Going green is not a passing fad.
Greening of the environment should, by now, be the norm as everyone recognizes the need to control our use of the earth’s limited resources and thereby reduce our impact on the ecosystem.
Owner/managers of small businesses may ask how much they contribute to greening of the environment when their individual operations are so small. When one considers, however, that small businesses number in the hundreds of thousands across Canada and are collectively major users of resources, it becomes clear that the combined efforts of all businesses, including the small enterprises, will have a significant impact on making and keeping the world greener. The stumbling block seems to be in how to get started.
Look to the Leaders
Most major corporations have already designed, refined and adopted methods to green their organizations. The task is not easy but perseverance has created an unexpected side benefit – an improved bottom line. Small business can benefit from the experience of larger corporations by adopting initiatives that have already proven effective.
The objective of going green is to use energy in smarter, less wasteful ways. Greening starts by determining where the environment is impacted and if change makes economic sense. On the job site, one will have to look at the cycle of production: products, processes, raw materials, staffing, how waste is handled, etc.; at the front office one will have to look at office procedures: invoicing, printing, advertising, meetings and the like.
Efficiency and Effectiveness
An efficiency-and-effectiveness review of each stage of any process should be able to determine where major costs in time and energy are incurred. For example, if the suppliers provided the required supplies to a building site on time, would the number of times staff needs to return to the job site be reduced, thereby cutting gas consumption and staff time, thus increasing the profit on the project?
Each small business must understand the symbiotic relationship between itself and other businesses. A small-business green program involves staff, clients, regulatory authorities and suppliers as stakeholders in each other’s prosperity. Indeed, large businesses that have embraced green have discovered many benefits from working with their stakeholders. The following are some of the benefits:
- a branded product or service that allowed expectation pricing from buyers who respect green;
- reduced costs through analysis of wasteful procedures;
- reduced resource use;
- just-in-time inventory management reduced the need for excess inventory, cut down on the need to move inventory in the warehouse, lowered costs for repairs and maintenance and simplified paperwork. Employees were now freed up for service and production. By understanding inventory needs, suppliers improved shipping schedules and reduced their own costs. Reduced costs meant less corporate tax, less payroll tax, less HST and reduced cash-flow requirements;
- public relations benefits similar to those attributed to businesses that sponsored cancer drives or supported local amateur athletics;
- as green operating efficiencies embedded within the company, the income statement started to look better, return on investment increased, retained earnings improved and cash flow strengthened. Existing and prospective clients became more confident in the business’s long-term viability. The better financial position also reduced dependency on financial institutions and conversely, when funds were needed, a better balance sheet from which to negotiate lines of credit.
- Mission Statement
Essential to this process is a realistic mission statement that outlines your company’s green objective. A mission statement that indicates you plan to reduce your dependency on fossil fuels to zero sounds noble, but, a more realistic vision might be: “We will reduce our dependency on fossil fuels by 50% within five years.” Perhaps your business might work only with suppliers who use recycled products, or reduce on-site waste to zero. Whatever the goal, it must be achievable within the economic limits of your business.
Staff must understand their role in meeting company objectives. Interdepartmental lines of communication must be open at all times since green issues cross functional boundaries. It makes little sense, for instance, for the warehouse to purchase electric forklifts to replace propane forklifts if the electrical service must be changed and finance says the budget can’t handle the cost.
Your consultant will want to establish a training program to explain the green process and how everyone must be involved and committed to the long-term transformation of the business.
Review, Analyze and Change
As the process goes forward, progress must be reported to a central coordinator for review and analysis to ensure all areas are moving forward according to a timetable. When areas are “out of sync” with the end goal, the process needs to be reassessed and any necessary changes reviewed, discussed with all team members, and documented for future reference.
Kermit Knows Best
Whether going green is for your children, your grandchildren or the bottom line, the reason is not as important as the end result and the end result must be green.
As Kermit the Frog from Sesame Street famously sang:
When green is all there is to be, it can make you wonder why, but why wonder. I am green and it’ll do fine. It’s beautiful, and I think it’s what I want to be.