How to Be a Socially Responsible Green Company
Achieving the status of a socially responsible, green company has never been more important or relevant. Given the attention placed on the negative impact that humanity has had on the planet, not going green oftentimes actually garner unwanted attention.
Northeastern University points out, “As the world population continues to rise, so does the importance of sustainability. Now, more than ever, consumers and corporations are increasingly committed to maintaining and replenishing our natural resources for future generations.”
Companies would do well to make sustainability a top priority for the sake of the planet as well as their bottom line. More and more, consumers — especially millennials — are uninterested in supporting businesses who refuse to take sustainability seriously. Fortunately, doing so is achievable for any company that truly makes it a priority.
Why It Matters
It matters because pollution hurts the planet and people alike, and businesses typically create more pollution than the average individual. Thus, your business is a direct contributor to the environmental decline in your city.
There are examples from the small to the large that demonstrate why it is so important for all to be on board in the fight against pollution. Just a few years ago, The Guardian pointed out that a mere 90 companies were responsible for two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions.
While most businesses are far from producing the pollution levels of the likes of Chevron and Exxon, it is nonetheless important to recognize that just one entity can make a world of difference. If you value the people that you employ and do business with, and if you’re interested in prolonging the lifespan of the place where you conduct that business, then your business must acknowledge their own participation in the problem.
The solution comes when organizations in every industry work to decrease their impact; that is when meaningful strides forward occur.
Additionally, from a purely economic standpoint, it makes the most sense. Becoming more socially responsible is a leg up for a business — not a detriment.
As the business professionals at Ohio University note, “Businesses that ignore corporate social responsibility run a risk to their bottom line and their brand. Having a bad reputation socially and environmentally can create serious negative effects on the overall profitability and success of a company, as nowadays consumers want to spend their money on products and services that they believe in, and engage with companies that follow ethical practices that meet their own beliefs.”
So even if a business’s motivation is fairly self-serving, that business should still see the undeniable economic gains that can be achieved by focusing on more sustainable methods of operating.
How to Do It
Being green does not happen accidentally; instead, it’s the result of making strategic, well-thought-out changes to the structure of operations. It requires considering how every aspect of business happens and deciding if it can be done in a better, more environmentally friendly manner.
The good news is that even though at the outset it can require more energy and time, in the long run, environmental changes not only make a company more desirable to investors, customers, and employees alike, they also often cut down on outgoing finances.
Often, the most striking changes a company can make are those that revolve around everyday utilities and behavior. For the most part, the changes made don’t have to be earth-shattering.
Use post-consumer waste. Whenever possible get rid of paper and if you can’t, use post-consumer waste paper. When Forbes writer Kate Harrison broke down the top 10 ways businesses’ can be green and save money, this was number one on her list.
She said, “Only PCW paper is made entirely from the paper we place in our recycling bins each day. Making PCW recycled paper uses 45% less energy and creates half the waste of the traditional papermaking process. Purchasing products labeled as 100% PCW ensures you are using papers with the least impact.”
Get a LEED rating. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a green building rating — the most prominent one today — that signifies that the location of your business is one committed to having as little negative impact on the environment as possible.
According to Direct Energy LEED version 4 focuses on:
- Materials: what’s in them, their effect on human health, and the environment;
- Performance: how well indoor environmental quality ensures comfort and health of the building’s occupants;
- Smart grid: using smart grid innovations to reduce energy usage and rewarding projects that participate in demand response programs; and
- Water efficiency: using less water more efficiently as well as its uses for cooling and heating.
Invest in energy-efficient lights and appliances. Make sure the appliances in the breakroom and beyond have the Energy Star seal of approval. Go through every room and change out fluorescent lights for CFLs or LEDs. There will be more upfront cost; however, both Energy Star appliances and energy-efficient bulbs will decrease your overall utility bill.
Additionally, many states offer free energy audits. Sometimes, seeing how much you’re actually using can provide the needed incentive to take steps to decrease your usage amount.
Cultivate the right mindset in-office. If company leadership exemplifies and rewards green behavior, employees are more likely to be excited about walking alongside that leadership in sustainability efforts. Purchase green products when you can. Make it easy for employees to recycle. Promote carpooling and public transportation. Recognize individuals who go out of their way to proactively care for the environment.
Consider green web hosting. As Mike Williams wrote for TechRadar, “Web hosting is very energy-intensive. Data centers may have tens of thousands of high-powered computers, most of these with permanently high CPU and drive usage, generating so much heat that the provider will usually need a massive cooling system to keep temperatures manageable.”
Green web hosting companies attempt to reduce the impact of their excessive energy usage by supplying the grid with energy sourced from renewables.
The Big Picture
While the everyday stuff is vitally important, it is also worthwhile to take a step back and look for ways that your organization can make an impact beyond the doors of your business. Companies truly committed to being socially responsible are going to use their resources to think outside the box.
Go into your community. Most businesses understand the value of utilizing their time and energy to give back to the needs of the community. If your business is actively volunteering time, money, or resources of another nature, direct that effort into environmental advocacy groups. Most communities have volunteer options specifically oriented around making the community a more sustainable, more eco-friendly place to live.
Draw inspiration from others. Fortune recently highlighted five major companies that are changing the world because they’re helping the environment. The companies that made the list did so because they make solving environmental problems in society part of their business model.
So for example, when Nike shifted two-thirds of footwear and apparel materials to recycled materials, that was not something that transpired outside of normal business hours. Instead, they considered what they were doing as a company and how it could evolve so that their overall presence shifted into a more sustainable lane.
How can the skills represented by your organization be utilized to make the products and services you offer more sustainable?
In the past, there has been this mindset that operating with a green mentality meant that a business would have to sacrifice in terms of both production and the bottom line. The very reason why many companies fail to be sustainable today is that they choose to utilize resources that are cheap upfront and costly in the long term.
However, it is important to remember that companies with green business models achieve things that they otherwise never could. Green companies are more attractive to consumers. Gone are the days when only the product mattered; now consumers care about where the product comes from. Green companies, long-term, spend less to operate.
CNBC even reported that employees of eco-friendly companies, “were more motivated, better trained and formed more interpersonal relationships, which in turn increased efficiency.”
Thus, the choice to go green should be an easy one to make. For the company interested not just in sustainability but also in thriving financially, committing to going green is the clear path forward.