Greening the Auto Industry with the Help of Small Business

by Marcos Cordero on October 20, 2011
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Klein Honda Owner Rory Klein

Car manufacturers have been increasingly seeking to manage their environmental impact and the impact of their vehicles, particularly with the role of vehicle emissions in global climate change. Automaker Honda has been no exception to this increasing focus on sustainability, planning the launch of both new hybrid and fully electrical vehicles in 2012.

However, while major auto manufacturers have been going green, the role of independent auto dealerships in the industry’s shift to sustainability has largely gone unnoticed. Over 17,000 franchised and independent car dealers in the U.S. provide over 1.2 million jobs, giving this small business sector an important role in the environmental health of local communities.

Klein Honda in Everett, Washington is one example of a dealership that is seeking an active role in its community as an environmental leader. Working with the Green Business Bureau to achieve a Platinum level of green business certification, the dealership has seen considerable reduction in its energy use and its waste stream.

As part of its energy conservation initiatives, Klein Honda worked with its local Public Utility District to retrofit its facility with high-efficiency lighting. The utility district provided installation assistance and even covered much of the new lighting costs, and with a lower electricity bill, Klein Honda received a return on energy efficiency investments within only a couple of months.

By committing to waste reduction initiatives, Klein Honda has also been able to reduce costs while improving communication between staff and customers. Dealership owner Rory Klein remarks, “As a team we have been committed to scanning documents online and sharing information electronically to our customers and within the company.”

Employee engagement proved to be one of the challenges faced by the company, but with company leadership dedicated to going green, Klein found that the office culture quickly evolved. Regular staff meetings discussed the benefits of eco-friendly changes, and Klein now has full commitment from his team in operating the business at an environmentally friendly level.

Klein also has found that going green has helped to differentiate his dealership from competitors, saying, “Customers have all of the buying power and we understand they can visit other dealerships. Hopefully, they will ultimately choose a business that supports their environment and community.”

Klein Honda’s efforts show that while larger corporate initiatives may receive more publicity, small businesses have an equally important role in the sustainability movement. Local businesses can be instrumental in changing environmental awareness among their employees and customers, helping to provide future communities with a non-toxic, healthy environment. With all of the incentives and support available to small businesses, Klein also show that barriers like implementation costs and employee engagement are surmountable, and choosing to go green has never been easier.

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