This need to always consider the environment in each business decision made is epitomised by Section 2 of the National Environmental Management Act of 1998 which cautions that decisions should firstly, always try and minimize environmental damage or disturbance, and secondly that when decisions are taken, the effects of those decisions on the environment must always be considered. These precautionary principles should form part of the decision-making process, ensuring that going ‘green’ becomes part of the management philosophy of each business.
But what does going ‘green’ mean and can my business really make a difference?
The human race is dependent on the Earth and its resources for its livelihood. Yet, constant pressures on these natural resources from growing populations and economic development, sees world resources dwindling and placing the future of all at risk. Going ‘green’ is not just one particular thing, but rather a responsibility to take care of and administer our resources in a way that provides us with enough but not at the cost of future generations. By being more sustainable in our way of living and doing business, we are in effect going ‘green’ and ensuring that we reduce our impact on the environment.
An important first step towards greener business practices is to ensure that you are aware of any environmental laws or by-laws that may be applicable to your business. This can be relatively easily accomplished with a quick environmental scan conducted on your business. Any compliance issues can then be addressed, including changing or updating business processes and policies to ensure compliance with applicable legislation.
On a practical level, going ‘green’ does not necessarily require an entire change of your business environment or a massive financial investment. Often this misconception is the main reason for many businesses not to start down the road of going ‘green. In reality, small things can already make a big difference. When ‘greening’ your business, a practical approach to keep in mind is the three R’s…Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Focus on reducing your resource consumption where possible. There are many ways for cutting back on resource utilization, but take your efforts a step further and be creative in finding ways that are specifically suited to your business. Reuse what you have, instead of replacing things which may still have some use left in them. Recycle that which you can’t reuse. This approach and awareness of the importance of these three R’s will immediately start making a tangible difference to the environment.
Here are a few easy ways of starting your business on the road to being more environmentally conscious:
- Obtain recycling bins and mark them appropriately to differentiate between paper, solids, glass and plastics.
- Look at your current light-bulb situation and consider using more energy efficient bulbs. Consider replacing your halogen downlights with LED downlights. Although these are more expensive, they are considerably more energy efficient, last longer and will save you money on your electricity bill in the long run.
- Make it policy at your business to switch off lights, electronic equipment and other machines after hours.
- Ensure that computers, photocopy machines, shredders etc. have their energy-saving options selected.
- Ensure that your staff unplugs phones and other device chargers when not in use.
- Where possible use natural ventilation through open windows and doors rather than switching on air-conditioning. If you are replacing or installing air-conditioning, consider brands that provide energy efficient functioning.
- If going paperless is not an option for your business, at least create an environment where avoiding unnecessary printing is encouraged. Measure printing volumes and reward persons or divisions that manage to reduce their printing volumes. If you must print, try and print double-sided.
- Consider fax-to-email and avoid the fax machine spewing out reams of unnecessary paper. Fax-to-email provides the fax in electronic format and you can decide if it’s necessary to print.
- Consider putting a timer on your geyser to switch this off after hours and minimize energy wastage when your business is closed.
- Don’t let the tap run. If it leaks, get a handyman or plumber to fix the leak immediately.
- Sign your business up to receive electronic invoices and billing. This avoids the printing and transport costs of having the invoice sent by post.
- If your staff travels frequently, try and create car pools and joint traveling by organising an internal calendar of travelling itineraries and encourage staff to avoid duplication in their traveling arrangements.
- Let employees bring their own mugs to work and phase out any plastic or polystyrene cups.
- Consider dual flush toilets to reduce water consumption.
- Encourage staff to only boil as much water as they require and not fill the kettle to the brim for a single cup of coffee or tea.
- Replace the paper towels in your restrooms with washable handtowels.
These are but a few things that can quite easily be implemented and even help your business save money in doing so! There are many websites and blogs that can be visited for more useful tips and ideas on getting your business more energy efficient. The key is to get started and implement a positive environmental policy appropriate to your business that is supported by management and is understood by your staff.
So make your business environmentally conscious and save costs as well as attract a growing customer base of consumers focused on spending their buck with environmentally minded businesses.