This article was updated on February 2, 2022
Over the past few decades, more companies have strived to become environmentally conscious and reduce their environmental impact. This movement-known as "going green"-involves so much more than separating paper from plastic. It's about reducing a business's carbon footprint, energy-efficient or carbon-neutral appliances, and eliminating wasteful practices. In many ways, local businesses can significantly impact the health of their community's environment.
But why should your business be more environmentally conscious?
Going green and focusing on your sustainability efforts are not only good for the planet, they're good for your business. According to a recent Nielsen study, 81% of consumers believe it's important for businesses to implement programs and practices that help improve the environment, and as many as three in four Nextdoor neighbors think brands should be doing more to address environmental issues.
That said, the benefits extend far beyond appealing to consumers. Keep reading to discover the importance of going green and how to make your business more eco-friendly.
How Businesses Affect the Environment
The effects of climate change are being felt across the world. Here in the U.S., wildfires in California, hurricanes along the East Coast, and freezing temperatures in the midwest are attributed to carbon emissions' impact on the atmosphere.
The increase in these natural disasters has prompted many to use their voice, as well as their wallets, to demand businesses do their part to reduce carbon emissions, follow more green initiatives, and focus on improving their sustainability efforts.
One study found that 90% of shoppers will switch brands to support a more eco-friendly company. Millennials, who make up about $1 trillion in consumer spending, are especially socially conscious regarding the products they buy and the businesses they support. They understand that where they choose to spend their money can help create a more sustainable future.
That's why even larger corporations are taking steps to become more environmentally conscious. Some of these corporations include:
- Disney - The company known worldwide has implemented a zero greenhouse gas emissions policy for all of its facilities. They've reduced their electrical consumption, their water consumption, and are working to make their product manufacturing and distribution more eco-friendly.
- Hewlett-Packard - This tech giant has created a comprehensive recycling program to ensure their waste materials don't end up in landfills.
- Starbucks - Beyond Starbucks' decision to eliminate plastic straws from its facilities, the company incorporates energy-efficient lighting, low-flow water valves, and regulating air conditioning temperatures at shops across the country.
Smaller businesses don't need to put forth a large upfront investment to match the environmental sustainability efforts of large corporations. As we'll discuss, there are plenty of initiatives small businesses can promote to be more sustainable. Here are four reasons why businesses should look to make eco-friendly changes.
What Are the Benefits of Being Eco-Friendly?
#1 Align with environmentally conscious customers' ethics
By implementing eco-friendly practices, your business will appeal to most shoppers who say they are willing to spend more money if it means receiving environmentally friendly products or services. In fact, a poll of 3,500 North American shoppers found that 69% were willing to pay premium prices for recycled products. Environmentally friendly products and services can include:
- Reusable grocery bags
- Paper cups
- Rechargeable batteries
- Reusable water bottles
- Reusable straws
- Recycling clothes or buying second-hand items
- Natural cleaning products
This trend is also seen in real estate. To keep their carbon footprints low, millennial and Gen Z homebuyers are looking for green housing to create a more environmentally conscious design to reduce energy consumption. This means homes that offer:
- Energy-efficient appliances, including dishwashers, refrigerators, and HVAC units
- Energy-efficient lighting
- Sufficient insulation
- Solar panels
- Xeriscaping (landscaping that requires little to no irrigation)
- Energy-efficient windows
- Locally sourced, sustainable building materials
- Eco-friendly paints
While green housing standards can raise the cost of a house, 74% of homebuyers are willing to spend more on these sustainable features.
Understanding these consumer requests not only means more satisfied clients, but also a more dedicated community of clients who care about your company's mission.
#2 Foster productivity among employees
Customers aren't the only ones who want the businesses they support to become more environmentally conscious. Employees are also choosing to work for businesses that are actively working to reduce their carbon emissions. In fact, more than half of all workers state that contributing to the planet's health is an essential element of their ideal job.
By working for businesses that are making moves towards sustainability, employees can increase the positive impact they have on the environment. This gives their job even greater importance.
