
- Ban plastic water bottles and offer filtered water so that employees can refill their water bottles at work instead.
- Make reusing and recycling easy by having recycling bins available throughout the office.
- Ask your employees what they want to do. Put out a “green suggestion box,” or simply make it known that you are open to new ideas for how to be greener and more efficient. By offering a prize for the best ideas, you will really get some good ones.
3. Encourage your customers to be greener: The same eco-consciousness that boosts employee morale is also present with your customers these days. It can be used to your advantage— especially if you make it easy for them to go green when doing business with you:
- Offer green products.
- Match their donation.
So this Earth Day (April 22), remember— going green doesn’t cost, it pays.
How has your business focused on going green? Share your story below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss