Choosing Sustainability in an Uncertain Economy

by Marcos Cordero on June 9, 2011
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With a tight budget in an uncertain economy, have you held off on making investments in going green? Even knowing the long-term benefits of eco-friendly initiatives, are you worried that changes could hurt your competitive edge in the short-term? These are the sorts of concerns that the Green Business Bureau hears from small business owners every day, and we’re often told that pursuing sustainability goals can seem like a low priority compared to other ventures.

Yet businesses that go green overwhelmingly find that the benefits exceed their expectations. A 2010 Accenture study found that 49 percent of businesses improved their brand reputation and customer trust by taking on sustainability initiatives, while 42 percent of businesses lowered costs.

Natural daylighting is used to reduce utility costs at NewMarket International offices.

Still, with many businesses finding initial costs to be the biggest barrier to pursuing environmental goals, our team at the Green Business Bureau loves hearing stories of how sustainability has been a money-saving undertaking for small and medium-sized businesses.

In just one example of how this is possible, our member NewMarket International shaved $60,000 from its annual budget through some basic green business choices:

  • Newmarket requested that Carlson Travel no longer send travel itineraries to Newmarket employees via Fedex, and to only send electronic itineraries as needed. The result? It now saves 13,000 sheets of paper and $1,508 per year with paperless travel itineraries.
  • Newmarket also removed all Styrofoam cups, paper plates, and plastic utensils that had previously been offered to employees in the break room. Instead, all employees were given a ceramic mug, a reusable water bottle, and two cloth shopping bags. Employees quickly adjusted to a no-waste routine, allowing NewMarket to save $5,000 every year after eliminating the annual purchase of 12,500 disposable plates, 17,000 foam cups, and more than 25,000 utensils.
  • In another major expense reduction, Newmarket reduced its electricity bill by $5,000 each year by changing its office space to a more energy efficient venue. The LEED-certified building into which it moved lowered its square footage cost for electricity from $2.43 to $2.33 per square foot, with features like better natural lighting decreasing the need for artificial lighting.
  • The largest savings however, came in rethinking one of its core business practices: delivering software to its clients. NewMarket began shipping its software electronically, eliminating the annual use of 5,000 CDs, 1,350 padded mailing packages, and 4,000 CD sleeves. This has also saved the business $42,000 each year in shipping costs, while clients are happy to receive their software faster and without delivery charges.

High-efficiency hand dryers reduced the expense and waste of paper towel use.

NewMarket’s example demonstrates how simple green choices can make a huge difference, even if they just involve policy changes rather than requiring a major financial outlay. Whether you’re looking to establish your reputation as an environmentally-concerned business, seeking to improve your employee’s work experience, or even just wanting to reduce your costs, going green can position your business for success.

Regardless of your industry or your size, we recommend examining your business strategies and office practices for any opportunities to go green. Then, you can choose meaningful, but inexpensive (or free) changes at first, while creating a long-term plan for larger changes.

For small businesses, taking small initial steps can be a great way to begin down a green path while building confidence that sustainable practices will work for your company, too. These small steps can add up to significant savings even in the short-term, making sustainability a worthwhile investment for your business in any economy.

What green baby steps are you taking in your business?

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