4 Easy, Economical Ways To Green Your Small Or Medium-Sized Business
In my company’s work with small businesses seeking growth through requests for proposals (RFPs), we often see clients asking for something special to help their company stand out. They are typically looking to add to the “Why Us” section of a proposal or to answer the increasingly common request for a better sense of a company’s philosophy and ethos.
Nowadays, sustainability efforts offer a win-win: They’re a way to surpass the competition in RFP situations and attract eco-minded clients and consumers — not to mention help the planet. The latest KPMG report shows that 80% of companies worldwide now report on sustainability. And a 2021 global sustainability study revealed that more than a third of all consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly alternatives.
Considering A Green Certification
For companies seeking an official green designation, choices abound: Numerous organizations now offer processes that result in obtaining either a company certification or individual credential. Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), for example, offers programs ranging from LEED certification for green buildings to a Sustainability Excellence Professional (SEP) credential that recognizes leaders at the forefront of sustainability efforts. For companies looking to certify their products and services as sustainable, organizations like Green Seal, a nonprofit focused on ecolabeling, offer programs to do just that.
Yet, unlike larger companies that may have access to deep corporate pockets, small to medium-sized businesses must balance sustainability efforts with cost constraints. And truth be told, certification procedures can be resource-intensive. But here’s the good news: There are a number of simple, low-cost steps you can take to go green and make your sustainability story more compelling.
Implementing DIY Green Initiatives
The Green Business Bureau, whose mission is to help companies become more sustainable in an efficient and cost-effective manner, includes the categories listed below in its eco-assessments. Using these broad areas as a starting point, we’ve included manageable, affordable ways for small businesses to implement green initiatives that make an impact.
1. Business Practices
Here’s an opportunity to rethink some of your business activities and tools with an eye toward finding efficiencies and upping sustainability. If you’ve still got stacked-up reams of printer paper, that may be a good place to start. Start using recycled paper and print hard copies only when absolutely necessary. For example, my own company policy is to submit client RFP responses electronically whenever possible, thus reducing paper use and emissions from shipping.
If your business uses packaging materials, consider implementing sustainable options such as recycled cardboard boxes, molded pulp forms and paper-based void fill.
It’s important to note that there are sustainability considerations in the digital world as well. For instance, you can investigate green hosting services like Google Cloud, which the company claims has zero net carbon emissions.
2. Office Space
Even the smallest office spaces offer plenty of opportunities to green up. Simple upgrades include LED lights, light sensors so that lights are only on when someone is present and even smart thermostats to improve energy efficiency.
Bathrooms and break rooms are spaces ripe for an eco-makeover. Consider energy-efficient appliances and, even easier on the budget, sustainable products wherever possible. These can include cleaners made from natural ingredients, as well as toilet paper and paper towels produced from post- or pre-consumer waste.
Additionally, if your company provides food and/or snacks for employees, look into increasing vegetarian and vegan options, since animal agriculture produces 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is also another opportunity to be mindful of packaging, staying away from styrofoam and single-use plastic products whenever possible.
Within this category, one of the greenest steps you can take is increasing the amount of remote work (if your business model supports it, as ours does). Working remotely means fewer cars on the road, which equates to less carbon dioxide emitted into the air. In this way, your business can contribute to global efforts to attain net-zero emissions by 2050, an objective highlighted at the 2021 COP26 conference.
Understandably, remote work is not an option for all small and medium-sized businesses. If that’s the case for you, consider incentivizing employees to take public transportation rather than drive or even carpool with a colleague—another viable way to reduce CO2 emissions. Many city transit agencies offer subsidized passes that can help your entire team reduce not only energy use, but fuel costs as well.
4. Community Involvement
Another increasingly common task we find in RFPs entails describing how a business gives back to the community in which they operate. Community involvement efforts are geared toward the long-term well-being of the societies we live in, which in turn helps the entire planet. This well-being requires promoting inclusion and opportunities for all—an area where your small company can offer some real bang for its buck.
Community involvement initiatives run the gamut. Consider donations to local organizations that support a favorite cause, be it human or animal. Green activities can be as simple as sponsoring a community cleanup or contributing some time toward tilling a community garden. It’s important to remember that activities for which you donate time in lieu of money are just as impactful.
Whatever route you choose, these and other initiatives to help your business become greener will not go unnoticed by your clients, employees and the greater community. For these reasons and many more, now’s the time to join team green.