Top 3 Recommended Sustainability Resources for Company Examples

The following three recommended resources are international organizations that offer broad information on sustainability to assist organizations, businesses, governments and communities in being greener. Keeping your business updated with sustainable practices starts at being informed of what other companies and organizations are doing to minimize resource use. Each organization has good information on company examples and application to various industries.

WRIThe World Resources Institute is a think tank that gathers information on critical areas of environmental need throughout the world. Using this research to employ experts, volunteers and WRI members, the organization forms integral partnerships that work on sustainable projects throughout the world. The resources available to the general public include the ability to create Strategic Relationships and becoming a member of a Corporate Consultative Group.

The Global Footprint Network provides cities, businesses and institutions with the ability to Global footprint networkasses their ecological global footprint. The first step towards finding out your ecological footprint is to go to the “Footprint Basics” tab, which includes a wealth of information for different groups on how to assess their contribution to environmental degradation. This website relates your footprint to that of other nations and organizations in the world, contrasting the differences created by levels of consumption and affluence.

nbis logoThe Network of Business Innovation and Sustainability is essentially a giant encyclopedia which links companies and organizations to all of the knowledge that they need to stay updated on the future of sustainability. Their network includes partners from governments, non-profits, individuals, professionals and even students. All of these people work together to teach, learn and innovate techniques and ideas about sustainability through events, workshops and discussions.

Three Common Hurdles to Greening your Business

Planning and implementing a sustainability program for your business is a lot harder than it may initially seem. There’s no shortage of little snares and pitfalls that can hinder your plans for environmental friendliness. Here are 3 of the most common hurdles small and medium sized businesses face when trying to implement sustainability efforts:

  1. Lack of Information: One of the most commonly cited issues with small and medium Hurdlesbusiness sustainability is lack of information. Employees may not have enough information on how to implement green programs, or may not be properly informed that such a program is in place to begin with. Trying to make heads or tails of local and federal incentives and subsidies also makes it hard to know exactly what the most efficient path to take may be. Make sure to plan research time to understand the benefits and challenges of various sustainability initiatives.
  2. Too Much too Tackle: Many small businesses attempt to tackle sustainability initiatives with too large a scope or scale. And while the enthusiasm is helpful, failing to get a project off the ground can be a big morale killer. Most importantly, especially with new project managers, the experience needed to implement larger and more complex plans isn’t there yet. Instead, businesses should focus on building a sustainable foundation of smaller, easier to implement initiatives that can be built on into larger programs in the future.
  3. Lack of Leadership Support: When switching to sustainable business practices, it is vital that leadership, both the CEO and the executive team, support the initiatives. If employees don’t see the leadership on board, they often will sidetrack the efforts. Leadership should support initiatives by talking about them in staff meetings and be a visual example to sustainability initiatives that require behavior change.

Implementing a successful sustainability program takes time and experience. eco-officiency helps business owners throughout Colorado and nationwide plan and implement sustainability initiatives and train and educate staff on the best ways to implement these new practices to both improve office sustainability.

Creating a Sustainable Business: Hiring a Sustainability Consultant vs. Forming an Internal Green Team

By now it is well known that corporate social responsibility is important–both to consumers and for the businesses themselves. Creating sustainable business provides short and long term benefits, in everything from attracting a wide base of socially conscious customers and earning their loyalty through green practices to minimizing operation costs and producing higher revenues. The question facing business owners now is how to become more socially responsible and sustainable. What is the most effective method to transition to sustainable business practices without disrupting the basic, essential flow of business?

Many businesses will choose either to create an internal team responsible for making the transition or higher an outside consultant. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, so let’s explore which method would be best for your business.

Happy team. Isolated.Creating An Internal Green Team

Change comes from within, and one of the best ways to inculcate the necessary culture of sustainable practice and keep employees consistently aware of its importance is to have the employees do it themselves. Having the opportunity to directly effect change is inspiring and will not only give employees more value in their work, it will lead to inspired effort and the cultural spread of this inspiration. An internal green team can provide a steady structure for change over a long period of time and maintain focus as the initiative grows and evolves.

That said, taking this approach has its downfalls. Internal employees often do not have the necessary expertise to create and execute an effective sustainability plan, and adding this to their existing workload may leave them with little time to bring the focus that is necessary for such a change. And while their efforts may be noble, creating cultural change requires a certain level of expertise. What starts as an exciting initiative can turn into a dud if the team doesn’t have the knowledge to create a sustainable culture within the organization.

