Unless you have spent the last decade in hibernation, surely you have heard about the ongoing – and growing – trend of companies going ‘green.’ Eco-friendly firms are taking the countless small and medium sized businesses around the world and making adjustments to their business models and overall ethos in order to ensure that they are as easy on the environment as possible.
So-called green technologies and environmentally friendly business practices are taking off in popularity, and while their positive effects on the planet are laudable, they can be quite costly to enact. Read ahead to learn more about making this transition, and find out if it pays to be ‘green.’
What does ‘Going Green’ mean?
With so many business people around the world espousing the virtues of going green, it pays to try to define the term. The definitions of ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘green’ can be vague, and can change dramatically depending on who is doing the talking! ‘Green’ is a term that is normally used to refer to strategies and materials that are perceived to be better for the environment than others.
When someone states they are ‘going green,’ they often mean that they are pursuing new knowledge and planning to enact ecologically minded strategies in order to help protect the environment and to sustain the planet’s natural resources for future generations.
This is certainly a noble goal, but the resulting benefits are not always so cut and dry, as there is a bit of a problem with the term ‘green.’ Experts around the world can hardly agree on what is the best course of action when one wants to be environmentally friendly, and so there is a lot of misinformation out there.
Green actions favoured by small businesses
Here are just a few simple actions you can take to go green around the office.
- Going paperless – Choosing to do away with paper copies of documents and instead, storing everything digitally can be a great way to save paper – and save money.
- Enacting energy saving strategies – Educating your staff and enforcing energy saving tips can be a great way to lower your electric bills.
- Donating money – Putting a percentage of your profits toward environmental causes can be a great way to contribute to the planet.
- Commit to using eco-friendly supplies – It is relatively simple and inexpensive to make the switch to eco-friendly cleansers, materials and supplies of all kinds. Buy in bulk to see big savings.
- Recycle, reduce and reuse – This old slogan still holds true; don’t settle for simple recycling – ensure that you are also reusing old items (buying second hand furniture is cheaper and better for the planet) and reducing your waste as much as possible.
Pros and cons of ‘going green’
While the tips above are simple and require little spending, larger initiatives take time, money and planning. Read ahead for a comprehensive list of the pros and cons of ‘going green.’
PRO – You can substantially cut your energy costs
Depending on the measures that you elect to enact, you might immediately start to see increased energy efficiency and a substantial reduction in material waste. By cutting your energy costs you can expect to see lower electric bills, and some small companies report savings of over £7000 per year simply by going paperless. This chunk of money will certainly help any small or medium sized enterprise increase their bottom line and end their year in the black.
CON – The initial costs can be very high
Transforming your business model to include green measures (including where you source your raw materials, how you travel around the globe and how you power your machinery) can be a time consuming and costly endeavour. Even though the pay off might be worth it in the long run, can your small business handle such a large investment at this time?
PRO – You can build trust and rapport with the community
Being able to brand yourself as ‘eco-friendly’ can be a huge boon to your standing in the local community, helping you to impress your existing clients and earn new ones in the process. People like to know that the companies they support are trying to make the world a better place, and this goodwill will often translate to customer loyalty and an increase in sales.
CON – You might have to ditch longtime suppliers
As you strive to make the transition into becoming a ‘green’ firm, you may need to say goodbye to treasured relationships with longtime suppliers. If you have a supplier or use a product that is known for its poor environmental policies, it will be hard to tout yourself as ‘eco-friendly’ – and it can take years to form strong relationships with new vendors.
PRO – You can take advantage of lucrative tax breaks
By reorganising your business to be more environmentally minded, you are not only helping to save the planet, you are helping to put pennies into your coffers come tax time. The UK offers many diverse environmental tax credits and schemes for small businesses – click on the link to see if you qualify.
PRO – You will probably see an increase in profits
Reports suggest that going green can earn savvy businesses an increase in profits of up to 10% annually. This increase is based on new clientele, lowered electricity costs and the other financial benefits of reducing waste.
It ain’t easy being green
As you can see above, the decision about whether or not to go green is not cut and dry – different companies in different industries will find that they have to assess myriad factors before making this decision. If you elect to undergo this transition, you can expect upfront costs that hopefully lead to a healthier company, positive long term forecasts and, of course, a strong financial result.