Going green seems to be the latest trend, but it is a trend that has a variety of benefits for businesses. Businesses are increasingly becoming more aware that they need to take into account the social and environmental impacts that their operations and activities may create.
Applying green processes and adopting sustainable approaches for the development of any business means not only considering the resources that a business uses, but should also look at the effects it may have on the wider environment, and that these do not jeopardise prospects for future generations.
Going green does not simply mean spending money in order to reduce environmental and social impacts; it also involves benefiting from opportunities to reduce costs and risks associated with any company or business. Adopting a sustainable approach can therefore offer a wide range of benefits as simple as, for instance, reducing costs by switching off equipment when it is not needed.
Developing a green strategy and approach can, in addition, improve the reputation of a business, and the products and services it offers. Many individual consumers are increasingly becoming more environmentally aware, and thus prefer to purchase from responsible and sustainable businesses. A sustainable and successful business plan also ensures that businesses comply with regulatory requirements, and anticipate future legislation therefore reducing the costs associated with non-compliance.
Understanding the impacts that a particular business has or potentially has on the environment and society is essential in making it ‘greener’ and more sustainable. Waste, pollution and direct use of resources (e.g. water) are perhaps some of the more obvious factors to be considered in creating sustainable and green management plans.
Creating and implementing a strategic approach to green business can have a profound and positive impact in the way business is carried out and what influences it may have. Adopting such principles should, however, not involve delegating responsibility to one or two employees, but should consist of a fully committed approach that starts from top management. Adopting a strategic approach to green business requires an understanding of several key elements.
First of all, in order to be effective, sustainable development strategies require top-level commitment that involves all employees and other stakeholders (e.g. suppliers). In this respect, it is worth considering training and incentives to encourage employees to support green business strategies.
A strategic approach should encompass a full assessment of a business’s social and environmental impacts. This should involve looking at the use of raw materials, energy use and its impacts on climate change, the waste and pollution a business produces, and the impacts a business or a company has on its employees and society.
Green strategies need to take into account the impact throughout the full life cycle of a product or service a company provides. This might involve questioning certain aspects of a business such as how much energy it uses in delivering or manufacturing a product, or how are products used and disposed of?
Businesses can also develop an environmental policy that contains a statement of the company’s aims and objectives, actively communicating its objectives to its employees, and which forms part of its business strategy. Monitoring and reporting on environmental performance are also key elements for an efficient and successful environmental management system.
Going green should not be viewed as a complex and difficult task to undertake. There are many initiatives and control measures that can be implemented to reduce a business’s environmental and social impacts. These are often overlooked or taken for granted, but are easy to implement and are quite effective. For instance, simple practice measures such as switching lights off when you leave the room, switching off equipment when it is not needed, or replacing normal incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient lights could significantly reduce an office’s energy consumption and costs.
Minimising waste is an important factor that can largely reduce a company’s environmental and social impacts. This might involve simple measures such as double-sided printing, recycling ink cartridges, re-using envelopes or sending an email. Also, avoid purchasing disposable catering products such as plastic cups!
Green procurement or green purchasing consists of looking at the products a company purchases, how and when they were manufactured, what they are made of, and their efficiency. There are a wide range of products from stationery to electrical appliances for which more environmentally friendly options could be considered. Such products contain specific eco-labels that indicate that it has been manufactured in a more sustainable manner. Examples include the EC energy label found on many refrigerators, or the Forest Stewardship Council logo (FSC) found on paper products created using sustainable sources.
Going green therefore provides a business with the opportunity to implement and adopt much more environmentally sustainable practices, and to indeed create a more responsible and modern approach towards the products and services it provides, and certainly for its employees and customers.