There were "tree-huggers" in the 60s and 70s. “Save the Planet” was the prevailing term in the 80’s and 90’s. Now, the phrase “Going Green” has been replaced by the more business-like “Environmental Sustainability.” It is definitely one of today’s main catch phrases and everyone wants to know what you’re doing about it. Your customers may be asking you about it. Your investors are most definitely curious. Your utilities are offering breaks for it. Your kids are probably even asking you about it when you close up shop and go home for the night because they’re learning about it in school.
In the first part of this two-part series, we’ll discuss the myths that many seem to be focused on as an excuse for just doing nothing rather than trying to make some progress in reducing their own small company’s carbon footprint. In the second part of this series, we’ll look at things you can do to help your company contribute to environmental sustainability.
Avoiding the Excuses
Environmental sustainability has moved to the forefront of our culture and it seems that everyone is at least concerned about it and some individuals and businesses are actually trying to do something about it – although as with all causes some of those efforts are worthwhile and some are likely in vain.
It’s definitely a good direction – no one can argue that seeking to meet our own current resource needs without adversely affecting our children’s generation and our children’s children’s generation is not a worthwhile effort. However, it seems today that many small businesses are finding it difficult to enter into the environmental sustainability movement.
For most small businesses they want to do something - but out of frustration, comfort, or ignorance they simply do nothing while citing at least one of the following reasons:
1. No idea of where to start. Not knowing how or where to start is never a good excuse to do nothing – especially in this age of the Internet. The sources available to you to get ideas and information is nearly endless. Watch videos on Youtube.com, check government sites for advice, and definitely check small business advice sites for information because sites and forums dedicated to helping small companies in nearly every aspect of their business – including sustainability – number in the thousands and beyond. The information is there, you just need to find it and use it.
2. My efforts wouldn’t make a difference. If we all used this argument when it came to voting for a President, we’d have no one to run our country. Just like every vote counts…ever tree planted, ever greener process incorporated, and every dollar donated does make a difference – especially when you advertise your efforts and intentions (not in too much of a self-gratifying way, though…be careful here). Your competitors will see it and feel the need to ‘green’ their processes and businesses as well. It can and will spread fast. Just look at how quickly ‘going green’ and ‘environmental sustainability’ became household phrases…they’re not going away so get on board.
3. Environmental sustainability is for big business. Indeed, the sustainability has inspired much innovation in this area on the part of big businesses in the form of recycling, creating renewable energy sources, and much greener business processes and practices. However, size has nothing to do with it. It’s all about identifying smart ways to do business without adversely affecting the environment. And according to various industry research findings, companies with a proven commitment to the environment tend to outperform other companies.
4. Changing to greener methods will put me out of business. Many small businesses are avoiding the issue because they believe a change to greener practices is going to require significant dollar investments on their part. They perceive that the efforts will generate added costs, not concrete business benefits. Green initiatives can make a quantifiable contribution to both the environment and your bottom line, that includes improvements in employee morale, customer loyalty, and brand image. Companies in certain industries have even been able to pull the customer in as a contributor to environmental sustainability efforts. For example, many hotel chains are asking customers to consider having sheets and towels laundered less frequently as a means of cutting back on resource usage. The hotel chain improves their image, the customer participates and everyone wins
In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at a few steps you can take to get your organization in the environmental sustainability game. Once you’re on track, you can use it in advertising, you’ll look better to your customers, and you can tell your kids about it at the end of the day.
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