Reduce your company's carbon footprint with these smart business practices.
This post originally appeared on Business Insider.
Going green is a three-dimensional effort that can affect internal operations, relationships with vendors and financial commitments.
"We're going green" has such a nice ring to it, doesn't it? From environmental responsibility to consumer safety to good old-fashioned warm feelings, greening one's business practices has become both a popular choice and an easy claim. But being a truly sustainable business is about more than participating in the community's recycling program and slipping the word "green" into all marketing materials.
Like most things worth doing, going green is a three-dimensional effort that can affect internal operations, relationships with vendors and financial commitments. Here are a few ways a business can deepen and widen its approach to sustainability.
1. Reduce, reuse, recycle
The three R's begin with "reduce," but it's often an underappreciated step in the process. After all, the more a business reduces its use of materials in the first place, the lower the effort required to reuse and recycle becomes.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses suggests businesses begin with a waste audit to determine just how much waste is being created and where it could potentially be diverted. The organization also suggests better managing inventory to reduce the number of expired or unsellable products, avoiding purchasing products with unnecessary packaging, and engaging employees and customers in the effort to reduce the use of unnecessary materials.
Of course, businesses must use a certain number of products, packing and materials, and thinking creatively to recycle, reuse and even donate those items will strengthen a company's commitment to sustainability. Even better, when businesses tell customers how to manage their products sustainably, they show a firm commitment to the life cycle of their products.
2. Use green vendors
Because no business is an island, being truly green means evaluating not only a company's own sustainability practices, but also those of its vendors.
"Much of your business's environmental footprint may seem beyond your control," wrote Marcos Cordero, CEO of the Green Business Bureau. "Vendors and other partners may use unsustainable materials, packaging and processing techniques, but their manufacturing decisions still ultimately affect your company's environmental impact."
Cordero suggests that businesses make the emphasis on sustainability clear to their vendors and set written guidelines outlining their green expectations. Looking for certification from outside organizations, such as the Green Business Bureau, can help make the evaluation process easier.
3. Participate in a carbon offset program
Simply by existing, all businesses and their vendors have a carbon footprint, no matter how committed they are to sustainability. While a company can't reduce itself out of business, purchasing carbon offsets can shrink its environmental impact. Cornell University economist Robert H. Frank called carbon offsets "an excellent idea" in The New York Times. (You can read the article here.) "If our goal is to reduce carbon emissions as efficiently as possible," he wrote, "offsets make perfect economic sense."
True sustainability may be a comprehensive and multidimensional pursuit, but in a marketplace crowded with "green business" claims, being able to back up those claims up with smart and effective practices isn't just good for the world, it's good for business.
- By Natalie Burg
View a video on UPS carbon neutral.
Watch a video about ways you can make your company's packaging more sustainable.