Why sustainability should be at the core of your business
We’ve all heard of the bottom line pertaining to the financial side of a business, but have you heard of the triple bottom line? Essentially, it is the idea of broadening the bottom line by also including social and environmental responsibilities to encompass the entire “cost” of running a business. Historically these other costs are overlooked, and business has instead only focused on investments and returns. In pursuit of profit, some have ignored deforestation, habitat destruction, labor exploitation, and health hazards. By including these additional “costs” into a business plan, companies can double-check day-to-day decisions, while showing customers the importance sustainability plays in your business and its impact on the community around you.
Cradle to Cradle Business Plan
The regular product cycle from a company’s point of view is inception, creation, and distribution. However, the real product cycle should include two additional steps: purchase and end of life. What if businesses added these extra steps to their products’ lifecycle plans? What if they took responsibility for the disposal or recycling of their product? This approach to product development mimics the processes of nature, where there is no waste, only materials, resulting in a healthier, zero-waste system. Taking responsibility for the waste created by the product can inform decisions made at the inception stage. It also helps the business to become more responsible for their waste rather than relying on customers or municipalities to take care of the cleanup. Companies looking to follow this standard should investigate getting Cradle to Cradle or C2C certified.
How to promote sustainability at the office
One of the worst offenders when it comes to an unsustainable business is the employee’s commute.
Tailpipe emissions are the source of roughly 40-50 percent of the air pollution in cities. While carpooling is a great option to reduce emissions, it still doesn’t cut it. According to the 2016 census, 76 percent of people drive alone to work in a car, while only 9 percent carpool. With numbers that staggering, it’s clear that a change in our commute habits needs to happen to protect air quality.
Leaders for Clean Air is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to improving Utah’s air quality. The organization’s mission is to address this specific challenge by distributing EV charging stations to businesses. Most people’s reaction to this is that there isn’t enough demand to invest in a charging station since most drive combustion engine vehicles. However, we have found that installing an EV charging station is an excellent incentive for an employee to purchase an electric vehicle, knowing that they can essentially get free fuel at work. After installation, businesses have seen an increase in the number of electric vehicles driven by employees. Investing in electric vehicle infrastructure for your employees is a great way to address air pollution and improve your company’s sustainability efforts.
Use Less Paper
One of the big heavy hitters preventing offices from being more sustainable is paper usage. Most of the tasks we use paper can be done digitally instead. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year. Ten thousand sheets per year boils down to a little more than one tree per year per employee. One tree may seem insignificant, but when you multiply that by how many employees are out in the workforce using that paper, it quickly adds up to a forest worth of trees each year. This can quickly be addressed by purposely acknowledging whether the print out is genuinely required, or if a digital version can suffice.
Does your business support other companies with sustainable practices? Or do you solely source from companies based on cost? An important consideration when sourcing is where the company gets its raw materials, and if that source is sustainable. Also, things like transportation, right-sized packaging, and using non-toxic materials are essential considerations as well. By emphasizing local sourcing, you can cut down on transportation costs and reduce emissions.
Identify Building Inefficiencies
Offsetting your building’s energy costs is one of the best ways to make your building sustainable. There are multiple ways to do this, one of which is to install solar on your building or switch your building’s energy source to renewables. Most cities in the U.S. have some form of solar, wind, or other renewable energy available.
Another way to offset energy costs is to be more efficient with energy usage. There are simple and easy improvements such as installing LED lighting and setting a timer on lights. There are also more complicated improvements such as installing energy efficient windows and improving the building’s insulation. An excellent resource for this is to hire an energy audit company that can inspect your building and the energy costs going into it so that they can advise improvements specific to your building’s needs.
Becoming a sustainable company
It starts with today
The only way for a company to become sustainable is to start today. Your company may not be in a position where you can make all these changes right now. But you can start today by replacing burnt out lights with LED lights. You can begin by asking individuals to be conscientious about what they are printing. You can start today by asking yourself is my packaging right-sized, or am I just shipping void filler and air. The most important thing to becoming sustainable is to figure out what you can do today and start.
Written in partnership with Leaders For Clean Air
Leaders for Clean Air is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to improving Utah’s air quality by providing free electric vehicle charging stations to Utah businesses; implementing large-scale electric charger projects; and promoting the benefits of electric vehicle technology. Supported by local business leaders who recognize that workplace charging is the key to bending the curve on electric vehicle adoption, Leaders for Clean Air believes in making a positive impact on pollution levels to ensure cleaner air and a higher quality of life for all Utahns. To learn more visit www.leadersforcleanair.org.