The Benefits of Sustainable Business Practices

A green wave is currently surging through the business world in full force, and it’s not expected to let up anytime soon. As a result, there has never been a better time to transform your office into a green workspace. Besides doing the right thing for future generations, going green in the office can provide your company with tangible bottom-line benefits. It can bring cost-savings through decreased utility bills and wastage, improve employee morale and health (and in turn, their commitment), and demonstrate to customers and partners that you’re taking strides to be environmentally and socially responsible. This article outlines 20 sustainable business practices your company can implement to make your offices more sustainable (ordered from low cost, high impact to high cost, low impact).

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1. Switch All Lighting to LEDs, one of the easiest sustainable business practices

LED lights are by far the most efficient type of lighting on the market, using 75% less energy and lasting 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Making this switch will save your office a significant amount of money on utility bills and maintenance costs, and is very easy to implement the next time your current bulbs need replacing.

2. Implement a Comprehensive Recycling Program 

While your office is likely recycling its paper and plastics, you can take recycling to the next level by expanding your program to include glass and metals. If your local municipality doesn’t have recycling streams for glass and metals, reach out to waste management companies. These companies often will weigh your recycling before taking it to facilities, making it easy to track and report to stakeholders the amount of waste you’re diverting from landfills.

3. Use No-VOC Interior Paints

Commonly found in many paints and other home maintenance products, VOCs are persistent chemical compounds that evaporate into the air. When airborne VOCs are inhaled, they can cause irritation, headache and more serious side effects on the liver, kidney and central nervous system. And since most VOCs are odorless, their threat goes unnoticed.

Go with no-VOC paints to protect employee health and limit airborne pollution. Smog Armor is a company that specializes in no-VOC paints, making them a great choice for your office’s new healthy coat of paint.

4. Allow Flexible Work-From-Home Options

Allowing employees to work from home – even if it’s one day a week – can result in major decreases in your employee’s commute emissions. Also, most businesses have found through the COVID-19 pandemic that many employees want a flexible work schedule, meaning this is sure to be a popular move.

5. Eliminate Paper Use

In today’s digital age, how much office paper use is actually necessary? The vast majority of documents can be sent via email or kept in company databases, making transitioning to paperless an easy way to save print-related costs and slow deforestation.

That being said, most offices still rely on some degree of paper use for invoices, agendas, and other important documents. When paper use is necessary, choose paper products with recycled content rather than virgin paper to decrease your company’s environmental footprint. Recycled options are common and aren’t prohibitively costly.

6. Achieve Sustainable Business Practices Through Zero Waste Break Rooms

Traditional offices generate a lot of waste in their break rooms. This is a drain on resources and can leave your employees feeling like they aren’t doing their part for the environment. Zero waste break rooms can be achieved by:

  • Offering reusable mugs and cups instead of disposables,
  • Implementing a composting program for food scraps,
  • Replacing plastic cutlery and stir-sticks with biodegradable options (wooden, bio-plastics, etc.)
  • If your office uses coffee pods, choose biodegradable pods such as those from OneCoffee.

7. Install Water-Saving Fixtures

Limiting your office’s water use is another area where cost-savings and sustainability go hand-in-hand. You can conserve water in the office by installing WaterSense faucets and toilets in bathrooms and rain-sensing sprinkler systems in the green space outside your office. Making this change requires some investment, but payback time is short – and will become even shorter as water scarcity causes the cost of water to increase.

8. Consider Renewable Energy

One of the most ambitious sustainable business practices is investing in renewable energy. Using renewable energy can significantly lower your company’s carbon footprint, depending on the dominant power source in your region.

However, investing in renewable energy such as solar, wind or geothermal can come with a steep price tag and these technologies aren’t effective in every region. That being said, with government incentive programs offered across North America and the ability to sell excess energy back to power grids, the payback on this investment is often much shorter than expected.

An alternative to investing in renewable energy at your office is buying Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from your local energy provider. These RECs prove that your business is fueled by clean power from the grid while allowing you to avoid the investment in money and time that do-it-yourself green power requires. Part of the purchase price from your RECs goes toward building more renewable energy infrastructure in your region, meaning this move contributes to the sustainable future humanity needs.

9. Choose a Green Web Hosting Service for Your Website

Globally, approximately 3.8% of annual carbon emissions come from the internet. Yet, this aspect of companies’ carbon footprint is often overlooked when trying to be more sustainable.

Switch to a green web hosting service to draw down your website-related emissions. Web Hosting Canada is a service provider that will run your website on renewable energy. They also provide a “green badge” that can be featured on your website to show visitors you mean business about the environment.

