Patagonia donates one per cent of its annual sales to environmental activists, Unilever plans to cut the greenhouse gas impact of its product in half by 2030, while Ikea has championed renewable materials with 60 per cent of its stock. Wherever you look, big businesses are adopting more eco-friendly initiatives.
The USA’s ‘green economy’ is big business too, with 9.5 million Americans (or about 4 per cent of the workforce) now employed in an industry that generates $1.31 trillion per year, or about 7 per cent of the country’s annual GDP.
Regardless of size or sector, every business can increase sustainability and reduce waste by adopting environmental policies or initiatives, starting with the following.
- Getting everyone on board
As with other decisions that will affect the entire business, going green is much easier if you get everybody on board. Start by educating your employees about the benefits of sustainability before training them in ways to be more green.
“We have a ‘Green Team’ of employees who brainstorm and help implement a lot of environmentally friendly changes in the workplace,” says Naomi Neilson, founder of Native Trails, who specialise in sustainable home wares. “We get together for trail and beach clean-ups. We also have an initiative called Native Trails Challenge. This involves competing for hiking miles that translate to donation dollars for local environmental non-profits.”
- Going paperless
Going paperless should be viewed as more than just an eco-friendly initiative; it can also result in better business security, added convenience for staff and seamless customer experiences. After all, cloud-based systems facilitate information access from anywhere, any time.
Every type of business stands to benefit from a digital environment too, from retailers wanting to reduce their inventory management paper trail to creative agencies interested in facilitating collaboration between departments.
- Rewarding environmentally conscious behaviour
“If employees bring their lunches to work in glass containers or get to-go coffee in their own mugs, I’ll buy them lunch the next day,” says founder of Denver Advertising Mike Lash, who believes running a green business has positively affected his workforce.
One way to make it easier for employees to be green is to place recycling bins throughout the office, as Lash explains: “Offering opportunities to throw something in a blue bin as opposed to a waste basket is most of the battle. I rarely, if ever, see anything in the waste bin that could be recycled, so I know it’s working.”
- Using compact-fluorescent (CFL) or LED lights
In offices or environments where natural light is at a premium, make sure the light bulbs you do need to use are as energy efficient as possible. CFL and LED lights might have a higher purchase price than standard incandescent bulbs, but they’ll last a lot longer and use much less energy.
There’s every chance your business will be a nicer place to work too, as the best CFL bulbs give off a warmer, more natural light. To see how much you could save with CFL or LED lights, check out the EWG’s lighting calculator.