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23 Sep 2019

5 tips to make your business (more) green

Suzanne Fehily

Companies with clear Corporate Social Responsibility mandates are on the right track with ways of working that support a circular economy, and operating under the three Rs: reduce, recycle, and reuse. For your mandates to work, however, it has to be embedded in your culture. Treat it as a nice-to-have and it’s useless. You and your employees have to believe in it for your efforts to be successful. Live it. Breathe it. Work it. To ensure initiatives are followed up on, appoint a team to oversee and drive your sustainability efforts.

Additional benefits
For anyone who doesn’t see the business gains in being an environmental steward, think again. Going green makes good business sense too, in the form of financial incentives. Yes, your efforts could lead to good PR (but don’t go green for the sake of good PR, it will only come back to haunt you) - but think of your efforts as the right thing to do, because ultimately customers want to do business with companies who are out to do good. And for the CFOs out there: the measures you adopt could mean anything from tax credits to no VAT charges, depending on where you are in the world. So, give it a chance. The generations of the future will be thankful.

However, ensure that you’re credible if you do decide to communicate about your CSR efforts. Lately, there have been many a story about companies trying to show the world how environmentally friendly they are, basically giving their brand an “eco-makeover”. Even if the depiction isn’t always 100% true, the heart and intent are at least in the right place, but the world needs actors that walk the talk.

Going green is simply the right thing to do, which should be enough reason in and of itself to adopt eco-friendly practices. With that in mind, these five tips will help you on your journey to a greener company:

  1. Get on the cloud
    Lessen your company’s dependence on paper, which accounts for 14% of all global wood harvest. If there’s no way to avoid using paper 100% of the time, then buy recycled paper and recycle yours in turn.

    Another problem with paper is the amount of storage your documents require. Switching to a cloud storage solution solves that problem. It’ll not only cut wasteful spending on paper, but also provide the efficiencies that come with digital solutions.

    Another advantage: digital frees up the space that physical storage eats up. In fact, 125,000 sheets of paper equals around 2.5GB of data.

    Take it to the next level and go for a cloud solution from a company that you know run on sustainable energy and is committed to a cleaner future. Data centres can also take their toll on the planet’s resources, an - until recently - hidden part of the environmental equation.

  2. Encourage employees to leave their cars at home 
    Think about offering incentives to workers to cut their CO2 emissions by keeping their cars off the road. You could offer an allowance towards taking public transportation, or a scheme that lets them work from home on a regular basis (added bonus: your employees will appreciate your flexibility). And if cycling or walking is feasible, encourage it for health reasons too. Car sharing is another way that employees can reduce their carbon footprint.

    Tweet about it – make a fuss on social media. Let your customers and potential customers know that you take the environment seriously and challenge them to do the same. Again, you have to be genuine in your efforts, otherwise it’s a moot point. You should be promoting a cleaner environment, not your company. But by doing the first, you’ll automatically do the second without even trying. 

  3. Recycle, or even better, reuse
    If you’re not already printing double sided, then you have a clean side of paper to print. Obviously, we’re talking about notes or internal memos. If anything can be repurposed, do it. That should always be the goal.

    For example, don’t simply dispose of any office furniture or equipment that you no longer want. Donate anything to a charity, or an organisation that specialises in repurposing items for reuse.

    If donating is not an option for whatever reason, you still have a few options. Some manufacturers, such as Apple, have a mail-back program. You can call an electronics recycler, who’ll strip your equipment of parts that can be re-used or recycled. Some of these charge a small fee, but you should consider it the price of responsible action. Likewise, some manufacturers also charge a fee to take back old equipment. In an ideal world, these fees will also disappear. Manufacturers also have to be held responsible and do their part.

  4. Attend external meetings online
    Consider the cost of travel for meetings. Why spit carbon dioxide into the air driving to get there? Use Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or any other similar digital solution. This is also an invaluable timesaver, enabling you to use the time working instead of burning petrol going to and from the meeting.

    If you do have to go in person, try taking the train instead of the plane when possible, or use public transportation instead of the car.

  5. Consider environmental impact before you buy
    With office supplies, appliances, machinery and equipment, some are less harmful to the environment than others.

    Always go for the eco-friendly option. For instance, don’t just buy pens. A quick Google search will return biodegradable pens made from renewable material. You should also use smart power strips and solar USB chargers, which will help reduce your energy bills. Switch to green cleaning products too. The alternatives put harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde into the air.

    As to heavy-duty items, such as equipment, always look for energy-saving features. You should also take a close look at the manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability. Do they have a carbon zero scheme? Some do. They will offer a sizeable range of products that are designed with end of life in mind. They also actively repurpose and recycle materials.

As a final note, educating and training your staff is equally important to succeeding with your CSR efforts and to help the planet. Figure out what the local recycling practices are like. How should the employees sort their trash in the bins in the office? Make sure that these items are clear cut and a part of their onboard training when joining the company. Have a designated recycling expert in the office, who staff can turn to in case they have any questions or suggestions for improvement.

(We also recommend providing your staff and new hires with a re-usable water bottle – preferably with the company logo of course - as a welcome gift. Get rid of those plastic water bottles in your office once and for all!)

These 5 tips can be used as a sort of beginning to guidelines for good CSR initiatives, but there are certainly a whole lot more great ideas out there that should also be included in this list (good ideas are always welcome here). If companies and people abide by initiatives such as these, it means they’re the type you want to do business with. And if your own company is like that, then others will want to work with you too. Only together will we be able to save the environment.