Going green is not just good for the environment; it’s also good for business. Implementing environmentally friendly company practices and policies can yield significant cost reductions over time, producing a healthy return on investment and a better bottom line. Although most business leaders recognize the benefits in going green, many struggle with best practices for going about it.
Getting Started with Going Green
In order to go green, leaders have to start somewhere. Typically, the best way to start is by assessing current operations to see where the opportunities are to incorporate sustainable practices. Core areas to examine are energy and water consumption and waste production. Once a baseline has been established, leaders can then set goals. Some choose to focus either on things that will have the biggest impact or things that are easiest to change.
Once goals are set, the next step is to create an action plan to achieve those goals and then implement the plan. It’s important to periodically evaluate progress and recognize achievements in order to stay on track and keep employees motivated.
Simple Changes Can Lead to Big Savings
Going green doesn’t always require big changes. Some of the easiest and least expensive changes can yield significant cost savings. For example, energy conservation efforts can start with a company-wide energy use policy that encourages employees to turn off lights when not in use and shut down computers at the end of the day.
Policies and guidelines can also be established to reduce the amount of printed material companies create. Employees can be encouraged to think before they hit the print button and to share documents electronically instead of printing hard copies. External printed materials, such as invoices, can also be converted to electronic documents to further reduce the use of paper, ink and energy.
Changing old light bulbs to energy efficient bulbs as the old bulbs burn out is another easy and relatively inexpensive step. Companies can also look for ways to arrange workspaces to take advantage of natural lighting in order to reduce the need for artificial light during the day. Installing low flow plumbing fixtures, timed water faucets and hand dryers to replace paper towels can reduce water and paper usage. Replacing office equipment with Energy Star-rated models as equipment wears out can also save energy and reduce costs.
Programmable thermostats can help moderate energy consumption related to heating and cooling. Companies should also make sure that they perform basic HVAC system maintenance, such as changing the filters regularly. Many utility companies offer free energy audits, which can help companies identify other potential ways to reduce energy consumption.
Another easy change is to replace disposable cups, plates and utensils in the break room with reusable items. Alternatively, companies can encourage employees to bring their favorite coffee mug or other item from home to use at work.
Go Green from the Beginning if Possible
Generally, it’s easier for businesses to go green if they do it from the beginning. This allows businesses to buy or rent space that either already incorporates environmentally friendly features or is easily modified to do so. Going green from the start also makes it easier to ingrain a green corporate culture in the company focused on carbon accounting and sustainable reporting.
For businesses that are already in operation and are looking to go green, many experts suggest making changes one step at a time. For larger businesses, this can mean slowly converting departments or divisions of a company to a sustainable model over time. Regardless of the size of the business, it can be easy to dismiss small changes as not being worthwhile but if every business took just a few basic steps, the positive impact to the environment would be huge. Small changes can also create big cost savings, giving businesses a positive ROI on their green initiatives while helping the environment at the same time.
By Grant Webb with Bisk Education’s CPA Review Program.