Seven hints to start greening your business and engaging your stakeholders
Did you know?
95% of companies on the planet are SMEs?
They account for up to 70% of the job created on the planet. 
They collaborate with governments, other SMEs, big corporations, or local communities.
SMEs are the backbone of the economy!
Why is it then that the message “Green your business” seems always directed at big corporations?
Why is it that SMEs seem to be forgotten from financing, building capability, finding value creation, etc?
“Greening up your business is expensive — green-washing your business is cheap!”
Unlike large firms that have the means to be pro-active and be more likely to engage in pre-emptive sustainability strategies, small firms tend to be reactive and respond only to strong pressures from external stakeholders.
“Greening up your business is expensive — green-washing your business is cheap!” is a viewpoint often heard and even more often suspected to be the motivation behind some companies’ “green” endeavors.
Of course, it is true that portraying yourself as green while being nothing of the kind is the cheapest solution, at least in the short term.
Whether it is a clever approach to your business in the longer term is of course highly dubious, because, on the whole, consumers are not as dim-witted as you might expect.
You will find that nowadays many consumers are surprisingly well informed about sustainability issues and they can easily spot the difference between a genuine greening-up strategy on the one hand and blatant green-washing on the other.
The good news is that going green is not necessarily that expensive and many customers and clients understand that going green is a process rather than a one-off change of procedures.
If you find your customers/clients asking uncomfortable questions about the sustainability of your operations, here are some points you could address with relative ease and without blowing your budget:
Hint 1: Know where you are
SMEs are often oblivious about their environmental and social impact. So make an assessment.
You should access your environmental, social, and economic sustainability.
It will tell you what you do well, what you should improve, and help you know where to start.
Here are a few ideas you can implement to improve the environmental sustainability of your business.
Hint 2: Transport
In the countryside, there is often little or no alternative to a car if you need to get from A to B.
In cities there are alternatives, and you as an employer could offer incentives to your staff to take public transport, car-pool, or weather permitting, cycle to work.
As the aftermath of Covid 19 has shown us, home working is also a very good way to reduce your company’s impact on the environment.
Make it a habit and allow your employees, if possible to work 1 or 2 days per week from home.
Hint 3: Steer away from your single-use products
Plastic coffee cups, paper towels, little sachets of sugar/salt/pepper, etc. can easily be replaced by more sustainable solutions.
Hint 4: Go paperless
Of course, there are documents you need in writing but an awful lot of paper can be saved in an office.
Yes, it is true that the servers on which you have to store the digital copies run on electricity as well, but compared to the eco-footprint of all that paper, this is nil.
If you cannot avoid using a lot of paper consider sourcing recycled paper.
Switching to cloud computing, however, may raise security questions and ask you to invest in cybersecurity.
Then again, cybersecurity should be top of your priority list anyway, cf. industrial espionage and ransomware to name but two of the most pressing problems in this field.
Hint 5: Make sure you recycle your electronics
You’ve just upgraded your company’s IT hardware?
Hand over the old PCs to companies refurbishing old computers with a view to re-sell them to schools or nursing homes.
If your old computers were so old that even schools and nursing homes would politely refuse your most generous offer then give it to companies who recycle waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) in order to access the metals (such as copper or tin) used in them.
The same goes for your old phones, tablet, etc.
Hint 6: Use resources responsibly
Whether it’s electricity or water, on the whole, we use more than strictly necessary.
By now you are probably using energy-saving lightbulbs, but have you thought about motion-sensor light switches?
Depending on your field it might be interesting to collect rainwater in order to save potable water…
Hint 7: Communicate, be transparent
As it has been said before, but we’ll gladly repeat it:
Sustainable development is not a one-man show.
You cannot go green alone.
Even if your company is huge, the overall effect of greening it up will be small, but if you nudge/ push your business partners to do likewise the effect will be much bigger.
This will also have the side-effect that greener alternatives will become cheaper.
These are just a few little hints of what can be done.
Why not talk to experts like us to discuss the opportunities in your particular case?
We can help you with your assessment, your sustainable strategy, and your implementation.
We can help you communicate with your customers and partners because letting people know what you are doing is what is going to pay off in the end.
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or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A good company delivers excellent products and services, and a great company does all that and strives to make the world a better place” -
Bill Ford Jr., COO, CEO, and Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company
This article has also been published on science-by-trianon, the blog of Trianon Scientific Communication