The very essence of sustainability is to maintain an ecological balance through the perseveration of our limited natural resources. Being eco-friendly is an important factor for businesses on multiple levels; people, planet, and profit. Changes do not need to be costly and dramatic, as it’s often the simplest of changes that can have the greatest impact.
A Greater Equilibrium
There are several ways to financially grow while also building an eco-friendly workplace. These two are almost always interrelated, as it takes natural resources to run a business and the use of these resources determines how environmentally friendly the business is. The best example of this is efficient equipment (both from an energy and an operations perspective). The less waste there is in business systems, the more profitable the operations typically are.
This economic and environmental balance is found from the biggest of businesses to the smallest. On a larger scale, companies such as Walmart, Tesco, and Marks and Spencer’s have implemented plans to become more sustainable in order to save money. For instance, since adopting a sustainability plan, Marks and Spencer’s has saved in excess of $200 million. Over time, making small adjustments will generate fewer costs while also helping build a business that is environmentally sound. Here are some simple things that you can do to make your office more sustainable:
Make sure that your office has easy to find clearly labeled bins, promoting recycling in the office. Recycling is not just about putting things in the proper bins but reusing as well. Encourage employees to reuse folders/binders and use both sides of the paper to reduce office supplies being thrown out.
Switch out paper towels for air dryers.
One paper towel sheet typically costs 1 cent, and a single blow dryer use is between .02 to .18 cents. With an average use of 2.5 sheets per hand dry, for every hundred people that dry their hands, it costs approximately $250 in paper towels versus about $20 to operate an air dryer. Clearly, it is more efficient to incur the charge of installing an air dryer over resupplying paper towels.
Encourage your staff to unplug devices when leaving for the day.
Power is still being consumed when your devices are powered down. Standby power can be an unnecessary expense, in addition to being wasteful.
Go paperless whenever possible!
Start reviewing documents digitally this will help to reduce the amount of paper being used in your office. The average office worker uses approximately 10,000 sheets of paper a year, making paper about 70% of an office’s waste. Approximately 30% of the things people print out aren’t even being picked up from the printer. You can help eliminate this by giving employees a printer code that they have to key in before printing. This will help to ensure that everything printed is being used, saving resources and reducing waste.
Provide your staff with reusable water bottles, straws, utensils, cups, etc.
While this comes with an upfront cost, over time it will reduce your cost of kitchen supplies.
Use LED lights.
They use 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.
Consider allowing your staff to wear casual work attire.
This cuts down on the need for dry cleaning and the chemicals involved. This also helps your employees feel more comfortable in the workplace, boosting morale.
Look for ways to increase the use of teleconferences.
This cuts back on transportation, reducing pollutants caused by transportation and also saving your employees time, making them more productive.
Think about going solar.
The sun is a replenishable power source that can reduce your costs and the reliance on fossil fuels and the pollutants that accompany them.
Bring plants into the office.
Having plants in the office can increase oxygen levels and boost your employees’ attention levels.
To Sustainability and Beyond
As important as it is to be sustainable each day, it’s just as important to create a plan that has a lasting, environmentally conscious impact. By doing this, a standard is set for the future that will influence your employees, consumers, and hopefully beyond. The best way to go about this is to first start by finding current methods of sustainability that have had a positive effect. Since the future is often a reflection of the past, these techniques can lay the foundation for what will end up in your policy. If you develop an eco-friendly culture, it will pay dividends for years to come.
Research can be done to find out what other companies are doing and how it has impacted their business. Innovation comes into play here too, as innovation is critical in finding ways that will work best for each provided scenario. It is important through this process to get opinions and buy-in from employees that can give insight on how these changes will affect them and how to keep the workplace comfortable and not overburdened. You want them to see these changes as positive. By creating a clear-cut plan for the different segments of your business, there will be a guide for employees to follow and the bar will be set for the standards you require.
The final step in the process is to implement these changes. When doing this, the changes should be communicated effectively to your employees and written policies provided for them to follow. In addition, there should be someone they can go to with questions about the policy. Once implemented, you should evaluate the changes to ensure they are effective. You may want to consider seeking feedback from staff for additional ideas on creating sustainability.
Sustainability is not a passing fad; it is the new norm. Laws, staff, customers, and investors are all demanding it, and why not, it provides for a better planet and, in many cases, a better bottom line.
Austin is a staff accountant of Cerini & Associates audit and consulting practice. He works with nonprofit, special education and school district clients. His auditing experience allows him to assist in vital audit functions, such as system testing and analysis, as well as claims audit functions.