It makes good sense to operate your business in an environmentally sustainable manner. First, there are obvious benefits in protecting the world in which we all live together. Beyond that, though, it has other benefits; it fosters better relationships with important stakeholders.
Most employees feel better about working for companies that understand the value of protecting our natural world. Consumers, likewise, prefer to buy from businesses that take proactive steps to protect our planet. Governments are increasingly scrutinizing business practices to ensure that they do not endanger the communities around them. Finally, large customers and nongovernmental organizations are increasingly demanding that upstream suppliers conform to a baseline of environmental standards and certify that they practice sustainability.
Whether you’re just getting started with informal sustainability programs or are in the process of rolling out ISO 14001 standards in your organization, it always pays to be proactive and intentional. We’ve put together a list of practices you can put into place in your business. Some are simple and require relatively little effort. Others are more involved but have a much higher potential to positively impact your company’s sustainability metrics. Let us get started…
#1: Incentivize green commuting
Transportation is a major contributor to the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EPA, transportation activities accounted for nearly 30 percent of total greenhouse gases emitted in 2017 in the United States. Around 150 million commuters account typically for about 115 million vehicle miles every day. With more employees switching to remote work, that number may have dropped slightly over the past 18 months, – but there is certainly more that we can do to limit carbon emissions from transportation.
Many companies have facilitated carpooling or subsidized the use of public transportation by offering pretax benefits to their employees. Not only are these measures good for the environment, – they also foster a stronger sense of community among employees who carpool, and they frequently offer ways for workers to remain productive while they travel to work.
Many employers encourage their staff to bike or walk to work, offering raffle prizes or other incentives to those who do it on a regular basis. Bike racks or other secure areas for daytime storage send an affirmative signal that your company is willing to help those who prefer pedal power over fossil-fueled transportation.
#2: Reduce building energy usage
Heating, cooling, and electricity can account for as much as 75% of a city’s carbon footprint. Unfortunately, a good deal of that energy is wasted in older buildings that were constructed before energy-efficient building materials were in common use. Drafty windows, poor insulation, antiquated HVAC systems, and outdated lighting technology make these older buildings far more expensive to operate than their newer, greener counterparts. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, simply by sealing leaks and cracks in commercial buildings companies stand to reduce their heating and cooling costs by as much as 20%.
A good way to get started with the process of reducing your building’s energy usage is to engage outside experts to perform an energy audit. In many areas, local utility companies or government agencies have programs designed to identify potential areas for savings, and to recommend measures to remediate the problems that result in wasted energy. Very often, these energy audits are available at little or no cost to you, – and the improvements you make to your building’s energy efficiency may even be offered at a subsidized rate. The resulting energy improvements can often pay for themselves in a matter of just two or three years.
#3: Reduce, reuse, and recycle
One of the simplest ways to make your office a bit greener is to implement recycling programs. As the familiar saying “reduce, reuse, recycle” advises, – the first and most effective step is to reduce your consumption of resources in the first place. Next, look for opportunities to reuse resources that might otherwise be considered disposable. Finally, recycle any remaining materials wherever possible.
Many companies begin with simple steps to encourage employees to use reusable cups and mugs rather than disposables. By placing recycling bins where they are easy to see and simple to use, companies can increase the amount of material that gets recycled and avoid sending more trash to landfill.
For companies that manufacture products or move materials on a regular basis, it may be worthwhile to look at the organization’s existing business processes and assess potential ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Many businesses have switched to reusable pallets and packaging materials, for example. Others have explored ways to collect and recycle scrap material from machining operations, – or to reuse the byproducts of their processes. Starbucks, for example, allows customers to come to the store to collect used coffee grounds so they can be composted and put to productive use in the garden.
#4: Go paperless (or just go with less paper!)
We’ve been hearing about the merits of the paperless office for years now. As computing technology began to proliferate, many predicted the end of paper documents. Unfortunately, the opposite happened, as nearly ubiquitous printers made it possible to churn out lots and lots of paper. The good news is that the trend is reversing. With the advent of mobile phones, tablets, and digital displays; most users feel less of a need for paper than they have in the past. Digital signatures and similar innovations have further accelerated this trend.
Interestingly, most workplaces still have business processes that rely upon paper documents to some extent. Inspection signoffs, log sheets, and similar documents are often completed on paper before the data they contain is eventually keyed into a computer. By replacing those kinds of paper-based processes with digital data collection that uses mobile devices, businesses get the benefit of gathering information anytime, anywhere using devices that most people have on hand at all times. With the right software, that information can flow immediately to quality management systems, EHS software, or similar systems that provide powerful workflow management.
At the same time, companies can help the environment and eliminate their dependency on cumbersome paper-based systems.
#5: Support green vendors
Another effective way to help your company be more environmentally responsible is to support other companies that are doing the same. Buying locally produced goods contributes to the economy in your community, and can reduce the carbon impact of transporting those goods over long distances.
A number of green certification programs have emerged that may help guide your decisions in this respect. LEED certification, for example, governs the construction of buildings that result in minimal impact on the environment. Energy Star is a program run by the EPA to certify energy-efficient products. Green Seal, the Rainforest Alliance, and other non-profit organizations also offer programs that signify their environmental stamp of approval.
#6: Get certified
If you really want to get serious about minimizing your impact on our natural world, you can implement systems and processes intended to operationalize energy efficiency and environmental responsibility throughout your company. The International Standards Organization has issued its ISO 14001 standard with this specific aim in mind. ISO certification is typically supported by Environment Health & Safety (EHS) software that provides structure, process, and efficiency for companies that implement these standards.
At Intellect, we build flexible, highly configurable software solutions that can easily be tailored to address your organization’s unique EHS requirements. If your organization is seeking to gain better control over the environment, health, and safety in your company, Intellect can help. Contact us today to discuss your project.