The world is always changing, but many reoccurring challenges stick around as people try to find solutions to modern problems. Environmental issues have moved to the forefront of global concerns. People want to know how they can improve the planet’s health in their personal lives and through their purchases. Part of that means businesses can increase their revenue and consumer base by responding to this interest and going green.
Many companies are struggling to understand how to make their businesses greener, but it doesn’t have to require starting from scratch. Check out this guide to learn how to grow a greener business without disrupting your current operational model. With a few changes to company policies and office life, any business can make a stand for positive environmental change:
1. Craft a Mission Statement
Some businesses mistakenly make a single sustainable effort to appear greener, like donating to an eco-friendly charity, but consumers are smart. They know when meaningful change is happening compared to temporary platitudes.
Company owners and CEOs may argue that one donation will still have a positive effect, so why is it not enough? Climate change is a pressing issue that requires more than temporary or minor solutions. One-time efforts don’t lead to the kind of lasting and widespread change the planet needs, so they do little to impress sustainably inclined consumers.
Anyone paying attention to the latest scientific findings knows that the next 18 months will make or break the planet, instead of the previous projection that humans had 12 years to save the Earth.
Instead of making a one-time effort, your management team can craft a green mission statement that outlines your environmentally friendly business practices and beliefs. Consumers can read that statement and understand what their purchases are funding, like your company’s permanent values and the actions you take to become more socially responsible.
The mission statement will also set new goals and standards, so everyone understands the company’s future. Explain how you’ll measure your successes and outline your end goals, and communicate these things in clear, concise language, so the statement is effective in conveying the long-term changes inside your business.
2. Create a Budget
Implementing green strategies for businesses means altering routine practices, which will require you to create a new budget. Instead of listing what you currently pay for things like plastic or chemical-based ingredients that go the products you produce or consume, your new budget will outline how you plan to afford to switch to green alternatives.
Even small businesses can follow helpful budgeting tips to make this process easier. As you find new funds and rearrange your expenses, you’ll discover there are several budget benefits to going green.
If you consult with your accountant, they could point out energy tax credits that put cash in your pocket for reducing your energy consumption. You could also invest in water-efficient appliances, such as waste-free dishwashers or low-flow toilets, which save small offices $300 annually at a minimum.
Creating a new budget may require more upfront spending on clean energy sources or water-efficient fixtures, but it will save money in the long run while you figure out how to make your business more environmentally friendly.
3. Care for Your Employees Differently
Although your first thought may be to make systemic alterations to your business while you go green, the most immediate improvements can start in the office by caring for your employees in new ways. When you implement eco-friendly changes to the workplace, you’ll see your team’s overall productivity and happiness drastically improve, which results in a stronger company.
Take natural lighting as your first example. Turning off or dimming as many light fixtures as possible during the brightest points of the day will make natural light from the windows more apparent. As employees adjust to the change in lighting, it will boost their daily efficiency by decreasing eye strain and reducing the chances of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Replacing your current HVAC system with an eco-friendly model also helps team members. Improvements to ventilation are crucial to a successful team. Green HVAC units and opened windows are major improvements to ventilation, which increases productivity by 11%, according to a recent World Green Business study.
Eco-friendly workplaces also promote happiness. Yale University found that 70% of Americans value saving the environment over economic growth, so even the smallest long-term changes can mean the most. After your green improvements take effect, they’ll boost team morale and can improve individual output by 15%, making a significant difference for your company’s success.
Employees are also able to practice better wellness habits when they work in a green office. Harvard University found that employees in green-certified office settings experienced 6% better nightly sleep, which led to a 26% rise in cognition. Making a positive change in overall employee wellness can happen when you put eco-friendly business methods in place.
The same Harvard study also found that green workplaces promoted a healthier environment, like sustainably filtering the air with new HVAC units and encouraging healthy break room snacks. These modifications reduced absences by 30% because team members weren’t getting sick as often.
Caring for your employees is directly connected with making sustainable changes to the workplace. Businesses that want to go green should do it for the well-being of both their consumers and employees.
4. Set Sustainable Team Goals
Leadership makes or breaks businesses all the time. Your management has to be a cohesive team with the same goals. They must also model your preferred green strategies for businesses, so they can set an example for everyone they lead with their top-down integrity. When a company constitutes a new sustainable mission statement and related procedures, leadership must receive proper training to demonstrate and enforce these changes.
While you review important factors to company success, you’ll likely conclude that every person in management must set meaningful and sustainable goals within their teams. Team goals get everyone involved and encourage them to participate in the new company standards by making fun or exciting experiences. There are a few ways to make this happen in any business sector, which is where leaders can start their assessment and planning.
