Entrepreneurs have the power to shape their businesses into anything they want. They have full control over the scope and direction of their initial ideas, the types of processes and regulations their business follows, and of course, how the business grows over time. Even franchise owners and business partners, who have to listen to or follow the expectations of other participants, have a significant degree of control in their business’s destiny. Obviously, the two biggest goals here are profitability and comfortability—making as much money as possible in the most enjoyable way possible—but at some point social responsibility, especially environmental responsibility, must also enter the equation.
Requirements vs. Responsibilities
Most environmental changes aren’t “required” of businesses. They aren’t legally mandated, and it’s unlikely that many customers would boycott your business for not following them. However, you owe it to your community, your teammates, your peers, and especially the generations that come after you to conduct your business in an environmentally responsible way.
Reducing your carbon footprint and minimizing your consumption of natural resources not only protects the environment for generations to come—it will also help you reduce your total operating costs. It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved.
Take these strategies as examples of how your business can become more sustainable and environmentally friendly:
- Go paperless. Officially going “paperless” is a big step for most businesses, so don’t be intimidated by taking the term literally. Limit your paper consumption as much as possible with simple steps. For example, are there any reports that could stand to be viewed and transmitted just digitally? Can you switch to printing your reports double-sided instead of single-sided to cut your paper consumption in half? These steps can make a big difference in your total paper consumption, which will also save you money in the long term.
- Use recycled products. Recycled products help reduce the demand for new resources; as an example, recycled paper products use old paper products as root material rather than requiring new trees be cut down. Keep an eye out for products that are described as being recycled, and if you have a choice, opt for ones that are, even if they cost a bit extra. By extension, you should also recycle any recyclable products you have in your business.
- Make use of “green” appliances. You have a choice in the types of technology and appliances you buy for your business, so opt for ones that carry an Energy Star rating, or ones that maximize your energy efficiency. More efficient appliances and machinery will reduce your business’s total energy consumption, lowering your total carbon footprint while simultaneously making your utility bills more manageable.
- Monitor your use of resources. This is a simple measure, but it’s still an effective one; keep your employees cognizant of how they’re using resources in your business, and try to control this as tightly as possible. As a basic example, instruct your employees to turn off the lights of any room or section where people aren’t currently working, and make sure all appliances are turned off before leaving work for the day. You can also set standards for how your heating and cooling system is used, or how people use water and other resources. Try not to go over-the-top here, but do put some standards in place.
- Use alternative energy sources. Though it may be a heavy investment for new entrepreneurs of startups, more seasoned entrepreneurs or existing business owners can invest in alternative energy sources to power their businesses. For example, you could install solar panels on the roof of your building, or install a windmill on your property. In time, these installations pay for themselves, and reduce your reliance on the grid. Plus, it sets a positive example and a standard for the other businesses in your area, and may make a positive visual impact for potential customers who see your business taking responsibility for its energy consumption.
- Institute a carpool (or reduce commuting). Your business’s impact on the environment isn’t limited to just what happens at the physical location of your business. You have people driving in and out of your business regularly, so why not take environmental responsibility by reducing this commute time as much as possible? You could institute a carpool for your regular employees, or even encourage work-from-home days to reduce the need for travel (and your onsite consumption of resources at the same time).
Every Step Matters
As you’ve seen, environmental responsibility isn’t an all-or-nothing strategy. You don’t have to adopt all of the strategies we’ve listed above to make strides toward social responsibility in your business, but any you do adopt can have a positive impact on your environment. Take on the responsibilities that you can, and as you gain more resources or have more time, add more as you continue building your business.
The more entrepreneurs we have engaging in socially responsible, environmentally friendly strategies, the better-preserved our planet will be in the coming years.
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