Bringing sustainable practices into the workplace doesn’t have to be a daunting task. There are several ways in which you can start making improvements that can slowly shift your company into a green business, but first, let’s talk about what it means to be a sustainable business. Generally speaking, sustainability is when what’s good for the company is also good for the planet. Sustainability goals are often reached when the company strives to meet the triple bottom line (TBL). The TBL is an accounting framework that incorporates three dimensions of performance: social, environmental and financial. The most important step in this transition is employee empowerment. Some companies have found the best way to do this is by designating a “green team” within the company that is assigned to keep the employees motivated and updated to new ideas and methods of environmental consciousness. Having an electricity audit done is also a great way to measure where improvements can be made and some utility companies even offer refunds, rebates, grants and other incentives to help your workplace become more efficient.
Why is this shift in businesses, product production and consumerism even needed? For starters, one fourth of earth’s land area is considered highly degraded as a direct result of human consumption, pollution and waste. Four billion trees are cut down each year just to produce paper. In the U.S. we produce 39% of our electricity from coal, which is mined in 25 states. 55% of the rivers and streams are too polluted to support healthy aquatic life. The U.S. transportation moves more than 54 million tons of freight per day and each American consumes more than 50, 000 lbs. of raw materials each year. If the whole world lived the American lifestyle, we would need four planet Earths just to provide all the resources. So, as you can see, there is quite a lot of room for improvement.
Improvements can start with little effort. Printed documents can make use of both sides of the paper. Paper can then be recycled when no longer needed and when able, work on going paperless. Water conservation methods should be encouraged and disposable paper cups and plastics should be discouraged. Bring back the office mug instead! Energy efficiency can be achieved by switching to CFL, halogens and LED lights. You may also want to consider light dimmers and motion lights. The progressive business owner may find a four day work week Monday- Thursday to be a good option to cut back on their carbon footprint and make their employees happier and more productive. Offering your employees a work from home position is another environmentally friendly option to consider. Small changes and adjustments like this often times make a large impact especially over time. Other ideas include, the reuse of packaging, sourcing locally, recycling ink cartridges and coffee grinds, starting a compost bin for food waste, implementing a recycle bin at each desk, printing smaller business cards, eliminating bottled water, encourage carpooling and offering paperless billing.
As a consumer we make these choices with our dollar. Whether we are purchasing something small like Fair Trade coffee from Starbucks or making a large purchase, such as a Tesla. As insignificant as your purchases may seem, they add up. We create the change we want to see. In fact, if you examine the capital market you will find that we (the public consumer) own a third of it individually and the rest is controlled by institutes ran by us as members, participants,shareholders, customers or citizens. Additionally, the choice to be sustainable isn’t limited to domestic and professional choices, it’s also an investment opportunity. Recently one out of every six dollars of the investment industry goes towards green business models. That amounts to 20 trillion dollars invested as of 2015 and is now the fastest growing segment of the investment industry. The University of Oxford completed a study based off of 120 companies last year and found that the ones that cared and implemented sustainability methods had better operation efficiency, lower cost of capital and better performance in stock rise.
Helpful Apps can assist for personal and professional use and include, GoodGuide (itunes) showcases sustainable products and features a bar code scanner to check an item’s environmental impact before buying it. Climate is an Iphone app that lets you connect, plan and share your climate change efforts with one another. There are also apps designed to help you track your carbon footprint, locate local farmers markets and give green living suggestions, like Green Genie(itunes) does. No matter which way you slice it, sustainable practices and guidelines improve previous methods, whether you own a business, are looking for a smart investment for your dollar or you are the everyday consumer. At our current rate of consumption there will not be enough resources to sustain our species by 2030. The only way to ensure our continued progress, is to ensure we have a healthy planet. The only viable path forward is to employ sustainable principles in all aspects of our life.