Can sustainability and profitability really go hand in hand?
The answer is yes!
It’s a common misunderstanding that businesses lose profit when pursuing eco-friendly practices.
Organizations who prioritize sustainability not only have a positive impact on the world, but may also see positive business results such as increased revenue, higher return on investment, competitive advantages, and better employee retention.
While it’s true going green requires an investment up front, it can ultimately save you thousands of dollars.
We’ll start by defining sustainability. Then, we’ll explore how your business can benefit from going green, and identify strategies for sustainability in the workplace.
What is Sustainability in Business?
Harvard Business School defines sustainability as “doing business without negatively impacting the environment, community, or society as a whole.”
Sustainability requires the understanding that your business doesn’t operate in a bubble – your actions have real and lasting effects on the earth’s ecosystems and the community around you.
Sustainable businesses recognize the importance of considering environmental factors.
For instance, they consider:
- What types of resources, energy, and goods will be consumed from the environment?
- How will these goods be transported and distributed?
- How will this process potentially alter landscapes and ecosystems?
- How will the business reduce any adverse effects of this process?
Why Your Business Should Consider Going Green
In addition to protecting the environment, going green has possible business advantages:
- It could save you money in the long run.
- Goodwill San Diego replaced all regular light bulbs with LED bulbs. The first year, we saved $300K and $2,500 every year after.
- Research shows companies who actively consider the environment in their policies secure an 18% higher return on investment.
- You’ll also qualify for tax credits and incentives.
- It can build credibility and give you a competitive advantage. Customers want to know you care about more than money.
- A recent survey found that nearly 70% of consumers in the U.S. and Canada believe it’s important for a brand to be sustainable. Green businesses are proud to market their sustainability efforts because it builds trust and attracts more customers, employees, and shareholders.
- It may increase employee recruitment and retention. Employees are interested in businesses that support environmental initiatives.
- Millennials are quickly moving up to become the largest group in today’s workforce.
- In a survey, 40% of millennials said they chose a job because the company performed better on sustainability than other choices. 70% of millennials said they’d stay with a company if it had a strong sustainability plan.
- It may reduce risk. By developing eco-friendly policies, sustainable businesses may be better prepared to cope with environmental challenges in the future.
- Green companies strive to grow their business while protecting the environment.
Now let’s explore some tips for going green.
How to Make Your Business Sustainable
- Recycle for a positive environmental impact. Provide recycling bins throughout the office, and label them according to what items go in them.
- Goodwill San Diego has practices in place to properly recycle accessories, appliances, books, cardboard, electronics, plastics, metals, textiles, and more.
- Based on the volume of materials recycled in 2020, Goodwill San Diego saved:
- 1,067 trees from being cut down.
- 15,740 gallons of oil consumption.
- 33,983,135 gallons of water consumption.
- 322,297 hours of electricity.
- Focus on conserving water.
- Get a water audit. This will show you how much water your business uses, and help you identify strategies for using less water.
- Install low-flow toilets. Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush. Newer, EPA-approved toilets use only 1.28 gallons per flush. Look for the WaterSense label indicating a more water-efficient, high-performance option.
- Put up signs reminding employees to turn off water while scrubbing hands, then turn it back on to rinse. This is a simple practice that can save at least 6 gallons per day.
- It’s important to regularly engage employees on this issue. Remind them to be mindful of water usage, and brainstorm strategies on how to conserve water.
- Purchase energy-efficient lights and appliances. Look for the Energy Star symbol.
- In the kitchen, use energy-efficient refrigerators, dishwashers, and coffee brewers.
- Enable sleep mode on electronics so they use less energy when not in use.
- Goodwill San Diego has placed stickers at most every light switch reminding employees to turn off lights when not in use. If possible, employees can work near windows to maximize natural light instead of overhead lighting.
- Provide remote work options. The increase of telework during the COVID-19 pandemic has been linked to a decrease in global CO2e emissions.
- Large offices often generate more energy consumption than homes.
- Even if employees work from home occasionally, it can make a positive impact.
- Go digital to save paper. Goodwill San Diego does as much as possible without using paper. Consider using electronic payments instead of mailing checks for payroll, vendors’ payments, and expense reimbursement.
Going Green is Simpler than it Seems
Many organizations hold back from going green because they’re worried about the investment. But now, there’s more evidence than ever to suggest the potential savings will be well worth the upfront costs.
At Goodwill San Diego, we’re proud to call ourselves a green organization and we strongly encourage other businesses to follow sustainable practices.