No business is too small to have an environmental plan, and one of the first rules of green business is to do more with less. Reducing waste is in the best interest of not just the environment but businesses - large or small.
Lean and green
Having an environmental plan will save a business money by reducing costs. Furthermore, the plan doesn't have to cost much - or even anything - to develop, and can be carried out with minimal effort. Your green plan can start with small changes that can save you money quickly. Turn off lights and equipment at night to cut your energy bill, often significantly. Change the raw materials you use or part of your process. Introduce a paperless system to reduce waste and save on printing and photocopying costs.
You can also spend a little money to save even more. For example, exercising due diligence regarding the environmental condition of real estate purchases can save you considerable expense down the line. Regular maintenance and servicing of your equipment can keep it more energy efficient, prolong its life span and minimize repair costs. And purchasing energy-efficient models of equipment that doesn't use a lot of energy can cost somewhat more but save you substantial sums in the long run.
Another benefit of going green comes from the market opportunities it provides: the demand from customers for environmentally responsible products and services is growing. Inform your customers about the steps you are taking to minimize waste, lessen your environmental impact and be more energy efficient, and it is likely that their enthusiasm for the goods and services you provide will grow.
There is also likely to be greater interest from investors and other sources of financing. Green business is seen as the business of the future, and investors are more likely to be attracted to businesses whose environmental record makes them stand out from the rest.
Create a green plan
So improving your environmental performance makes good sense from all perspectives. But where to start?
As with any new strategic business project, it's a good idea to create and implement a solid plan. Hiring a professional can be helpful when you want a comprehensive plan or an outside perspective.
But you can also develop your own green plan.
Here are some simple steps that any business can take to save resources. These solutions are often low cost, and can be as simple as raising employee awareness.
- Decrease the amount of raw materials you use by improving the efficiency of your operation.
- Buy durable, long-lasting materials and equipment.
- Try to eliminate raw materials that aren't part of your final product or service, such as paper used for administrative purposes.
- Substitute raw materials that don't contain toxic materials or that cause less pollution, such as water-based paints rather than solvent-based paints.
- Use recycled materials where possible (e.g., reclaimed lumber, post-consumer waste paper).
- Create less waste by reducing the amount of packaging.
- Encourage recycling wherever possible - consider working together with other businesses to share the cost of recycling.
- Review your water usage and see if you can eliminate any waste by, for example, replacing leaking fixtures or turning water off when not in use.
- Reduce water pressure where possible.
- Buy vehicles that are fuel efficient or use alternative power sources.
- Minimize driving by planning deliveries and pickups carefully.
- Keep your vehicles well maintained.
- Educate drivers about fuel-efficient driving (e.g., driving at the speed limit, reducing idling time, keeping tires inflated).
- Purchase energy-efficient equipment, such as those with the Energy Star seal. This equipment can save you up to 75% in energy costs.
- Install occupancy sensors on lights in less-used areas.
- Use energy-efficient light bulbs.
- Make use of windows and blinds to help manage temperature and lighting conditions.
- Install reflectors on light fixtures to make them more efficient.
- Turn off equipment, such as computers, monitors, photocopiers and appliances, when not in use.
- Use cold water instead of hot where possible.
- Consider alternative electricity sources, such as wind-turbine or run-of-river electricity.
- Keep your equipment well maintained.
Federal government funding
The federal government has a variety of programs that encourage businesses to improve their environmental performance. These programs offer funding or grants to improve manufacturing processes, reduce vehicle emissions and purchase energy-efficient equipment. Also, have a look at the specialized programs that target the energy efficiency of buildings.
The Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure offers more tips for small businesses that want to conserve energy.
Content in this section is provided in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada. BDC provides entrepreneurs with financing, venture capital and consulting services. To find out more go to BDC.ca.