Across the nation, SMB leaders have raised their hands and said they want to increase their sustainability activities. They’ve also indicated that they welcome the opportunity to learn more, especially on reducing energy consumption and engaging employees.
While the majority wants to do more, the reality of today is that they have a hard time justifying investments without being able to see a big impact upfront. The good news is that money is what you save when you embrace sustainability practices. You can do this through operational projects, as well as by engaging your employees.
Reducing Energy Consumption
There are many ways to reduce energy consumption – both on a large and small scale. While some of the items may seem inconsequential, the results quickly add up to make a difference.
Here are a few of the low-hanging fruit you can tackle to reduce energy consumption:
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs. These cost about 75% less to operate, and last about 10 times longer.
- Install “occupant sensors” to automatically turn lights off and on.
- Turn off computers and other office equipment when they are not in use.
- Consider buying a laptop for your next computer upgrade. They use less energy than desktop computers and result in long-term savings.
- Adjust your heater thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting when your business is occupied. Set the temperature back further when the business is unoccupied.
- Make sure radiators and vents are not obstructed so air can flow freely.
- Take control of sunlight. Use shades to block direct sunlight shining through windows in the summer, but let the sun in during the day in the winter.
- Keep external doors closed to help monitor and maintain a consistent temperature.
If you are an office tenant, you may think you don’t have access to some programs. Encourage your building manager to talk to the other tenants about incorporating sustainability programs. As appliances need updating, let them know energy and water-efficient appliances are preferred and good for the bottom line.
Most states offer energy incentive programs to help offset energy costs. Research the availability of energy-efficiency and renewable energy project funding in your area.
Half of SMB leaders believe sustainability will become a standard practice in the next five years. Employees no longer view sustainability as a nice to have, they expect their employers to be sustainable. Sustainability isn’t just for the millennials. We’ve seen passionate employees at all ages – whether they want to improve the environment for themselves, their children or their grandchildren.
Here are some low cost tips on how to engage your employees:
- Create a Sustainability Task Force that enables your passionate employees to generate ideas and inspire others.
- Offer preferred parking for employees with fuel-efficient or electric vehicles.
- Provide teleworking programs when possible. This lowers building and equipment costs while raising employee satisfaction. It also puts fewer cars on the road.
- Develop an Eco-Competition where employees share sustainability ideas for the business. Judges determine the winner and provide recognition.
- Participate in local cleanup projects. This gives employees the chance to connect with each other outside of the office while doing something positive for the community.
- Partner with EarthShare to offer employee giving campaigns.
It’s also important to let employees know that simple things such as turning off their equipment, printing double-sided copies and opting for reusable cups have a positive impact on the bottom line. Engaged employees want to see their company be sustainable – both environmentally and financially.
Many large corporations have sustainability programs with aggressive goals. Some of these programs include the supply chain. To meet the goals, many of the companies need help from their partners, and it’s in their best interest to work with you. Ask the large companies you work with how you can participate in the program and if they have any best practices to share. They may have an established volunteer program that your employees can join. Or, they may be looking for new ways to package products and can use your ideas.
Sustainability is a journey and all companies – large and small – are at different points. No matter where you are on the spectrum, one thing is certain. Sustainability is good for the environment, the bottom line and your employees.
Alex Taylor is executive vice president for Cox Enterprises, a leading communications, media and automotive services company. He oversees Cox Enterprises’ long-term investment strategies, including the Cox Innovation Fund and True North Venture Partners. Cox Enterprises, a $17 billion company, has aggressive goals around carbon, waste and water. Cox has hundreds of thousands of SMB customers and suppliers across its businesses and recently released findings from the inaugural Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey. The survey examined sustainability trends/barriers faced by SMBs.