Expressed opinions Entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
All kinds of businesses are prioritizing sustainability. In today’s world, a sustainable business model is virtually a necessity. Whether you own a brick and mortar store, a tech startup or even a law firm, now is the time to embrace a sustainable business model.
While adopting sustainable practices may seem expensive or out of reach, there are many easy and cost-effective ways to weave corporate sustainability into your company’s fabric.
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Ashley Piper, sustainability expert and author Give a word: do well. Live well. Save the world. Says corporate sustainability can come in a variety of forms.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all rubric for durability … it’s really a personalized, chosen-your-own-adventure game,” Piper said.
While small business owners with small profit margins may be intimidated by the idea of being committed to a sustainable business model, Piper says small businesses are actually in a better position to adopt effective corporate sustainability practices because they are generally smarter and more adaptable than larger companies.
What is corporate sustainability all about?
Corporate sustainability refers to long-term, transparent strategies that prioritize the environmental, social, and ethical realities of your business. It is a broad term, and it can be applied in many different ways.
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Some businesses may prioritize sourcing locally or reducing carbon emissions, while others may focus on returning a portion of their profits to NGOs or social programs. While some employees may be interested in cruelty-free and vegetarian meal options, others are more concerned with closed-loop production. It is up to you to decide exactly which sustainable path to take and how you are going to achieve those goals.
Piper recommends starting small and building momentum until your business is ready to implement a more robust corporate sustainable model. Ultimately you want to get stability as a key aspect of your company. In the long run, you should plan with advisors dedicated to your sustainability goals and even include sustainability efforts in your financial statements. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) start here, but keep in mind that the bigger the corporate sustainable move, the greater the financial and environmental rewards you will see in the long run.
Here are some tips that will help you build momentum in your small business corporate sustainable action and ultimately help you run a more sustainable company. First some less hanging fruit, and then tips for creating big projects that will help your company save money and be sustainable at its core.
1. Turn it off
One of the easiest ways to save costs and make your business more environmentally friendly is to adopt a “switch off” policy in your office. This means that at the end of the day all lights and devices are turned off.
Installing motion sensors for your lights or using energy-friendly lighting, such as LEDs, will reduce power consumption. Finally, maximizing the use of natural light is an effective way to save energy costs and help your employees feel better in the office.
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2. Remote first
One of the best ways to reduce your company’s carbon footprint is to keep your business remote (or as far away as possible). Encourage your team members to work from home unless you have a clear reason to come to the office.
According to a survey by Global Workplace Analytics, encouraging your employees to work remotely at least 50% of the time can save your business about $ 11,000 per employee per year.
These significant financial savings are associated with a huge reduction in energy costs and costs. By allowing your employees to work from home, you’ll reduce energy costs for travel, office fuel, and basic infrastructure.
A remote-first model will also help you save in some unexpected ways. Piper says remote workers are actually healthier, which significantly reduces the cost burden for health insurance and life insurance costs.
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If remote work is not an option in your company, composting is a relatively easy way to reduce office waste and save money.
Lunchtime is the busiest time of the day in America, says Piper. “We make about 10 pounds of trash per person at lunch, because we’re going out, buying lunch and all the jazz.”
Promoting composting in your company is obviously a more eco-friendly option, but it will also save you money. Piper estimates that you can reduce trash bills by 40 to 50 percent by composting in the office.
4. Verify your company swag
Many companies prefer to give their employees all kinds of knocks like T-shirts and pens to raise brand awareness and encourage employees to represent the company. While this is good intentions, many of these gifts go to waste. Ask your staff what they actually need, and consider it before buying a branded baseball cap bulk.
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5. Reduce travel
Travel for work is both expensive and carbon intensive. With virtual meeting platforms like the new standard Zoom, reconsider whether a personal visit is actually necessary.
If traveling for work is essential for you or your employees, consider some ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. Piper says forward-thinking companies like WeWork are taking some drastic steps to reduce travel footprint.
“They are only booking LEED-certified hotels. They are only booking non-stop flights. They’re not doing first class or business class, because those seats take up significantly more space. They are not allowing people to check their bags unless absolutely necessary. ”
While it may be a more elaborate, scary project to include, take a tough stance on travel. You will greatly reduce the environmental and financial costs of business travel.
6. Stimulate employee recruitment
When you’re ready to take sustainability more seriously, Piper says it’s one of the best places to start engaging your employees.
“Instead of the team-building trust collapse activities that many of us have had to endure, there are environmentally effective team-building activities that people can do that really make a difference.”
It is up to each company to decide what its priorities are. Perhaps your staff can pick up trash in a neighborhood or raise funds for local issues. The possibilities are endless, so meet with your team members to discuss how they are most interested in engaging with your company’s sustainable goals.
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7. Hire a sustainable advisor and do an audit
One of the biggest steps your company can take toward a serious commitment to corporate sustainability in its culture is hiring an in-house sustainability manager. A salaried employee is obviously an additional expense, but based on the principle of corporate sustainability, it is an investment that can ensure that your business survives and improves in the future.
Another good long-term goal is to have sustainability as part of your business’s actual strategic plan. This includes conducting a sustainability audit or even incorporating these practices into your annual report.
Piper says an audit is invaluable because it shows how your company can improve its sustainability efforts. “Because you don’t really know unless you calculate where you are now … It’s not just a special thing about Patagonia. It’s something that is now woven into all kinds of company clothes, not size matters.”
The heart of business
Many consumer demand companies today take corporate sustainability seriously and your team has many ways to do it. Start somewhere, even if it only offers refurbished laptops or furniture for employees instead of new ones, or turns off the office lights at the end of the day. Before you know it, your company’s sustainable practices will be at the heart of your growing business.
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