Minimising your effect on the environment is not only the ethically sound thing to do, but could also lead to your business saving costs, gaining new customers and, ultimately increasing its bottom line.
So says Hugh Tyrrell, director of Green Edge Communications, a consultancy specialising in sustainability, behaviour change and green business.
He was referring to the benefits that could be gained by “greening your business”.
A term which in effect means assessing your company’s position and risk relating to its environmental impact and putting a plan in place in line with legislative and international requirements to set your company on the road to sustainability.
Tyrrell says business owners can start by measuring their companies’ ecological footprint.What does this mean and how do you go about doing this?
“They need to check how much energy and water they use and how much waste they emit. And then set targets to reduce these uses and emissions.”
How do you ensure that your employees buy into your vision?
Tyrell calls it “preparing the business case”. This includes measuring tangible and intangible benefits, building internal awareness, developing a shared vision and facilitating the change process.
Tangible benefits are hard costs from electricity savings (including changing light bulbs), responsible water usage, lower waste disposal costs and turning to smaller, more fuel-efficient company vehicles. Intangible benefits are in essence the fruit of your ethical stance and include greater productivity, higher quality staff and more loyal customers.
Tyrrell suggests that the business owner mandates one or more of his or her staff to draw up the business case for greening so as to engage staff participation and maintain momentum.
Thereafter the plan must become part of the company’s mission and vision and its implementation to the extent that it “becomes entrenched in the company’s corporate culture”. Progress needs to be tracked so that successes can motivate staff and customers.
He suggests the money that the company saves be reinvested in greening measures with some, for example, spent on a party as a reward for the staff participation.
But that is not the only benefit for the company.
“Greening your business will give your company a marketing advantage with procurement managers that want to go green,” says Tyrrell.
He says companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) are required to report on their sustainability performance annually and would prefer to procure from small businesses that have embraced the green economy.
He encourages businesses going green to actively seek out those companies and to make them aware of their green credentials.
Tyrrell says small businesses are “best positioned to go green” as they have a smaller employee base which makes it much easier for them to make the necessary management changes and leap to the forefront.
He says business owners who do not have the time or resources to formulate their own green business action plans, should consider calling on the services of a sustainability consultant to help map their pathway on the green journey.
Lloyd MacFarlane, sustain-ability consultant with Alive2Green, says they assist small businesses with a sustainability system that aims to deliver on internal capacity development (training and implementation), application (using best practice for advantage in the organisation) and reputation (leveraging and marketing sustainability for comparative advantage).
He says by building reputation and by using this system to report on sustainability, the small business is immediately more attractive to large customers who are increasingly requiring sustainability criteria in their supply chains.
“The system also assists companies to reduce costs in business and to market the business more effectively.”
Macfarlane says the entry level package costs for their sustainability packaged consult-ancy services for small businesses amounts to R55 000 for a year. Businesses also stand to grow in revenue and opportunity as a result of positioning and marketing because of their intervention, says Macfarlane.
Niki Glen, programme director for the Sustainable Tourism Partnership Programme (STPP), an independent non-profit company focusing on implementing sustainable business practices in small tourism businesses. “The reason we are a non-profit is so that we can assist large corporates to spend their corporate social investment (CSI) budgets on meaningful programmes such as workshops, surveys and programmes that assist smaller businesses to implement sustainable practices so that they can benefit from the value that tourists bring to our country.
“We use SANS1162:2011 (the National Minimum Standard for Responsible Tourism) to guide us, but it is important to know that small businesses can only do so much on their own. Mostly, they need to work together to gain access to programmes, such as Eskom’s energy and training programmes,” says Glen.
She says a tourism company can cut its operational expenses by up to 30% if it implements sustainable business practices.
Contact GreenEdge at www.greenedge.co.za