It may be incredibly fulfilling to run a business yourself, but at the end of the day, you started your company to make money. Unfortunately, caring about the environment doesn’t always pay you back, and you may not be able to afford it. Or, can you? Turning your company green in several different ways could turn out to be a winning formula for your business model.
Keep in mind that no one is saying your business has to be or even can be a completely environmentally positive enterprise. Few companies can make such a claim. Some companies are making a product that, in itself, cannot ever be truly green. However, just because you can’t go all in on an environmental effort, doesn’t mean you can’t be as green as you can.
If you look around, you will see examples of companies that follow green practices. They are making an effort to look, and actually be, more pro-environment. Your business can follow their lead, impressing your customers, wooing clients, and pleasing investors. The key is to do it in such a way that it suits your business model.
If you are as busy as any typical entrepreneur, you are going to say that you don’t have enough hours in the day to do anything. That’s completely understandable. Yet there are some steps you can incorporate into the routine of your day and your business operations that can make a difference.
Donate What You Can’t Sell
Your donations are a form of reducing waste. This is a green activity that can provide a tax write-off if done correctly. For instance, Panera Bread has made itself look good by being good. They donate all the bread they can’t sell to different charities. You can do this too. It may take some creative thinking to discover who could use your products at the end of their shelf life, but you can do it. If you sell beauty products, for instance, you can donate them to a women’s shelter.
Whether you are handing your product to a customer or mailing it across the country, you can go green by reducing how much packaging is used per item. You can also find greener packaging to help with this. One business began shredding brown paper bags and using the shreds as confetti in their gift boxes.
It only took employees a few minutes to do the shredding, and the items were well-cushioned. A simple note was added to the website that the company was doing what it could to reduce the waste stream by reusing materials. The customer actually clicked a box agreeing to the recycled paper or asking for styrofoam. This ensured that each person knew that the company was making an effort, but it still gave the customer a chance to ask for something different.
Wherever possible, trim your waste stream. Car repair shops are recycling tires and used oil. Restaurants are eliminating plastic straws. Perhaps you’ve seen those take-out containers that can be composted. These are good examples where the business is making an effort to reduce how much waste it produces.
Manufacturers have discovered that recycling can be part of their business model by simply finding a use for all leftover scraps. In the case of a composite mats company, they discovered that they could save money by collecting the excess during the manufacturing process. This material could simply be melted down again and used.
Be Better Than Expected
Businesses are always performing worse than expected when it comes to the environment. So it makes it your business not to be one of them. Your goal should be to protect the environment and make your business look good in the process. This means thinking ahead to any damage that your company may do and making sure to stop or minimize it. This may be simpler than you think.
Contractors are often criticized for environmental damage, even if they are just on a site for a day. However, there is a simple solution. Whether building a house, cutting tree limbs, or performing an outdoor repair, they simply put down crane mats and protect the ground underneath their heavy machinery and trucks. It’s an expense, at first, but a composite mat can be reused again and again. These mats, unlike wooden ones, have an indefinite lifespan. Wooden ones are usually done by the end of two years. Composites can be used on jobsite after jobsite. They are even easy to clean.
Make a Statement
As you turn to green activities, make sure that people know. Adding a sign to your premises, telling your customers what you are doing, ensures that you earn goodwill from these actions. Of course, you can highlight this on your website and Facebook page. Regular posts about your green activities are sure to interest potential customers.
When you can’t do something, find an alternative that matches up. For instance, a contractor cuts down trees at worksites. So, he started volunteering with habitat cleanup and planting trees. He makes sure to post about his activities on Instagram and other platforms. The goal is to create goodwill with all of your stakeholders. This may include your vendors, your government officials, and potential customers.
Look for a Grant
Your business may be eligible for a green initiative grant. These are hard to find and often very competitive, so where should you look? It may be worth a call to your Mayor’s office or local chamber of commerce to find out who is in the know about such things. Needless to say, a grant that funds the greening process could be the very thing that helps your bottom line in the long run.
One thing’s for sure, entrepreneurs are creative. So, get creative and turn your business model greener. The earth will be a little better for it, and the public may show thanks by doing business with you. That’s definitely a win-win.