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.

How to Achieve a Paperless Office

Achieving a paperless office is a great way to go green for the New Year. Going paperless reduces the carbon footprint for your office, saves money, increases efficiency and promotes sound data organization. Here are some ideas and tips that are easy to implement and are zero cost.

Request Electronic Files from Vendors: Paper documents that are usually received by external entities such as vendors can be scanned and saved as a PDF file on your computer system. However, why not eliminate this process altogether and ask that vendors send all information electronically. If there is a high volume or size of information that needs to be distributed, consider using an online cloud based system to transfer documents such as Google Drive or DropBox.

Replace a Fax Machine with a Cloud Service: Many online services can be used that can convert a standard fax to a PDF document to store online or sent to your office via email. This is a great way for your office to have a real fax number but not need a dedicated fax machine. The use of a cloud service for receiving faxes eliminates the need to print out a fax on paper.

Print or Save Documents as a PDF: Documents that are obtained online or created as a text document or even a spreadsheet can be saved as a PDF file instead of a printed document. Often multiple formats that need to be consolidated into one document can be done through PDF. Simply convert each document into a PDF, and through the PDF tool, combine those documents into one PDF. This eliminates the need to print each document out only to re-scan it as one document. Both Adobe Acrobat and Nuance are the more popular PDF tools.

Organize Your Shared Drive: One of the barriers for many employees becoming paperless is that they aren’t sure where the data is located electronically. Shared drives, as well as local drives, are a mess and users find it difficult to find and access electronic information quickly and therefore print documents for easy access. Take time and get your shared drive organized. If you need help, download the guide “How to Organize Electronic Documents for Shared Drive Networks”

If you are interested in achieving a paperless office, then 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.

Increasing Your Company’s Value through Green Building Maintenance

Businesses can increase the value of their business and reduce costs by implementing green building maintenance techniques. The Journal of Sustainable Real Estate (JOSRE) posted a paper entitled “Facility Sustainment and Firm Value: A Case Study Based on Target Corporation” (Beach, 2011), which presents data that supports the idea that increasing the money spent on maintenance and upkeep of a facility, known as “sustainment funding,” actually increases the firm’s value.  Mathematical proofs show that under certain financial circumstances, Target Corporation’s value may be over 10% higher in 30 years if the company allows 100% sustainment funding.  Target’s historic funding is 51.7%, meaning that only 51.7% of necessary maintenance and upkeep is not deferred.  With this data, Target knows that despite having to spend money on building maintenance now, it will help the company gain value in the future.

Companies cannot sustain themselves by ignoring necessary building maintenance and upkeep.  If your goal is to own and operate a sustainable, successful business, implementing green building tactics is extremely important.  The following are some of the benefits you can earn by using sustainable, responsible green building maintenance techniques:

–  Happier Employees

–  Equipment and Property Has a Longer Useful Life

–  Lower Risk for Catastrophic Financial Events in the Future

–  Higher Perceived Value by Clients and Potential Investors/Buyers

For more information on how you can green your facility or building see the U.S. Green Building Council guide on Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance or contact us.

Green Ideas to Green Your Business

Long gone are the days when a recycling bin or a catchy slogan sent the message to your employees that your company cared about the environment. You’ve talked the talk about your business’ sustainability practices, now it’s time to implement. Here’s a couple of quick ideas for you to green your business operations;

Encourage Carpooling. Carpooling is as old as commuting itself, but it’s also an exceptionally straightforward way to cut down on carbon emissions. Each participant in a carpool completely takes that person’s tailpipe emissions out of the air that day, and reduces the need for parking. But don’t just tell employees you value carpooling, show them — help them with ride-share matching, and incentivize carpooling with reduced-cost (or free) parking in better spaces. And consider programs such as prize drawings to reward your carpoolers; discounts, swag, or even cash.

Ban the Bottle. Sure, everyone knows most plastic water bottles are recyclable. But “recycle” comes after “reduce” and “reuse.” Many businesses — and some municipalities — are retrofitting their old drinking fountains to include bottle-filling stations, eliminating the need for countless bottles to even be manufactured. These fixtures are available from most of the major drinking fountain suppliers, and deliver cool, clean water into a user-supplied reusable cup or bottle.

Support Bike to Work. According to the League of American Bicyclists, the number of people biking to work in the last few years has gone from impressive to staggering — up 75% in New York City, 110% in San Francisco and 144% in Portland since the last census. Don’t stop at putting a bike rack out front; consider setting aside safe indoor spaces for cyclists to store bikes easily, and make sure you have facilities in place (or nearby) so employees can “freshen up” in plenty of time to start work.

For more ideas on sustainability in the workplace, feel free to contact us.