Hiring an Outside Consultant

Any company serious about becoming sustainable should consider this option. sustainability-consultant2Sustainability consultants have specialized knowledge and expertise about the functioning of a company as it relates to sustainability, and can create informed directives that will affect the most positive change. Working with a sustainability consultant provides the opportunity for swift and effective change. Comprehensive sustainability plans that can be clearly developed, put into practice and a consultant will provide the expertise and tools necessary to implement them.

The only drawback here is the additional cost. Some business owners are hesitant to spend the upfront cost of hiring a consultant. However, it can be costly with employee labor and investment costs of sustainability if not done correctly and strategically.

The Best of Both Worlds

Why not do both? In fact, many sustainability consultants are aware of the positive impact of an internal green team and assist in creating one as part of the package. This way, a truly effective plan can be put in place by an expert and then put into action by the employees themselves.

Whatever you determine is best for your company, pat yourself on the back–going green doesn’t just save you money or build a loyal customer base, it’s the right thing to do. Whatever approach you take to doing so, be proud of your good effort! Whether you are committed to making this next step or simply intrigued, please feel free to contact us for more information.

Sustainability Planning Important to Your Small Business Growth

Sustainability planning might seem like a lot for a small business to take on; however, it is an important step in being competitive. Yes, it may mean devoting important resources – time, money, and labor – that you would rather spend somewhere else. But ultimately, as the larger players adopt green practices, smaller businesses will need to join the fray or fall behind.

Some of the figures we found suggest that small businesses can:

  • Save 20% on energy bills just by making changes, such as turning off lights in the evening and taking advantage of more natural sunlight (startups.co.uk)
  • Reduce energy costs up to 60% by replacing inefficient electrical equipment with high-tech electro-technologies (Energy Cost Savings Council)
  • Borrow millions to “build, buy, or retrofit” their facilities from the Small Business Administration (SBA)  with energy saving technology and reduce their energy use by 10% (Kiplinger)

According to a 2011 MIT study, “Sustainability Nears a Tipping Point,” two-thirds of participants indicated sustainability was a big part of being competitive. This number is up from 55% in the 2010 survey. Additionally, the 2010 smallbiztrends.com article, “Sustainability Scores and Small Business,” suggests large organizations…

…are assessing and selecting their suppliers based on environmental benchmarks…Small businesses hoping to work with these large corporations should anticipate questions about their environmental practices when they pitch company representatives, and thus be prepared with answers. The more details and real numbers you can mention, the better.

So as a small business owner you may be wondering what you should do to get started on a sustainability plan for your company. The smallbiztrends.com article, “Sustainability Planning for Business Owners,” suggests that once you’re ready to implement sustainability into your business, start with these five steps:

  • Review your current carbon footprint (this may require an audit by a consultant)
  • Determine where you can make changes
  • Identify steps you can take to make those changes
  • Establish deadlines for meeting each step
  • Revise your plan as necessary

Others, like the article, “The Key Elements to Prepare for a Sustainability Plan,” also suggest you make sure you have a clear understanding of key steps to take before beginning to plan.

The fact is that as more companies embrace a green way of doing business, it will become more important for your company to participate. So why not start now? Develop a sustainability plan to help your organization successfully trim costs and position it for future growth.

The Importance Of Sustainability Planning

Most businesses have a business or strategy plan in order to guide their business operations successfully. If a business wants to become more sustainable in their operations it is important to create a sustainability plan or incorporate sustainability initiatives into your own business plan. Here’s why;

The first reason to have this type of planning in place is it will help prove to your customers about the care you have for the environment. A poll by NBC Universal initiative Green is Universal indicates that environmental consumerism is on the rise. The survey found that 68 percent of consumers believe it’s worth paying more for a green product or service if it comes from a company or brand they trust, versus 60 percent two years ago. And in a related poll, Green is Universal found that 62 percent of respondents are making a conscious effort to buy products made by environmentally responsible companies.

Second this will help you in getting to have some type of tax credits. At times you can find the governing bodies will provide you with tax breaks if you have this type of plan in place. See our related blog post on Sustainability Initiatives and Tax Incentives for more information.

Finally this type of work will generally provide you a plan on what you can do to improve business operations by increasing efficiency and reducing waste.

There are other benefits for becoming a sustainable business including reducing cost, improve energy efficiency, reducing carbon risk, and increasing employee retention.

Having professional sustainability consultants are important when creating a plan to help guide and advise on the best strategy for your business. Contact us about how you can get a great sustainability plan in place for your business.

Sustainability Planning Resources: State, City and Local Communities

Sustainable Communities

A non profit organization helping to promote local communities to become more sustainable.

City of Portland

The Business Center of Portland has a simple and short sustainability plan example available. Portland has been rated as one of the greenest cities in America.

