Building a Green Economy: Sustainability Ideas for Businesses
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As awareness rises about climate change and the future of our planet, everyone is looking for sustainability ideas for businesses to “green” their operations. Companies have learned sustainability is crucial for their bottom lines, as customers and investors keep a watchful eye on the changes being made.
But what is a sustainable business, and how can you deliver on promises for a greener world? Let’s look closely at sustainability initiatives your business can adopt.
What Is a Sustainable Business?
Sustainable businesses strive to reduce their carbon footprint and help create a greener economy. The effects of their efforts are felt worldwide, within the environment, communities, among societies, and their respective industries.
Often, sustainable businesses are greener than the competition through making commitments to the environment. This could include integrating recycling and sustainable sourcing in their operations or offering more eco-friendly products and services.
Why Should Businesses Go Green?
Transitioning toward sustainable business practices will likely come with upfront costs. However, the payout is nearly always worth the expense. According to a McKinsey survey, 60% of people would pay more for sustainable packaging products. Another 78% of American consumers agree that a green lifestyle is important to them.
Moreover, products with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) claims earned 28% cumulative growth within five years. Companies that didn’t place ESG at the forefront of their product line made only 20 percent.
Other reasons companies should choose to go green are as follows:
- Opting for energy efficiency throughout commercial spaces and operations saves money on utility costs.
- Going green keeps companies ahead of new federal and state environmental regulations.
- Companies can use their sustainability in green marketing to consumers.
- Sustainable business practices increase employee morale and aid in hiring and retaining top talent.
- Businesses boost their reputation within the green economy, setting themselves apart from traditional competition.
Investors are also more inclined to invest in ESG-empowered businesses to expand their green portfolios. If companies hope to jump on these investments for higher revenues, moving toward sustainability is putting their best foot forward.
7 Sustainability Ideas for Businesses
Sustainability is still an anomaly for many companies. Business owners are often eager to adopt green initiatives and contribute to a greener planet but remain unsure how to start. These seven sustainability ideas for businesses will encourage eco-friendly practices from inside the office to the community.
1. Start a Recycling Program
If your company doesn’t already recycle, starting a recycling program is an excellent place to adopt sustainability. Paper, cardboard, plastic pen casings, electronics, aluminum, beverage bottles, and glass are recyclable.
Some technology companies have E-waste recycling programs, where you can return old equipment to the manufacturer for proper waste disposal and reuse. There are also pen recycling programs available for you to become affiliated with.
Hang signs and diagrams throughout the office to teach employees about what they can recycle. Many people avoid this easy, sustainable habit because they’re unsure about what is recyclable.
2. Source Sustainably
Businesses tend to focus more on creating sustainability within the office space. As such, they forget about the supply chain. Where do you currently source materials from? Do suppliers also implement sustainability initiatives and follow ethical labor practices?
Find suppliers who have shared values and commitments to the environment. Your business should source local materials to limit transportation emissions and boost the local economy when possible.
3. Go Paperless
Did you know the average worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper annually? That’s a lot of tree-cutting if you account for all workers globally. Going paperless is an excellent way to make your business more sustainable and prevent deforestation.
Optimizing your digital workspace — from the cloud to digital contracts — you can limit the amount of paper used. When printing is necessary, encourage employees to use as little paper as possible and print on both sides of the sheet.
4. Opt for Energy Efficiency
Companies that opt for energy-efficient offices save energy and money on utilities. For instance, Energy Star light-emitting diodes (LEDs) use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 25 times longer.
Other sustainability ideas for businesses are incorporating renewable energy sources — like solar panels — into your power management system and utilizing motion-sensor smart devices. A programmable thermostat will also ensure indoor comfort while expending less energy.
A sustainability consultant can audit your office space and let you know the best approach to energy efficiency at work.
5. Save Energy in Bathrooms
While making working environments more energy efficient is crucial, businesses should also remember the bathrooms. Consider motion-sensor lights, low-flow toilets, motion-sensor sinks, and air dryers instead of paper towels.
For instance, standard toilets use 1.6 gallons of water per flush, whereas newer models use 1.28 gallons. Likewise, motion-sensor sink faucets and air dryers will only turn on if they sense hands. You can also prevent the spread of germs by reducing the number of surfaces people have to touch.
6. Schedule a Park Cleanup
In the 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey, 77% of respondents said volunteering was critical to employee morale. Eighty-nine percent felt companies offering volunteer opportunities to employees had a much greater working environment overall.
One of the best sustainability ideas for businesses to make a part of their ESG initiatives is community volunteerism. Schedule a park cleanup with team members during the week or over the weekend. Occasional fundraising for local environmental charities and nonprofits is another way to give back to the environment.
7. Organize a Corporate Sustainability Team
Creating a corporate sustainability team ensures your business achieves its long-term sustainability goals. A sustainability team will regularly review and revise current green initiatives and develop new ones to propel the company toward net zero.
The best approach to creating a corporate sustainability strategy is to decide which green topics are near and dear to the company’s values. The sustainability team should have the ability to implement ESG agendas companywide. A company’s sustainability goals should be measurable and time-bound, with a plan everyone can stick to.
A Sustainable Business Equals a Greener Economy
The more businesses adopt sustainability, the greater the chances for a greener economy. You can become a pioneer in greening your industry by staying ahead of the curve. Consider these sustainability ideas to boost your company’s eco-friendliness and make a difference for the planet.
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About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.