This post is by Goldman Sachs as part of their sponsorship of The Huffington Post's What Is Working: Small Businesses
Going green isn’t just good for the environment; it can help your small business improve its bottom line and gain a competitive advantage over larger chains.
A study from UCLA found that businesses that adopt green practices and standards have 16 percent higher productivity than average. That can mean a marked improvement in your company’s financial performance, a more positive reputation that can help win over new clients, and a reduction in inefficiency and waste, which cuts down on costs.
When starting a sustainability program, try to tie your company’s core competencies and market experience into the project. For example, one bottling company recently made a concerted effort to reduce the ratio of the volume of water consumed in its plants to the volume of beverages produced. This program combined the principles of water conservation with the business objective of improving production efficiency, resulting in both a positive social impact and a financial gain.
No matter how big or small your business is, there are ways to scale your sustainability initiatives to deliver positive change without breaking the budget:
1. Cut your energy consumption. The majority of electrical consumption in the commercial sector is driven by lighting, so by taking simple measures such as replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents or setting workstations and conference rooms near windows to increase their exposure to natural light, a company can greatly cut down on its energy bill. Also, turning off electronics when they’re not being used and turning down air conditioning or heating when no one is in the office can help trim energy consumption.
2. Switch to green packaging. Sustainable packaging means a lot more than using recyclable materials. Minimizing the amount of packaging in both weight and volume for an individual product, as well as reducing the energy required to produce and transport goods, can substantially decrease your company’s overhead while being beneficial to the environment.
3. Hold suppliers to a higher standard. Evaluate the business practices of your company’s suppliers to ensure they’re in line with your broader sustainability goals. Purchasing from a company with a poor environmental track record or a history of unfair labor practices can reflect negatively on your own business. Many companies use supplier scorecards to evaluate their vendors’ social impact, and your business can take this approach to determine if products are sourced responsibly. If they’re not, tell suppliers they’ll need to improve their practices if they hope to continue doing business with your firm.
4. Convert your electronics to cash. Don’t just throw away your company’s old cell phones and computers. A little-known fact is that many mobile phones can be worth quite a bit even after they become obsolete. Recycling and reuse companies regularly purchase dated electronics, so consider contracting one of these firms for extra revenue.
5. Renegotiate your lease. If your business rents space, speak with the property owner or facilities manager about ways you can reduce the environmental impact of your workspace, such as installing more efficient heating and air-conditioning systems. Eco-friendly measures tend to yield long-term cost savings for property owners, so try to include the initiatives in any new lease agreements because it can help you secure a rent discount.
6. Leverage your resources. Look for like-minded businesses in your area to partner with on community outreach and pool your resources to make a more noticeable contribution. Giving back doesn’t always mean donating money—team up with the local YMCA or a neighborhood school to host events sponsored by you and your partner businesses. Create a volunteer program that encourages your staff to donate their time to schools, hospitals, libraries or municipal projects, and make sure your employees know that you value their efforts by offering perks to volunteers, such as extra time off.
Tracking your sustainability efforts is an important part of ensuring your company follows through on its goals. Do some research on apps like Corporate Knights Ranker, which help small businesses monitor and evaluate their progress on sustainability initiatives, and allow them to compare their performance with industry-leading firms.
The pursuit of sustainability and community outreach are more than just good deeds—they’re smart ways to grow your business.
To learn about ways Goldman Sachs is at the forefront of corporate sustainability, view their latest Environmental Social Governance report http://www.goldmansachs.com/s/esg-impact/.
Improving efficiency is also one of the key strategies taught at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. Share your company’s sustainability plans in the comments section below, and visit www.goldmansachs.com/10000smallbusinesses for more information on how the program can help you grow your business.