EPA for State and Local Governments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a specific site of resources geared for all state and local governments to deal with climate change, energy efficiency, pesticides, pollution, transportation, waste and water.  It also has a list of the local organizations that the EPA deals with that can be useful to local governments.

How to Make a Community Green

This free downloadable guide published by the U.S. EPA offers instructions on how local governments can create a sustainable plan.

Environmental Council of the States

This is a non- profit association of state environmental leaders. It provides a networking forum and resources for environmental and sustainability professionals within local state and city governments.

GreenPrint Denver

The local Denver, Colorado city sustainability program providing resources to its residents and local businesses. Here is a link to the City of Denver Climate Action Plan.

Local Governments for Sustainability USA (ICLEI)

A membership organization for all local governments who want to be more sustainable in their communities. The site offers tools, trainings, resources and network to local examples.

Sustainability Planning Resources: U.S. Government

U.S. Government Sustainability Plans

As mandated by the Obama administration, each agency had to submit a sustainability plan on the Executive Order 13514. Each agencies sustainability plans can be accessed via the White House link.

GSA Strategically Sustainable

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has their own site on the initiatives that GSA is doing in regards to green building, green procurement, telework, waste management, sustainable travel and alternative fuel vehicles.  GSA also commissioned a Sustainable Facilities tool that is free that helps to identify and prioritize cost effective green building strategies, both for federal and private buildings.

EPA Federal Government

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a page of resources dedicated for federal agencies and promoting sustainability and the environment.

Environment Canada

The Canadian government also has a terrific site on initiatives, plans, resources, publications on their national sustainability initiatives in Canada.

Sustainability Planning Resources: Understanding Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is one of those skills that seems to be missing from sustainability planning; partially because it is not widely taught nor discussed in business education. It is important with any business planning to understand systems thinking, leverage points and the cause and effect of all activities and possible initiatives, before implementation. Below are some good resources for systems thinking information.

Donella Meadows

One of the premier experts on systems thinking is Donella Meadows. A former Pew Scholar in Conservation and Environment she wrote an excellent article entitled “Places to Intervene in a System” which describes systems thinking as it relates to sustainability practices. Her book, Thinking in Systems is also an easy read to understand the basics.

The AtKisson Group

Alan AtKisson, a well regarded author and sustainability consultant based in Sweden, is well versed in systems thinking. His book and course, ISIS Accelerator is a process to help organizations use systems thinking to develop sustainability plans.

Pegasus Communications

Pegasus Communications is an organization that provides tools and resources for systems thinking and organizational learning. They have an annual conference every year on systems thinking and also publish books on the topic.

Learning for Sustainability

This site offers a realm of sustainability resources. In particular, they have a special page on systems thinking with links to various articles on systems thinking and practices.

Sustainability Planning Resources: Business

Below are some good resources for businesses on sustainability planning.

The Step by Step Guide to Sustainability Planning

This book authored by Marsha Willard and Darcy Hitchcock discusses how to do sustainability planning in a simple and straightforward manner. It offers some great tools for assessments, reporting and developing metrics.

Five Winds: Steps to Improving Your Business Handbook

This is a free download by Five Winds International specifically developed for small to medium sized businesses. It has an assessment tool integrated with possible action steps.

Global Environment Management Initiative (GEMI)

Offers free online based web tools to help businesses with sustainability planning.

Unilever Sustainable Living Plan

Launched in 2011, Unilever has targeted some of the most aggressive targets in multiple areas for sustainability. Their plan is organized into three categories of Improving Health, Environmental Impact and Enhancing Livelihoods.

Environment Canada

The Canadian government has provided a host of online tools, research and white papers to encourage businesses to be more sustainable. These are free downloads.

Measuring Your Success with Sustainability

As companies start sustainability initiatives, how will they know they are successful? One of the ways is to develop a metrics plan to measure the improvement. The complexity comes in what data do you track and measure. Data is not always available and/or time consuming to collect, track and maintain for limited staff resources.

Here are some options to consider in three of the more common areas for companies:

Energy

  • % of total KWH energy reductions (via utility bill)
  • # of energy star equipment or appliances purchased or used

Purchasing and Supply Chain

  • % of recycled or post-consumer waste products purchased
  • % of local based products or vendors used
  • % of revenue of total purchases used with sustainable vendors
  • # of vendors who ‘sustainable’

Transportation

  • # of bus passes (used and/or purchased)
  • # of miles driven to and from work for all staff
  • % of products purchased within (# of miles) of company location
  • # of employees who use alternative transportation (days per year)

For more information, the International Sustainability Indicators is an organization that provides information to measure progress toward sustainability for communities and companies.