Becoming Environmentally Friendly
As flowers bloom and the temperature in most areas become more temperate, I am prompted to give some thought to one ‘bigger picture’ - the importance of going green in our businesses. Many of the world’s leading companies have launched green initiatives - including Starbucks, General Electric, Honda, and McDonald’s. On May 27th when IBM opened its new $80 million data center in Auckland, they were keen to stress that the centre was energy efficient and designed to minimise the impact on our environment. In their Environmental Policy Framework, Goldman Sachs states that, “a healthy environment is necessary for the well-being of society, our people and our business, and is the foundation for a sustainable and strong economy.”
Many business owners recognise that implementing a programme aimed at improving environmental performance, also helps increase profits through process improvements and energy conservation, helps reduce costs, helps us rethink long-held business practices, and helps open doors to new opportunities; objectives that work best when handed down directly from top management.
Recent survey results reveal:
- 94 percent of supply chain professionals rate green issues as a business priority (www.eyefortransport.com)
- 55 percent of companies have formed detailed strategies for creating more energy efficient data centres. (Digital Realty Trust)
- Nearly 60 percent of America's National Small Business Association members currently use green technologies in their manufacturing operations. Nearly 85 percent of those surveyed have introduced energy saving measures across their companies.
- 50 percent of Canadian small business owners currently have (or are considering implementing) a green plan or environmental policies for their business (Royal Bank of Canada small business survey)
ISO 14001 for Environmental Management Systems defines a set of environmental management requirements to help organisations protect the environment, prevent pollution, and improve their overall environmental performance.
However, all employees can play a vital role in driving a greener company culture. Engaging employees is key. Many companies find it effective to set up internal green teams of volunteers from management and staff who meet regularly, reinforcing the notion that some of the best ideas come from the front lines.
These tips will help you get started:
- Analyse your business operations with an eye toward reducing energy consumption and waste, including methods for and cost of waste disposal.
- Establish a baseline of energy usage and costs. Most utility companies will perform an on-site energy audit, or use the information from your utility bills
- Achieve small milestones first, and then build with no- or low-cost actions. For example, turning electronics and lights down or off at night, and opening windows for natural ventilation instead of using the air-conditioning are good places to start. Simply turning off the computers at night can save an additional 50 percent
- Reduce paper printing of emails and documents; eliminating fax paper usage with a fax modem; print double-sided documents when possible; use recycled paper
- Create relationships with local green suppliers to reduce gas usage, travel time, etc. Give priority to suppliers who take back packaging for reuse.
- Think "refurbish, renew, reuse" instead of "buy new"
Besides the cost savings, your customers want to do business with companies that are concerned with improving quality of life. As well, employees believe environmentally responsible businesses offer a better place to work.
Implementing environmentally sustainable practices in your organisation will help you reduce costs, find and retain the best talent and contribute to a healthier lifestyle for all, offering excellent benefits for today's business owner.