When employees feel passionate about the work they're doing, it shows. A study found that companies that promote environmental consciousness and implement sustainable practices have 55% better morale among staff members, as well as 38% better employee loyalty.
#3 Save your business money
One of the most effective ways to reduce your business's carbon footprint is by introducing energy-efficient equipment into your workspace by going green.
Research shows that 35% of small businesses name energy costs as one of their top business expenses. But with energy-efficient products constantly being developed, lowering these costs is possible and is environmentally conscious.
Consider taking the following steps to make your business more energy-efficient:
- Replace incandescent lights with LEDs - LED light bulbs not only use less energy but they also last longer than incandescent bulbs.
- Invest in an energy-efficient HVAC system - If your HVAC system is over ten years old, installing a newer model can save you over 20% on your cooling costs.
- Install energy-efficient dishwashers and refrigerators - Energy-efficient appliances are particularly beneficial to restaurants and cafes that rely on them to store produce, wash dishes and utensils, and cook food.
- Plug electronics into smart power strips - Smart power strips stop electronics from drawing additional energy once they've been turned off. By conserving energy, you can bring your business's energy bill down.
Although the upfront costs to make these changes can be higher, the amount of money you'll save can be part of your long-term investment strategy.
#4 Help protect the community you serve
Climate change affects everyone, including the community you serve. By becoming more environmentally conscious, your business not only helps mitigate climate change on a global scale but also on a local one.
Your eco-friendly efforts directly impact the neighbors your business relies on, so you can help give them less polluted air, cleaner water, and a more sustainable future.
For example, Nauticus, a leading maritime and science discovery center in Norfolk, Virginia, held a virtual clean-up day. Those who recorded themselves cleaning up parks, the beach, or their local community were rewarded with reduced admission rates. Not only does this event inspire volunteers to continue to beautify their community, but it helps protect their local environment.
Any small business can join these efforts by planning their own donation drive or community clean-up and offering volunteers discounts on products or services.
How businesses can be more eco-friendly
There are various ways to help your business become more sustainable. By implementing a few eco-friendly practices into your daily process, you can reduce your company's carbon footprint.
- Eco-friendly products - If you haven't come up with a product or service yet, perhaps consider selling or producing eco-friendly products by sourcing sustainable materials. One way this can be done is by reducing plastic use and only using green products that are safe for the environment. Environmentalists are not only for environment-friendly merchandise but also those that actually help reduce pollution. Try coming up with ways to eliminate plastic waste and other harmful materials.
- Reduce excessive packaging - Whatever goods you sell, consider enclosing them in eco-friendly packaging, preferably made out of recycled material. You can also encourage your consumers to minimize plastic waste by bringing their own containers for your products instead of using plastic bags, you can simply provide packaging made out of recycled plastic.
- Partner with other green businesses - For example, if you are about to open a restaurant, you can get fresh ingredients from farmers that practice more sustainable methods, such as permaculture, aquaponics (or hydroponics).
- Zero Waste - This principle is important to incorporate within the business practices to reduce as much waste as possible. The concept is to not add to the waste, but to manage products/materials and to conserve it. This can be done by minimizing plastic and food waste, sourcing sustainable materials to create reusable packaging, and sourcing energy efficiency solutions.
These are just some of the ways of running an eco-friendly business to diminish any environmental concerns that a consumer may have.
Going Green Never Looked So Good
Why be environmentally friendly when running a business? By becoming more environmentally conscious, your business can help the planet, attract more customers, and inspire employees to be more productive. Most importantly, though, becoming eco-friendly means you can provide your community with more than just a product or service. You can provide them with a sustainable future.
To promote your environmentally-conscious practices to your local community, post about your efforts on Nextdoor. It's the best way for your neighbors to learn about your unique business, stay up-to-date with special promotions and events, and even recommend your business to other locals.
Plus, signing up and creating your personalized Business Page is completely free. Join Nextdoor and start engaging with your local community members today. Together, you can help create a more eco-friendly neighborhood for generations to come.
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