Everyone makes New Year's resolutions. You might want to drop a few pounds this year, but have you thought of resolutions for your business?
You should be. Look beyond increasing revenue, and focus on your triple bottom line. People, Planet, Profit. Becoming more sustainable should be a goal for this year for your operation... You may think sustainability is a pipe dream, and out of reach of most, but the truth is, it's not.
The biggest problem with becoming more sustainable is many don't know where to even begin.
How can I become more sustainable?
First off, and what I hear the most, is it required? No! It's not. Just like you're not required to advertise your organization, or look like a professional company on the job. You don't need to do it, but doing so will give you a better appearance.
Another thing I hear a lot is why even bother? Well, for numerous reasons, not the least of which is that it will become more commonplace every day going forward.
Soon, being sustainable will provide you with a real business advantage. Not only will you have the competitive advantage in your market as being seen as a "green leader", but you'll start noticing tangible cost saving benefits. In fact, several of our clients have already noticed a hefty ROI by taking steps to become a more sustainable operation.
Think about it: you're reducing your demand for materials, which in turns saves your money, as well as allows you to advertise your low environmental impact. Today, being sustainable provides those benefits I mentioned to the industry leaders who embrace the idea. Tomorrow, anyone who doesn't make sustainability a focus in their organization will be seen as a dinosaur.
Sounds great, right? Ready to jump in? Here are five things you can do pretty quickly – with relatively low cost – and which will help lay the foundation of your program of sustainable actions.
- Find and designate a sustainability champion within your organization. Like any initiative in your business, your sustainability program needs a champion. Find someone knowledgeable and enthusiastic, who can motivate all your employees. Maybe they need some sustainability training to brush up on the important topics for your operation or industry, but you have to start somewhere, right? You're going to need employee buy-in from all areas of your organization. Find out who this might be in your company, and give them the job.
- Have an energy audit done. While having one conducted by someone who is expert in your business might be best, you can still have one done – usually at no cost – by your local energy utility service. You’ll likely find inefficiencies and places you can save energy, or at least you’ll be establishing a baseline for future improvements. You really can’t lose here.
- Investigate your suppliers. Snoop around! Which of your suppliers has a defined sustainability program? Hint – check out their websites as a place to start! Do any of your supplies offer "green" products? Be wary of vague greenwashing claims, but considering using more environmental friendly options. Start a dialog with your suppliers, ask them about their program and what they do or offer, and begin to develop a sustainable supply chain. Use them as a resource! If all things are equal, consider making future purchases from those with more environmentally sound programs or products.
- Start recycling. Virtually anyone can begin a recycling program for little or no cost. It still boggles my mind, traveling across the United States, that there are areas of this country which recycling isn't required. Go above and beyond, and start recycling! Buy a couple of recycling bins, and talk to your employees. Make recycling a normal part of your business. You can easily start with cans, bottles, paper and cardboard, and work up to a more elaborate recycling program. Start small, and begin to make a change within your organization!
- Get into environmental compliance. Look into your operation and what regulations you need to comply with. Nothing can kill your sustainability program quicker than an environmental violation. Environmental compliance is a baseline for your operations, and if you are truly sustainable, you should never have an issue with failing to comply with regulations. There may be regulations which you don’t even know are applicable, so the best way to determine your compliance level may be through an environmental audit. Follow all applicable rules and regulations, and you'll have a great foundation to build your sustainability program on.
Bonus! Look into sustainability certifications. Chances are, your product or facility could get some sort of sustainable certification if you're meeting certain requirements You have various options, from industry specific, to product specific, to more generic certifications.
Bonus 2! Consider starting to conduct some sort of sustainability reporting. If you are already taking strides to become a more sustainable operation, do yourself a favor and let everyone know! Start doing some basic form of sustainability reporting, and include it with year-end reports to shareholders, employees, customers, etc. If you have something you're proud of at your operation, let the world know!
These are quick, very simple actions, but they're guaranteed to help you begin your program towards becoming more sustainable. Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, and you're sustainability program won't be either. From there, you can grow your program into something more elaborate and make your program site, organization, or industry specific.
In the meantime, I hope you had a wonderful holiday season, and have a happy and prosperous New Year!