Go green... Save the environment and your bottom line
Prior to the GFC there was a growing trend among businesses to prove their green credentials to clients and customers. Consultancies sprang up to audit energy consumption and commitments were made to carbon offsetting by planting trees in countries thousands of kilometres away.
With the advent of the GFC, for many businesses the need to survive in the short-term transcended any social responsibility they felt to offsetting the long-term risks of global warming. The major challenge in 2008 and 2009 was keeping people employed and staying on the right side of banks and investors – so eco audits and carbon emission commitments became a lesser priority.
In a post-GFC business environment, the appetite and commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) hasn’t returned to pre-2008 levels, however businesses may be surprised how far they’ve changed sustainability practices over the last decade without even noticing.
There are the big things – the green electricity options available on the grid, or increasingly the installation of solar panels, are not only cost effective but help save the planet.
Equally the systems for saving and recycling water and waste are now mandatory in most local government areas – something we wouldn’t have even considered a decade ago.
But there are the host of small actions that emerged in the mid 2000s that may have been lost in the economic crunch, but that every business should think about adopting to go green.
All in the lighting
Lighting can account for up to 40% of energy costs in commercial buildings. There are three ways to make a difference – reduce the number of lights in your office, turn off lights when they aren’t being used and install energy efficient, low voltage lighting. You’ll also notice a big difference to your bottom line.
Recycling isn’t a new concept, but you’d be surprised just how much business waste you can recycle – up to 90% in most cases. While having multiple bins for recycling, green waste and general rubbish is a good start, think about going a step further and implementing a recycling policy and systems that pushes you beyond the low hanging fruit.
Double sided printing is now standard in most offices, and with the potential to halve your paper usage, there’s a clear cost benefit. If you haven’t already, change the settings on every computer in your business to double sided. Emails have made have made many workplaces virtually paperless, but ensure employees aren’t tempted to fall into old habits by printing emails unnecessarily.
Bringing the outside in
Lots of employees are seeking more natural cooling during summer and, where possible, the aircon is turned off and the windows flung open to provide a low energy, healthy work environment. Installing insulating blinds also reduces summer sweltering and winter heat loss, while cutting carbon emissions. If you need to rely on heating and cooling, set the air conditioner no higher than 19 degrees in winter, and no lower than 25 degrees in summer.
Buy green products
From enviro friendly cleaning products to fair-trade coffee and tea, there are a range of products that will make your business more environmentally and socially responsible, without having to dramatically change behaviours.
If you’re still relying on big sixes and V8s as company cars, it might be time to rethink your approach. We’re not talking Teslas, or even a hybrids, but there are now a range of fuel efficient four cylinder petrol or diesel fleet cars that offer both fuel savings and reduce your carbon footprint.
Introduce green days
These have nothing to do with the band, but are symbolic days throughout the year where your business turns its focus to your environmental footprint. You may run them monthly, or quarterly, but the important thing is to have a focus for the day that reinforces positive behaviours, such as a ‘no printing’, ‘recycling’ or ‘turning off lights’.
Offsetting carbon emissions
Your organisation may wish to consider offsetting their carbon emissions. This requires a calculating your carbon footprint and there are a range of businesses in the market who can do this for you. Climate Friendly not only calculates your organisation’s carbon emissions but also offers a range of offset options both in Australia and abroad.
Consider a green team
Having a group of staff within your organisation to champion your enviro efforts is a great way to stay focussed on the end-goal. This group of passionate employees meet on a regular business to discuss and implement green initiatives, as well as tracking and monitoring employee behaviours throughout the year. It may be effective for this group to report back on successful initiatives and build a culture of sustainability by engaging the staff-base with competitions, communications and even activity-based rewards to change behaviour.
If the GFC achieved one good thing it was the ability for businesses to do more with less – to use less material, to recycle rather than throw out and to see that squandering resources is bad for the bottom line…as well as bad for the planet.