1. Introduction to Green & Sustainable Living
Green habits have become significant in recent years as homeowners and businesses strive to reduce their carbon footprint, cut fuel bills and show an eco-friendly stance. To some capacity, having a green agenda has become somewhat fashionable. “Green” is certainly a buzzword and the importance of creating a sustainable environment is now more important than ever before.
The good news is, taking a green stance is also easier than in the past. Why? Because the possibilities are almost endless and there's the potential to integrate green thinking into almost every area of your business – from an operation standpoint through to the company's entire culture.
No matter the size of your business – from large corporations to SMEs – you can quickly make improvements that'll boost the sustainability of your company and better the world we live in. From short term quick wins to long term strategies, improving your business's green credentials should definitely be on the agenda.
However, just because the government is promoting the uptake of environmentally friendly practices, why should you listen to this and spend your time focusing on green solutions? This guide has been created to give you an idea of the green initiatives your business should take up and the fundamental reasons behind such a drive.
What is the importance of going green?
Climate change is a big deal. Leonardo DiCaprio recently made headlines after claiming his first Oscar – partly for the award itself – but largely down to the impressive speech in which he called on the world to face climate change issues head on. With climate change, this is a problem everyone can address. Every home and business is jointly responsible and as such, an eco-conscious is required to ensure bettering our society for future generations.
There is a lot being done in an attempt to resolve climate change worries too. The British government for instance, has introduced a number of schemes in recent years to encourage the uptake of green solutions. They have their own EU targets to meet as well – Reducing the volume of carbon emissions 80% by 2020.
These schemes and incentives offer an extra reason to get behind the green movement and as a business, you should ensure both you and your employees are actively practicing green habits. Of course, the difficulty your business faces is being able to incentivise a green approach amongst staff. However, you need to be able to teach, convince, communicate, enable and support participation in green living.
Enabling change is a primary issue, with habits being difficult to break. This is especially the case when many don't understand the need to go green, or the significant benefits a change will bring. People are unable to see why their efforts are so important and aren't convinced by green agendas set out by their employers. These are challenges you'll likely face, but as a responsible business, creating a sustainable environment is crucial.
Then of course there's the situation whereby thousands of companies are caught in something referred to as a green slump. This is where they've been unable to adapt with the times and prioritise green change in the workplace. Engaging in green projects has likely been difficult and to many extents the progress made has been less than satisfactory.
However, this is when an action plan becomes key. You should analyse your business's existing green strategies and determine how best to approach the future. This resource should help you with deciding on a strategy and ideally, open your eyes to some of the easiest ways to instantly promote a green environment. However, you should also consider the need for a return on investment. Green projects add true value from a number of standpoints – such as the economic, environmental and societal perspective.
How does your company look in the eyes of others? This is a huge motivator for many business owners and the opportunity to promote your company as a forward thinking and environmentally sound organisation shouldn't be shied away from. From customers and clients, through to employees, stakeholders and other third parties, you'll want people to see your business as actively green.
The importance of becoming green takes many forms and some of the key influencing factors are:
- Company or brand image
- Cost savings
- Competitive advantage
- Employee satisfaction, morale, or retention
- Product, service, or market innovation
- Business or process innovation
- New sources of revenue or cash flow
- Effective risk management
- Shareholder relations
Perhaps surprisingly, in many surveys the company's brand is rated as the chief reason behind taking an eco-friendly stance. In fact, this can often be two and a half times more important than the second most popular incentive – cost savings.
However, whilst this is of course great news that companies would consider a poor green stance to have negative effects, it would be reckless to spend money on green investment if the returns weren't able to offset this. For instance, if it costs a certain amount of money to reduce electricity consumption and the return on investment didn't meet this cost, would the investment be pointless?
What are the benefits of creating a green business?
Every business has their own motives and agenda for becoming green or pushing an eco-friendly stance across the board. There are plenty of solutions to consider and naturally, varying benefits and drawbacks to each. However, regardless of how you choose to approach a green change in your company’s activities, there are often the same benefits to take advantage of.
In this section we take a closer look at the primary benefits of greening up your business.
Enhancing the brand and gaining a competitive advantage
This is often one of the major driving factors behind a company's adoption of green practices. As discussed in the previous section, brand image weighs heavily on the decision to invest in green measures. In fact, backing this up is research to suggest a consumer would be 58% more likely to use a company for its products or services, by knowing the business is mindful of its environmental impact.
In fact, the green agenda has become a major factor in how consumers buy. Customers will spend up to 20% more on environmentally sound products and 9 out of 10 people would describe themselves as being a conscious consumer.
Research suggests customers are more likely to buy from one company over another (if prices are equally priced), if the business:
- Demonstrates environmentally friendly practices (90%)
- Promotes health and safety (88%)
- Supports fair labour and trade practices (87%)
Reducing the overall running costs of a business
As a business owner, tackling the costs of your business will be one of the most important challenges you face on a daily basis. There are so many outgoings that it's vital to find ways of reducing the expenditure and cutting back on the bills. Not only will this help you to keep money in the bank, but also improve efficiencies and productivity across the board.
There are many ways your business can tackle the subject of saving money with environmental practices too, much of which will be discussed later in the guide. However, as a starter for 10, you could consider:
- Efficient lighting opportunities to reduce electricity consumption.
- Insulation measures to cut back on heating bills in winter.
- Renewable technology to generate your own power throughout the year.
Cutting carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency
From an environmental aspect, this is the main reason to take on an eco-friendly stance. Everyway in which you'd change your business will be reflected in the carbon emissions released. It's the CO2 that has a devastating impact on the environment and unfortunately both homes and businesses are major culprits when it comes to this.
As such, the UK government has been charged with reducing CO2 levels by the EU and there are plans afoot to slash back on CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. This is a huge target and will only be met with the collaboration of home and business owners. Of course, to incentivise this, the government have launched a series of schemes and grants.
Increase employee retention and recruitment rates
More and more potential employees have an eco-conscious and as such, want to work with companies that showcase their green credentials. To attract new talent and ensure retaining your existing staff, a green drive is therefore integral.
According to polls, as many as 52% of those in employment believe companies should be actively working on ways to improve their impact on the environment. However, this is a two-way relationship and many employers also believe their employees should be contributing to the company’s green policies and helping to minimise environmental impacts.
Show your employees how seriously you’re taking the green agenda and you’re sure to witness success in both retention and recruitment.
Next chapter, 2. Introducing Green Measures into your Business