Green initiatives for businesses should have the triple goal of affecting the 3 Ps – people, planet and profit.
Depending on the size of the business, these initiatives can range in scope from a multi-million dollar investment in green energy to improved recycling facilities in the staff room.
It is more likely that most green business initiatives will lie somewhere in between these extremes.
So, if you are a business owner, investor or even an employee, here are 30 green initiatives to consider for making your workplace more environmentally friendly.
- Commit to using a certain percentage of green energy and increase this percentage over time – perhaps with the long-term objective of 100% green energy.
- Incorporate natural lighting into your workplace to reduce dependency on electricity.
- Use energy efficient lighting and appliances.
- Enlist the services of an energy consultant to consider other areas you can reduce your energy consumption.
- Develop policies around powering down computers, printers, photocopiers and other equipment when not in use.
- Consider relocation to a green building or incorporating green building concepts into your existing building.
- Develop financial incentives for employees that bike or walk to work.
- Invest in public transportation passes for your employees.
- Invest in hybrid, electric or fuel efficient cars for company vehicles.
- Offer telecommuting opportunities where possible.
- Instigate a bicycle users committee for your workplace and get active in programs such as Bike To Work Week.
- Offer incentives for purchasing bicycles such as interest free loans.
- Develop purchasing policies around the use of green office products.
- Develop operating procedures that dictate how use of resources can be reduced, reused and recycled.
- Install low flow faucets and other fixtures to reduce water consumption.
- Install a filter on the cold water tap to discourage the purchase of bottled water.
- Consider a grey water system for your building.
- Work with building maintenance to encourage the use of natural cleaning products and natural ground maintenance.
- Convert the grass outside the building to a community garden for employees that are interested.
- Make sure recycling facilities are easy to use.
- If compost is not collected by the municipality, consider building a compost facility on the grounds (would tie in nicely for a community garden).
- Consider getting local organic fruit for the staffroom.
- Conduct an analysis of electronic equipment and develop policies around the purchase of greener electronics (see the Greenpeace guide to greener electronics).
- Install shower facilities for people who choose to run or cycle to work.
- Consider installing a green roof on your building.
- Develop employee incentives for finding ways to reduce waste and emissions as well as developing other green business initiatives.
- Create a staff newsletter that keeps everyone up to date on the green initiatives going on in the company.
- Conduct lifecycle analyses for any products you are producing or using in your business: consider transportation for the product (can it be locally sourced?), product packaging (can packaging be reduced or are there alternatives?), product materials (can recycled materials be sourced?), and the end of the life of the product (can it be recycled?)
- Look at the supply chain for the materials you bring into your business and consider incorporating more Fair Trade and ethically sound sources.
- Consider all the waste materials produced as a result of your business – can it be reduced, reused or recycled? Offer incentives to employees that can come up with ways of reducing this waste.
How to incorporate these green initiatives into your business
Greening your business should be approached in much the same way as any other business initiative; there need to be objectives, strategies, communications, resources, and performance measures.
Objectives – It’s very difficult to get somewhere without knowing where you’re going. Your business has to have some short- and long-term objectives that it wishes to achieve through its green initiatives or corporate sustainability. Think of these objectives in terms of the people, planet and profit of your business. As with any objectives, these will need to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Strategy – Consider how you will achieve your objectives. For instance, what strategies will you use to ensure employee participation? Be sure your strategy is able to adapt in response to external factors such as government incentives or legislation, or new technologies. Identify your allies and resources as part of your strategy. Develop work plans that break down the larger objectives into manageable tasks.
Communications – A communication strategy needs to be developed alongside your green program that considers how you will communicate changes internally as well as externally. A first step would be to clearly articulate how each of your objectives affects the people, planet and profit. In fact, there may be several statements that go along with each initiative, depending on who the audience is. For instance, an initiative to switch to compostable plastic packaging may have a statement regarding changes in profit for the investors, a healthier work environment for the employees, a greener supply chain for your clients, and reduced carbon emissions to please the rest of the world!
Resources – As with any other business initiative, there needs to be resources allocated. Perhaps only a small amount of money can be invested initially, but then savings from the green initiatives are reinvested into more green initiatives. Maybe a small business can’t afford a dedicated sustainability officer, but it would be a worthy investment to train existing staff in corporate sustainability or green building design. It results in increased capacity for your business and career development for your staff – a win-win situation.
Performance Measures – Your objectives have to be measurable and therefore you have to take the time to actually measure them. Incorporate reviews and performance analyses into your strategy and work plans and dedicate the time and resources to do this. It’s an important component of growing your green initiatives and responding to new developments.
There are sustainability consultants that are able to help businesses incorporate green policies and initiatives.
There are many green initiatives for businesses and the scope will depend on the size and capacity of the business. However, even small businesses should incorporate green strategies into their business plan – and consider how these will grow with the business. After all, greener businesses are more sustainable for the planet and for the economy. Here’s a look at one green business – Pizza Fusion.