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How going green brings efficiency to your business

Alexandra Cain
Business Journalist

Alexandra Cain writes regularly for the small business sections of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review

Alexandra Cain
Business Journalist

Alexandra Cain writes regularly for the small business sections of The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review

For some businesses, being green is an ethical leadership decision. For others it’s financial corporate strategy. Ranging from going solar to recycling paper, there’s a lot a small business can do

According to an HSBC survey, two-thirds of Australian business leaders see environmental factors as the most important operational issues for their business. Four out of five Australian businesses also want to meet industry sustainability standards.

Implementing a range of green initiatives in your business will not only cut down your energy use and power bills in most instances, it can also help to attract the type of staff – and importantly customers – that are similarly eco-friendly.

Are you looking to develop a proactively green corporate strategy? Here are some great initiatives (big and small) you can introduce in your business to become more environmentally (and financially) sustainable.

A green-environment jigsaw puzzle

Switch to solar

If you own your own business premises or work from home, why not consider installing a solar energy system? As well as being good for the environment, excess energy the business doesn’t use goes back into the energy grid, helping to offset energy costs. Now that’s ethical leadership with a tangible outcome.

If this is an option for you, it’s essential to choose a reputable solar panel installer – get references from previous customers to check their credentials.

Then you’ll need to choose an energy provider. They all offer different rates, so it’s important to understand what you’ll pay for energy and how you’ll be compensated for any energy you feed back into the grid before agreeing to a contract.

The final step is crunching the numbers, to work out how long it will take you to recoup the cost of installing the panels against the rebate you’ll receive for feeding energy back into the grid. Most providers have ROI calculators, so you can see if going solar makes financial sense for your overall business strategy.

Choosing the right provider

If installing a solar energy system isn’t a possibility because you rent your business premises, think about choosing a green energy plan. Most of the major energy providers offer this option, and you can choose to have a portion of your energy coming from solar, wind or hydro energy. Options are usually to have 10 per cent, 25 per cent or 100 per cent of your energy coming from green sources.

It’s important to note that it will generally cost your business more for your energy if you do choose the green option, but it can be a great marketing differentiator for small businesses, especially if you operate in an industry or community where green credentials matter. These days, that’s a lot of industries and communities.    

Slashing energy use

For those who want to start small, there are a number of little steps you can take to reduce your energy consumption and your power bills. Installing sensors to lights in low-traffic areas, such as meeting rooms and bathrooms, ensures that you’re only paying for power when there are people about.

Another option is to implement an office-wide policy encouraging people to turn off their computers when they leave the office for the day, which can reap big benefits, depending on the size of your staff.

Investing in services like the cloud also ensures you aren’t paying to run energy-hungry servers and cooling systems for servers and data storage, while the economies of scale mean that your cloud provider is likely to be running these servers in a more environmentally friendly manner.

Finally, encourage staff to go “fully digital” – reviewing documents on-screen rather than printing, and having a digital filing system that removes a reliance on paper-based systems (which can often be inefficient, anyway). If you do need to print, use both sides of paper to reduce your environmental impact and cut your office costs.

Verdict

For most businesses, being environmentally friendly is all about introducing incremental steps to reduce the use of power in your business. Start small and build on existing systems, look for products that improve efficiency and recognise your staff’s effort to be more environmentally conscious. Over time you’ll hopefully start to see savings as you find more ways to cut wastage.

Implement a corporate strategy with a focus on green efficiency.

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Originally published 18th March 2015. Updated 5th August 2019.

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