Small Business Talk
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How Going Green Can Help Your Small Business Thrive - Anca Novacovici
Anca is a speaker, author, mentor and founder of Eco-Coach Inc., a Washington DC based environmental sustainability firm that assists organizations to grow their top and bottom line by going green.
In the past 13+ years since she founded Eco-Coach, she has worked with a variety of for-profits, non-profits and government agencies to start or expand their going green practices. She is passionate about helping organizations large and small leverage environmental sustainability to: acquire new clients (or customers), grow sales, enhance branding, save money and attract top talent – and help them save the planet to boot!
She holds an MBA from Thunderbird, the American Graduate School of International Management, and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University .
Here are some steps that some smaller entrepreneurs and medium sized businesses may be able to use to make their businesses succeed at going green?
A small business being able to go green is a source of competitive advantage and there’s so many things that they can do that can actually help them grow sales and enhance their brand and attract top talent and save money in terms of operational savings.
You can get started with a few simple things, and you may have someone in your business or you may be excited, you may see that going green is, “Okay, this is something that is a huge opportunity potentially for us. Starting small means not spending too much money and it also means not spending too much time at the beginning, until you build momentum.
How Going Green Can Help Your Small Business Thrive
Some examples kind of right off the top are reducing waste, let’s say you want to tackle waste as the first thing. You’d want to implement an office reuse centre or if you’re really a small business of two people, just a little area where you re-use items so you’re not throwing them out. You want to figure out if you’re actually recycling the right way and now, in most places, recycling is becoming required. If you’re doing it the right way and if there are other ways that you could improve your recycling rate and do a recycling challenge and this can be in a small office, or a bigger one. It could be a lot of fun, you could look at each person over a two-week period, you can see how much they’ve recycled versus thrown out.
And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it can just be a couple emails sent out, a little kind of a tracking chart and that’s it, right? And at the end, you kind of go through and say, “Okay, who’s won?” And you can reward people by recognition, you don’t have to do a monetary thing or like anything else. Recognition is so important, and I think that’s another bonus of working at a small business is that you can recognize each other and then you work with each other every day, so it’s awesome. You’re like, “Oh, this person did this, this person did that.”
We have a big issue in Australia of people recycling, where the recycling bin gets contaminated, so therefore unfortunately, it doesn’t get recycled. Some education is needed on what can be recycled and how to actually process that recycling, so if it’s things like milk cartons and stuff it needs to be washed out and those sorts of things. The challenge idea is good as a lot of people are very competitive, so that can be a good thing there.
Make Easy Savings Going Green In Your Business
One of the other things, if you’re looking at operational savings and saving for the bottom line, you want to look at energy reduction and energy reduction is big. Even if you lease your building or your space.
If you’re in a retail store and you’re leasing a space, you may actually be able to speak with your property manager and negotiate the lease such that when you’re reducing the energy use in your building, those savings get passed on to you. In a lot of cases, if you’re leasing a building, the way that the energy contracts work is that they’re usually based on the square footage of the space as opposed to how much you’re consuming. If you have 20% of a larger space, then you’re paying 20% of the electricity bill regardless of whether you’re using that much or not.
So what you want to do is you want to think about that and say, “Hey, you know what, we’re not using that much, why are we paying that 20%?” Let’s say you’re only using 17%, that can be a significant cost difference for a small business where you can put those savings to use somewhere else for your, for whatever it is that your goals are that you want to achieve. You can have a conversation with your property manager, with the owner of the building and say, “Let’s think about renegotiating the lease or ways that we can have those savings passed on to us later on.” Just a little more advanced, but even if you’re in a leased space, there’s still some steps that you can take, obviously.
If you own the building, lighting is an easy one, where you can look at what lighting you actually use, or you can even take out some of the lights. A lot of buildings are over-lit, so removing just some of the light bulbs can bring down the harshness, some buildings have too much light. You can also think about task lighting, you can obviously implement any sort of automatic lighting which will go on and off and use natural lighting, which is a lot of times under-used. A lot of people will put down the shades and turn the on light as opposed to just pulling up the shade.
Swapping out for LED lights is another good idea. If you’re the only one in the property, then certainly, in Australia there’s a good a range, plus there’s also utilities that use less electricity and in doing so will reduce your electrical bills.
Reduce Plastic Usage
You can do different things at different times, and it really depends on your business. Another thing that you might want to look at is reducing plastics use across your entire business. Plastics are something that are pretty ubiquitous everywhere. Plastics are a big issue in terms of the oceans and the water ways. They are an issue in terms of the everyday environment where we see it, and even inside us, unfortunately. The reality is that you have micro-plastics and there are even studies that are saying that they’re in the rain.
Reducing your plastic use isn’t just helpful for going green. It also can be helpful for reducing your costs. And so, a really simple example in terms of reducing your cost and going green, and one that any business could do, is looking at reducing anything. Any kitchenware that’s being used that is plastic, if you have plastic cups, if you’re using throwaway disposable knives, forks, just dinnerware in general. Think about just purchasing reusable, right? And over the long run, if you run the cost on that, even within six months or 12 months, and again, it depends on what you buy, and it depends on where you are and what have you, but you actually come out even, and then you start saving money, right? And so, even for a smallness business, that makes a difference.
Another example is figuring out a filtre for your water instead of having plastic water bottles. Think about a small water cooler, or you can also rent a water cooler. There are so many different ways of doing it, and actually can come out even or save money at the end of the day.
Especially with your plastic cups, teacups are an alternative, or even just going back to actually crockery. There’s no reason why you need to have a throwaway cup every time you have a glass of water, so just take your glass back and pop it in the dishwasher at the end and they are all good.
This is the next level is developing overall your strategy around going green, your sustainability strategies going green and sustainability. A lot of times you can use those words interchangeably. Both look at impacting the planet, impacting your profits, your bottom line, and also people. Sustainability or the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit really looks at the benefit, and the impacts that an organization can have across that three-legged tool. And going green, you’re impacting the planet positively, you’re also saving your community, and your profit.
With that in mind, what you want to do is really think about going green, take it to how it can align with your long-term and short-term organizational strategy, what are your goals and where do those two fit in, such that, when you’re actually looking at a ‘going green’ project, it can be something that meets those long-term goals for your organization. For example. You’re looking to grow sales, and it has already been mentioned that some of the benefits for ‘going green’ is growing sales, operational savings. Well, let’s look at growing sales and how ‘going green’ can help that. You’ve taken all these steps, or you’ve implemented recycling, right?
I recommend is tracking how you’ve done at the beginning of the project and at the end of the project so that you know what the progress is that you’ve made. And then you can communicate that to your external stakeholders. What you want to do is think about how you can position this, what your customers care about, what do your clients care about.
How Going Green Can Help Your Small Business Thrive
Going green really is much easier than you think and can have many added benefits to your business including:
- Saving money
- Attracting talent
- Creating culture
- Giving your advantages of your competition
Listen to How going green can help your small business thrive episode #033 of The Small Business Talk Podcast for all Anca’s Tips.
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