Climate change is getting more traction these days than it used to, but it isn’t always discussed in relation to the business world. Sustainability and business seem to be discussed as if they are two separate things. They aren’t at least, they shouldn’t be.
Have you ever heard of a “triple bottom line” (or TBL)? The term was coined by John Elkington in 1994. It acts as a means to calculate a company’s performance in 3 specific areas: socially, environmentally (or ecologically), and financially.
That doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s the foundation of many sustainable business practices. In essence, TBL asks:
How you are impacting the environment?
What are you giving back to your community?
How are you doing financially?
Being someone who cares about my impact on the environment (I even helped build one of Canada’s most sustainable buildings in 2009), I made sure that my wee company would have a positive impact in the world. I wanted to have my own values align with running my business.
It seemed daunting at first, but even small steps combine to make a big difference. Making little changes every day can improve your carbon footprint and in turn, your bottom line. More and more people are concerned with their environmental impact, and want to support companies who share their values.
To makes things a little easier, here are 6 simple ways to make your small business more sustainable:
Thanks to electronic signatures, email, and an ever increasing array of apps, printing anything out now feels like going back in time. (Seriously, when is the last time you sent a fax?) You no longer need to send clients or customers paper copies of anything everything can be done electronically.
When you need to do any printing (i.e. business cards), be sure they are printed on recycled paper. There are a few printing houses out there that specialize in keeping their environmental impact low, and even Vistaprint offers 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper.
Subscribe to Renewable Energy
A really simple way of reducing your carbon footprint is to subscribe to a renewable energy provider. These companies add renewable energy to the grid on your behalf, offsetting the necessity for fossil fuels. Renewable energy includes micro-hydro, wind turbines, and solar panels. The largest green energy provider here in Canada is Bullfrog Power. They offer plans for residential and commercial spaces, for just a few dollars a month. You are billed based on how large your home or business space is, and your average energy consumption. Super easy to do, and it makes a huge difference!
Work with Like-Minded Companies
There are probably other local businesses or service providers online, that follow sustainable practices as well. Network with them and use their services. You may be able to find clients or customers through them if you build a mutually supportive relationship. Seek out green vendors for your needs, such as green print companies and web hosting companies. My web design company, for example, uses a green web host from Canada.
According to the Citi ThankYou Premier Commuter Index (yeahthats their real name), Americans spend $2,600 per year to get to and from their jobs. Instead of all that money and energy angrily being spent in traffic, let your employees work from home!
Thanks to secure FTP clients, email, and mobile devices, going to the office is becoming more and more optional. Youll be saving energy and money, and your employees will be happy they can work in the comfort of their own home.
If you are an employee, ask if you can work from home a few days a week. Your boss may be very open to the idea. Toronto’s Mayor John Tory, encourages GTA (Greater Toronto Area) companies to consider flexible hours including working from home to reduce grid-lock and traffic congestion during peak hours.
The standard 9-to-5 office schedule is dying, and innovative companies are changing with the times. It is easier (and cheaper) than ever to work from home or have your employees work from home. Even when I worked from a grey cubical, I shared files and discussed with team members remotely, usually through Skype. We only had face-to-face meetings when we had to…or needed to grab a coffee.
Turn It Off
This one is a super easy one: turn off your computer at the end of your work day.
Plugged in electronic devices, even when on standby, draw huge amounts of power from the grid. This is called “phantom power”, and can quickly increase your monthly energy bill.
In fact, phantom power can account for up to 15% of your annual home electricity consumption! So, turn off your computer and install power bars with a shut off switch. That way, you can ensure all your electronic devices are not using any power when you’re not using them. When you need to use them, just turn the power bar back on.
Take Advantage of Local Government Incentives
If you can afford to update old and inefficient equipment, look into rebates and tax breaks from your local government. Here in Ontario, the SaveONEnergy program offers rebates for energy audits, energy-efficient light fixtures, and building retrofits for businesses.
Interested in solar energy? Your local province or state may have a program available to help with the costs of setting up a system for your home or business. For instance, Ontario has the MicroFIT program, allowing for a 10kW solar system or smaller.
The bad news is the initial cost of a 10kW solar system is about $40,000 plus tax. The good news is you can apply to get all that tax back, and you can expect to earn about $4,000 each year for 20+ years thanks to the Ontario MicroFIT program. That means it will take you 8-10 years to get back your initial investment, while you’re adding clean, solar energy to the grid.