Sustainability is more than a trend today. It’s imperative for both SMBs and large global companies. Decision-making with the long-term impact on our planet has several key business benefits:
- Your customers and employees will value the steps you’re taking.
- You contribute to the health and wellness of your customers and team members.
- You use less energy, which ultimately saves you money.
- Maintaining sustainable systems (like LED lighting) is affordable and straightforward.
This article will focus on the last two. Small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are laser-focused on cash flow and cost-cutting -- especially in light of COVID-19 economic challenges. Below are some ways that sustainability can ultimately lead to significant reductions in what you spend on energy each year.
Energy Costs for SMBs are Significant
- Light bulbs
- Space heating
- Central cooling systems
- Desktop computers
- Security lighting
- Foodservice equipment
- Exit signs
- Copy machines
Once you commit to making your workplace more sustainable, look at each of your business areas to choose earth-friendly and cost-effective options.
An audit of your company -- retail, restaurant, office space, school, or other -- will reveal opportunities for improving energy-efficiency and sustainability and reducing expenses. In some cases, you can see those savings immediately.
Expand Your Understanding of Sustainability
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes a useful guide specifically for SMBs. The more you know about sustainability regulations and options, the better the decisions you’ll make around purchasing and maintenance.
Beware of companies that “greenwash.” In other words, some products and services may carry sustainable labeling or advertising as a marketing ploy. Be a smart consumer.
Engage Your Team
If you’re undertaking an effort to operate as a sustainable company, you’ll need your employees’ buy-in. Motivating them to embrace the initiative and take action can be challenging. Build sustainability into your business mission, engage your team in decision-making, and reward those employees and activities that contribute to cost-saving efforts.
If employees see that energy cost savings translate into dollars for other investments that benefit them -- salaries, bonuses, marketing, technology -- they’ll be more likely to come on board.
Six Sources of Sustainable Small Business Energy Savings
- When you buy equipment, choose ENERGY STAR options. Sustainable computers use 25-40 percent less power than their counterparts. Laptops use less energy than desktops.
- Use less paper or recycled paper. Encourage employees to think before they print. That applies to internal communications, marketing, and signage. Paper can cost as much as 3 percent of your revenue and accounts for 50 percent of business waste.
- Responsible waste management is another area for potential savings. For example, recycling and composting systems can lead to huge savings on trash removal services.
- Switch to renewable energy (e.g., solar panels). Small businesses are joining big brands in making this change and are reaping significant financial benefits.
- Examine the small habits and decisions too. From how your employees get to work and travel to what you serve in the lunchroom, look at all of the actions contributing to improving (or destroying) our environment and hurting your bottom line. Here is a comprehensive list of areas you might otherwise overlook.
- Some of the most significant savings lie in switching to sustainable lighting. Energy-efficient lighting technologies are superior in quality, create substantial cost savings for businesses, and reduce environmental impact. For example, FES has saved companies like yours over $200M, eliminated 20+ million kilowatt-hours per year, and reduced CO2 emissions by 68 million pounds. Plus, you’ll save over time on the cost of maintenance and light bulbs (the first item on the list above).
Sustainability is More Affordable Than You Might Believe
A common perception is that green alternatives cost more or that they are difficult to install and maintain. But the truth is that sustainability can result in better financial performance for companies of all sizes.
Incentives for “going green” abound. FES even covers the cost of installing LED lighting systems, so small businesses have no financial exposure. Many entities offer tax credits and rebates for sustainable business decisions.
Take into consideration the improvements in brand perception and talent hiring that come from becoming a more sustainable small business. Many employees say they will take lower salaries to work for companies that value sustainability.
Whether you take baby steps toward sustainability or decide to launch a company-wide initiative, you’ll benefit from going green -- both in cost reduction and business perception.