Twenty-nine of the world’s 100 greenest companies are in the United States and Canada. In 2006, fewer than 300 buildings were LEED-certified, meeting the standards for sustainable practices. Today, that number is more than 67,000, and those buildings include office spaces, municipal buildings, convention centers, schools, restaurants, and retailers.
In addition to these projects, many other structures and industries have moved to more sustainable and energy-efficient practices. According to MIT, the three areas that will adopt greener practices in the years ahead are:
- Information technology
Our focus here is the steps that brands and industries have taken toward conserving energy and how you can apply them to businesses of any size. Examples from three of the most energy-efficient companies in the world -- Walmart, Samsung, and Citibank -- can give rise to ways you, a small business owner or manager, can move toward green energy.
1. Knowing How Much Energy You Consume is the First Step
In 2010, Walmart set a goal of reducing its energy usage by 20 percent over ten years. Whether you’re a large or small company, establishing a baseline and an ambitious goal will set you on a sustainable path.
Start with an energy audit to establish that baseline for your own business, and you’ll uncover areas that are costing your company thousands of dollars and harming the environment.
Then, set a timeline for taking steps to become greener. Walmart looked ten years out. Samsung set a horizon of fifty years, and Citibank fulfilled its first goal ($100 billion in financing sustainability projects) four years ahead of schedule and then set a new ambitious goal.
Having a vision, commitment, and measurement system is critical to success and sustainability.
2. Engage Your Team -- and Even Your Community -- in Energy-Saving
Like many transformational efforts, moving toward being a zero-waste, carbon-neutral, or simply energy-efficient business takes a village. Once you’ve set your goals, engage your partners, as Walmart did. Make sure that your message is meaningful and personal to employees. Create incentive programs for green energy champions within your business.
Companies that have been most successful with energy-saving initiatives have incorporated sustainability into their core values. Incorporating individual goals into job descriptions, encouraging employees to lead green efforts in their communities, and celebrating success are ways to give your team a reason to believe in your mission. Make your goals and initiatives relatable, practical, and fun.
When you do reap the cost savings of energy-efficiency programs, earmark some of those dollars for programs that employees will value -- new talent, marketing spending, salary adjustments, or bonuses.
3. Find Expert Partners Who Offer Low- and No-Cost Solutions
Suppliers can play a significant and meaningful role in your energy-saving journey. Consult with companies with expertise in areas like lighting, HVAC and refrigeration, computers, and office equipment.
Do your homework, secure competitive bids, and ask tough questions about how your decisions will impact your energy consumption and bottom line. Big brands have the luxury of time, money, and staff for project management, but the right external partners can offer you one-stop shopping, even helping you measure the financial and energy impact of decisions like LED lighting installation.
4. Showcase Your Green Energy Accomplishments
Sustainability is important to consumers today, with about half saying they will change their spending behavior based on their perception of a brand’s commitment to sustainability.
The top three brands we cite all have powerful public-facing and corporate messages on their websites.
- Walmart encourages its customers to come up with creative alternatives to plastic bags via a contest and has robust web pages that detail their green initiatives.
- Samsung details the energy efficiency of each of its products -- from electronics to home appliances. On their corporate site, they graphically layout their 17 goals for sustainability, making them simple for anyone to understand.
- Citibank has showcased its commitment to financing sustainable products via global media. The first major U.S. bank to join the United Nation’s sustainability initiative, they laid the groundwork for other financial companies to follow suit.
As an SMB, you may not be able to invest in a slick new web page or public relations campaign but look for those small ways to showcase your sustainability steps. It can make a huge difference in consumer choice and perception. Restaurants, retailers, hotels, and even schools can benefit from letting costumers and prospects know of their green energy efforts.
5. Invest Your Savings in SMB Growth
Some businesses have saved up to $200M just in lighting costs by switching to green energy solutions. Rebates, tax credits, and the cost of maintaining systems all add up. You can deploy those dollars into innovation, marketing, talent, and customer service.
Your business may be small, but the impact of green energy on your business and the planet can be mighty.
Look to the “top 100” and apply their best practices to your own business. Whether your timeframe for making change is one year or one decade, you can start in 2020 with small steps that can make a significant financial difference.
For more tips on how your business can save, download our "26 Bright Business Savings Ideas for SMBs" eBook.