Remember environmentalism? 10 years ago the business world was obsessed with going green as we all panicked about the prospect of global warming, pollution and the prospect of fossil fuels running out. After the financial crisis hit, environmental issues took a back seat – with a few honourable exceptions.
But the threat of climate change remains – regardless of what Donald Trump and a few tabloid newspaper columnists would have you believe. Even if you’re thinking from a selfish perspective, there are still plenty of reasons to go green. It helps show potential candidates that their future employer is all warm and fuzzy. If you can cut down energy consumption you can save a few bob too. And if mankind is wiped out by soaring temperatures then your revenues are sure to take a hit.
Get your employees on board
All the rules, regulations and recycling bins in the world won’t make a jot of difference if everybody ignores them. If you’re serious about making your business more sustainable then you need to make sure workers get involved. That needn’t mean constantly evangelising about polar bears and melting ice caps, but you need to be clear about what’s expected.
A carrot is likely to work more effectively than a stick here – what incentives can you provide to encourage people to save energy and recycle? And of course it’s important to lead by example – turning up in a Hummer and putting your draughty building’s only electric heater in your own office isn’t likely to go down well.
Slash transport emissions
Maybe one day we’ll all be hooked up to VR systems, sitting in bed in a virtual office to do our work. But for now most of us have to go into the office. Not many people are fortunate enough to be able to walk to work, but that doesn’t mean they need to travel one person to one car. Consider starting a car pool scheme so workers living near each other can find people to share a ride with. And look into providing a ride to work scheme – employers can loan workers bikes and helmets on a tax-free basis.
Stop wasting energy
Arguably the most important factor in making your company more environmentally friendly, it’s not rocket science. Hook your lights up to a sensor so they only flick on when there are actually people in the vicinity. Stop leaving your computers and heating on all night. Make sure your office is properly insulated and keep your appliances clean and inwell-maintained.
Make recycling easy
We all know we ought to recycle but on a day to day basis it’s often easier to chuck all your rubbish into the landfill bin, instead of separating it out. The key is to make it easy as possible – put plenty of recycling bins around the office and make sure they’re clearly labelled as being for cans, paper, glass etc.
And don’t forget food waste. ‘Recycling doesn’t stop at paper and cardboard, huge amounts of food waste is created by businesses - you only have to look inside your mouldy office fridge,’ says Bruce Bratley, CEO and founder of recycling firm First Mile.
It’s not just your own energy use and environmental standards that matter. If you really want to make a difference then you need to vote with your coffers. Find out what all your suppliers are doing to reduce their carbon footprint and choose those who have the strongest green credentials. That’s especially important for your energy provider, but applies to other suppliers too. Is your packaging made from recycled materials? Are your cleaners using eco-friendly products? With few simple questions like those you can substantially reduce the harm your business is doing to the environment.