If you haven't heard the saying, 'there is an elephant in the room', it refers to a blatantly evident concern that people choose to ignore, while busying themselves with smaller, often less important issues. In this case, the room represents many global mindsets that have chosen not to acknowledge the green elephant that sits in our conscience, and the elephant represents the rapidly growing field of sustainability and the urgent need for green action.
With that said, if one were to say there is an elephant in the office, you would probably be able to work out that they were talking about green options at work, or at very least, wonder who rode their pet elephant to work in an attempt to cut their carbon emissions. Well, since it's the former of the two, let's raise the topic of green businesses and discuss the pros and cons to put your mind at ease about the opportunities and constraints of a green business.
Who’s trying to con me?
Well, no one, but there are a few things that you need to consider about going green:
- Small costs - Changing things in your office or business space may incur a few initial costs, for example, efficient water, energy fittings and recycling pickups. However, these costs are generally minimal and can be recovered quite quickly.
- Long-term investment cost - Larger technological changes, such as solar panels, may be more expensive but they save you money in the long run, and reduce your dependency on the public electricity grid.
- Certification costs - Green business auditing and certification can be costly, so ask for cost transparency and choose a certification company carefully.
- Co-operation - Running a sustainable business requires co-operation from management and all levels of a business, so make sure everyone is on the same page and knows their role.
- Effort and dedication - Greening a business takes effort and dedication. Putting together a sustainability report might also require some work, especially if it's thorough and transparent, however, this will only continue to outline the growing positive aspects of any business, as well as being open about negative ones.
The pros of growing green
There are plenty. Keep in mind the short, medium and long-term goals of your business and you are sure to succeed.
- The future of the environment and the planet - Supporting the issues of sustainability through a green business helps to reduce our collective impact on the world. It ensures that our resources are not wasted, and that the earth is left in good shape for future generations to live and thrive on.
- Risk Management - Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can help to identify the variety of risks to which a company may be exposed, as well as how best to deal with these risks. By auditing, scrutinising and reporting on a business in such environmental, social and economic depth, risks can be managed more efficiently and effectively.
- Human resources - Sustainability reporting and transparency are good qualities to have and display when interviewing and recruiting new staff and students. It can also help the internal outlook of the company by boosting the feeling of inclusion among staff, through charity drives and fundraisers.
- Brand differentiation and publicity - Recognition for continual green improvement, CSR integration, green business certification, a sound environmental policy and a commitment to addressing sustainability issues, is growing worldwide. These positive tools, if used correctly, can put your business and brand a step or two ahead of the rest. Green publicity and a sustainable image is fast becoming a valuable asset to establish good client relations and recommendations. However, credibility is important, so do your research and walk the walk in addition to talking the green talk. One example of certification is ‘The Responsible Business Standard' from The Organisation for Responsible Business (ORB), which includes environmental as well as other business-related sections.
- Business licensing - A positive track record with issues, including labour standards, diversity, the environment, health, safety, and sound economic transactions, will only aid the business licensing process and help to convince government and others of your good corporate citizenship and responsibility.
- Costs, savings and investment - As mentioned above, there may be some initial costs involved in getting your business up and greening. However, it is all about the medium to long-term and these initial costs will pay themselves back (once, at the very least, if not many times) over time and will result in continued savings and decreased expenses. There are also many no-to-low cost green options, products and appliances to start off with. Money saved and costs recovered can be used for future green investments, as you directly save money through decreased utility bills.
- The green market - More people are beginning to realise the benefits of greener living and acting, and the market for green goods and services is blooming. Greening your business from top to bottom will only increase your value to clients and customers.
- Economies of scale - The more accessible green goods and services become, the lower the cost will be to produce and provide them. Get involved and contribute towards a growing, sustainable society and an ethical global future.
- Society and charities - The benefits of your green business can be spread to improve people's lives, health and wellbeing. This promotes equity and equality in society.
- Education and public awareness - Since most businesses, and the products and services they offer, are used on a daily basis by consumers, the implementation and support of green practices by these companies is a major factor that is needed to increase public awareness about these issues.
- The feel good factor - Feel good about yourself and your business because you are making a difference to people and the environment!
- Now that you are aware of the pros and cons of a green business, you can begin to plan your business transformation. The world is moving towards sustainability; more people and governments are waking up to the realities of resource depletion, uncontrolled waste, pollution and overconsumption. Going green is the way of the future for business, and the sooner the better.
The green business process – top 5 tips
- Take a thorough look at the pros and cons of a green business, and weigh up what this means for your business.
- A successful green business requires buy-in from everyone involved in the business, so be sure to include everyone and keep everybody up to date.
- Set your goals high, it is better to have something to work towards than to easily hit low targets.
- Be open and transparent to all employees, stakeholders and the public about every stage of the greening process.
- If you are looking for certification as a green business, be sure to properly research the credibility and transparency of the certification company.