As the dangers of environmental pollution become a reality, making your business eco-friendly should not be only a legal requirement, but also a moral obligation. Big corporations are already taking measures to reduce their carbon footprint, and small enterprises are following their lead.
Developing an eco-minded business, however, is not an easy endeavor. First, you need to understand the operations in your company that need to be changed, and then you will need to create a roadmap. If you go for effectiveness, the planned measures must be sustainable, otherwise, you risk ruining your business.
Understanding carbon footprint
A carbon footprint is the volume of greenhouse gas emissions attributable to a person or an entity. Daily activities, such as cooking, traveling, and lighting the house, are the most significant contributors at an individual level. However, business entities generally contribute much more greenhouse emissions than individuals and households. Therefore, any business that intends to become eco-friendly must start by calculating its carbon footprint and then creating a plan to reduce it.
To calculate your business’s carbon footprint, you will need the following set of data collected for at least one year:
- Electricity consumed in kilowatt-hours
- Natural gas usage, also in kilowatt-hours
- The volume of water supplied and used by the business
- Company vehicles’ fuel usage
- Distance traveled by employees (estimate if you can’t get an exact figure)
- Total waste produced by business
You can hire a consultant to calculate your business’s GHG emissions and provide them this data. They can also help you create a strategy to reduce GHG emissions. Alternatively, you can calculate the GHG emissions yourself using online apps or convert the raw data to government-provided emission factors.
Reducing your company’s carbon footprint
Almost every business operation contributes to its carbon footprint. Therefore, a strategy to reduce GHG emissions will require you to assess and change various aspects of your operations. Some areas may require minor changes, some big changes, but the accumulated benefits are significant.
1. Reduce power consumption
Most of the electric power sold to consumers is still produced using fossil fuels, making electricity consumption one of the top contributors to carbon footprint for most businesses. Reducing the energy your business consumes will reduce your carbon footprint, as well as the power bills.
Switching off lights when there is no one on the premises, using energy-efficient bulbs and appliances, and using natural light will have a significant impact.
For better results - get an energy audit to assess your business’s energy efficiency. The audit report will help you create a more effective and sustainable energy-saving plan.
2. Recycle and Reuse
Do you use any products made of plastic, metal, or other durable materials? Most of these products can be used more than once for the same purpose or be repurposed for other office functions.
Non-reusable items can be recycled internally - if your business is capable, or sent to a recycling company. This can be applied to all types of non-toxic, recyclable waste.
3. Digitize some operations
Most processes at work can be digitized. There are a myriad of apps, for instance, that can help you organize your budget, and keep track of activities at work. Using such apps will reduce paper waste, energy used for printing, and save your employees time.
4. Reduce traveling
Traveling arrangements for employees are also contributing to a business’s carbon footprint. Where possible, hold meetings online. They reduce travel-related carbon footprint but are also more time-efficient due to a more focused format.
Beyond greenhouse gasses
A lot of effort and resources are directed at reducing carbon footprint by reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses. However, while this is a noble approach, there are other ways that businesses and companies pollute the environment, and these also need to be addressed - as seriously as GHG emissions.
Being an eco-friendly business means avoiding polluting the soil, water, and air. If the company produces toxic waste, plans should be made to dispose of it carefully and appropriately. This will require you to go beyond government regulations and hold yourself accountable. You will also need to look at your source of raw materials. How are they mined, harvested, or transported, and what impact does that have on the environment? Then, shop for more eco-friendly ways of obtaining the raw materials and rehabilitate areas already damaged by the practices.
You cannot achieve any meaningful organizational goal without the involvement of employees. Communicate the company’s plan and vision with employees but don’t stop there. Make them a part of the implementation and assessment of the plan and allow them to share any new ideas through various employee engagement strategies.
Over time, with the employees’ involvement, eco-consciousness will become a part of the company’s organizational culture.
Make the measures a part of the brand
In addition to being good for the environment, going green makes sense. Over 80% of consumers would pay extra for eco-friendly and sustainable products. But, unfortunately, most of them also don’t know how to identify eco-friendly products in the market.
As you transition from a regular business to an eco-minded business, the next step is to position your company and products as sustainable and environmentally friendly. This may require you to rebrand the company and products while pivoting on the new changes and improvements.
The transition may be challenging, but it’s worth it
It is not easy to fully transition a company to become eco-friendly. Some of the changes may drive up costs, such as replacing your regular appliances with energy-saving alternatives and altering critical operations. You may even need to remodel the entire supply chain as you seek to partner with like-minded businesses.
Understanding this challenge, some government and non-governmental organizations offer financial assistance for businesses that want to become eco-friendly. However, if such aid is not available or is insufficient, you can apply for loans for small and medium enterprises. Over time, the changes will prove worthwhile because you will be saving costs on energy, traveling, and other previously inefficient practices.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The SmartBiz® Small Business Blog and other related communications from SmartBiz Loans® are intended to provide general information on relevant topics for managing small businesses. Be aware that this is not a comprehensive analysis of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide specific recommendations to you or your business with respect to the matters addressed. Please consult legal and financial processionals for further information.
About the Author
Samantha is a Warrington College of Business graduate and she works for the professional accounting firm - ThePayStubs®. She handles all client relations with top-tier partners and found her passion in writing articles on various finance and business-related topics.