Management can find science-based targets that refer to the 2015 Paris Agreement that aimed to lower the world’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. They may challenge their team to weekly or monthly goals, like using their vehicles less often to minimize their CO2 output. CO2 plays a massive role in greenhouse gas emissions that directly contribute to atmospheric warming. Connecting every goal or challenge to science ensures these objectives are effective and supports the company’s green mission statement.
While you decide how to make your business more environmentally friendly, ensure your goals align with your core company. This means creating something authentic that motivates employees in both their personal and professional lives. Imagine that your company sells and ships copy paper. Paper has not been traditionally environmentally friendly because creating it requires deforestation.
However, your business may offset that waste with a goal related to recycling. Partner with a local recycling company and challenge team members to see who can recycle the most waste for a prize. Reinforcing sustainable habits makes the office an eco-friendly place and ensures continued success in these changes.
The most effective goals will be tangible. It’s one thing to pledge a portion of profits to eco-friendly charities every quarter, but it’s another to put the power back in your employees’ hands. Recycling challenges and similar goals — like bringing refillable water bottles or skipping pre-made meals in plastic packaging — are a visual change that immediately reinforces new eco-friendly standards.
People will feel encouraged to participate and follow the examples set by their team leaders if they can experience the changes for themselves and not just read about them in a company newsletter.
5. Refocus Your Products or Services
Next, businesses can and should refocus their products or services to reflect their green mission statement and goals. Industry leaders may have thought this was too big of a risk to take even just a decade ago, but consumers have proven them wrong. A recent survey found that 55% of customers would pay more for sustainable products made by a green company — so embrace sustainability with what you make or do.
The first step could be to rethink your product packaging. Many companies wrap their products in multiple layers of packaging that could reduce to one easily recyclable cardboard box. If you require plastic wrapping, bags, or other containers, you can look into compostable plastics made with naturally occurring polymers. The key is to remove the need for plastic consisting of non-biodegradable compounds that pollute local waterways and environments after consumers throw them out.
Businesses can also evaluate their shipping methods. National and international shipping requires the use of 18-wheelers and planes, which burn through large amounts of fossil fuels with each shipment. By 2050, experts estimate that planes will produce 43 metric gigatons of CO2 or 5% of the global emissions that warm the atmosphere. There’s no current alternative fuel to replace these shipping methods, but companies can donate to carbon offsetting programs to balance the unavoidable pollution.
Your business may not sell products. Instead, it could focus on providing specific services. Companies that specialize in things like plumbing, construction, or even home health care can’t avoid the need for travel, but there’s still room for improvement. You can reduce your cargo fleet usage by minimizing trips to and from the office or investing in eco-friendly vehicles that use electricity and gas to reduce the need for fossil fuels.
Even a small change makes a difference to consumers when it’s permanent. Many businesses have found success in switching to paperless services. Email customers their receipts or change mailed brochures to emailed newsletters. You can also experience the benefits of going paperless in your office life. Capitalize on software for digital databases to erase the need for printed forms and filing cabinets. Minimize your mail by contacting companies and opting for digital bills and email correspondence.
Any company can implement these changes, but it’s smart not to do everything all at once. Gradual changes over weeks or months will allow the new practices to become habits and make it easier for everyone to adjust to updated business standards.
6. Switch to Green Office Supplies
Another simple and effective way to make your business more environmentally friendly is to switch to green office supplies. Even if you only place an order to restock your supply room once a month, the waste adds up over time. Research your options with the suppliers you prefer or partner with new ones to make the planet a better place to live.
Look for copy paper made from recycled materials or post-consumer fiber. When you can’t avoid the need to print something, that type of copy paper will quickly break down when recycled and contribute to new future reams.
Managers who need to restock printer ink can also see if there are local recycling programs for empty ink cartridges. Every day, people throw away a million cartridges that pollute the environment through landfills. Some recycling businesses will accept these cartridges if you dispose of them according to their individual requirements. Those will depend on where your company operates and which recycling programs will pick up bags in your area.
Businesses can also use LED bulbs instead of traditional incandescents. They use less energy because they have a different design, which is good for the planet and your company budget. The average LED bulb costs $30 to power over 25,000 hours of use. You’ll see an immediate change in your monthly energy bill because you’re using less electricity and better technology.
Don’t forget about those office cleaning products either. When someone sprays the break room counter or wipes down the bathroom, standard cleaning solutions emit airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are detrimental to human health. Once those chemicals flush down the drain and into nearby waterways, they pollute the environment for any living thing that drinks from or uses that water source. Search for eco-friendly cleaning products instead. They contain organic ingredients and clean just as effectively without polluting the air or any water sources.
Listen and Improve
As you learn how to make your business greener, remember to listen to and improve from feedback. Going green is a passion that many people share, so you’ll likely get suggestions from employees or consumers about how to become even more eco-friendly. Environmentally-friendly business practices are always adapting to new needs and concerns, so stay flexible as you grow a greener business to experience lasting success.