10. Recycle or Donate Your Office E-Waste

You’ve probably noticed how quickly devices become obsolete in today’s fast-paced business environment. And the vast majority of these devices are either left in drawers and forgotten, or are tossed in the trash. This is bad for the environment – as these devices contain toxic (as well as valuable) precious metals – and for inequality – given the fact that many people around the globe don’t have the ability to buy modern tech.

If your obsolete gadgets are fairly new and in working condition, donating them is the best option. World Computer Exchange will take your old computers and tablets, refurbish them, and provide them to people in developing countries that need them. For devices like phones, printers, or computers that the World Computer Exchange won’t accept, donate them to Goodwill or your local thrift store to give them a second life. Goodwill has donation centres in many locations in the U.S. and Canada, and will wipe all data off of your devices before reselling them to ensure your company information is secure.

For devices that are no longer usable, recycle them instead of putting them in the garbage. There are electronics recycling programs in all areas of North America. A quick Google search will point to a facility near you.

11. Replace Unnecessary Business Trips with Video Calls

While surely everyone in your office is eager to travel as COVID-19 restrictions ease, it has become evident in the pandemic that much of the business travel we used to deem essential really isn’t. With the rising popularity of video calling and virtual conferences, many meetings, trade shows, and similar events can be done virtually from the office. Unnecessary business trips are a major drain on company resources, employee time, and are one of the biggest contributors to a company’s carbon footprint. Save these costs and emissions by instituting an “essential travel only” policy at your workplace.

12. Install Motion-Sensors for Office Lighting

Walk through any office building today and you’ll likely notice a large number of rooms with lights on but nobody in them. Wasting energy like this hurts your company’s pocketbook and the environment. Install motion-sensors in your offices to limit energy usage and save money.

For the simplest and cheapest (albeit not always effective) way to conserve energy from lighting, simply post signs next to light switches reminding employees to shut the lights off when they leave a room. Being mindful of energy use habits is the simplest of all sustainable business practices, and often, a little nudge in the right direction is all that’s needed.

13. Instill Sustainable Business Practices in Employees By Encouraging Greener Commute Options

Arrange an employee carpool program. To those who are interested, offer a survey for them to fill out and gather the necessary information (the area they live in, when they leave for work, when they like to go home at the end of day, etc.). With this information, help match employees together.

To encourage the use of active transport (biking, walking, etc.) and public transit, send information emails to employees about how much money is used commuting to work in a car and the health benefits of choosing more active options. Posting information on what transit options are available in the area can also help encourage employees to choose sustainable transport options.

14. Institute a More Flexible Dress Code

You can save energy, and in turn money, associated with your office’s heating and cooling by making your dress code more flexible. Allowing men to wear shorts in the summer and women to wear pants in the winter can significantly reduce the need to use your office’s climate control system.

Another green (and financial) benefit that comes from moving toward a more flexible dress code is that employees will have to do less dry-cleaning. As dry-cleaning consumes large amounts of water and uses chemical cleansers and dyes, reducing the need for it can make your office much more eco-friendly.

This change is easier when staff are working internally and not attending formal meetings. That being said, the norm of strict dress codes is giving way to more casual codes in practically every industry.

15. Eliminate Phantom Power with Programmable Power Strips 

Phantom power is energy that’s consumed when devices are left on or in stand-by mode when they’re not in use. It can significantly boost your office’s power bill and carbon footprint.

An effective way to put an end to phantom power use in your office is by investing in programmable power strips that automatically stop supplying devices with power in non-working hours or when employees are on vacation. The Kasa Smart Power Strip is a solid option that is controlled via a user-friendly smartphone app.

16. Buy Remanufactured Ink and Toner Cartridges 

Buying new ink and toner cartridges and throwing them out when they run out of fluid contributes a massive amount of waste to landfills and is expensive for your company. Choosing remanufactured cartridges can result in a cost-saving of 15-50% per order. Some companies will even pick up your used cartridges and deliver remanufactured ones for free, making this sustainable switch easy as can be.

17. Apply Window Film to Block-Out Heat in the Summer 

Heat-blocking window film is a technology that can significantly lower the amount of energy your office uses for air conditioning in the summer months. This thin, transparent film uses metallic atoms to reflect heat from the sun, preventing it from heating your office. Being completely transparent, it has no effect on natural light or aesthetics. Window film is also cheap and easy to apply, making this green practice a no-brainer.

18. Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

Encouraging your cleaning company to use green cleaning products can increase the health and wellbeing of your employees as well as prevent toxic substances from getting into the environment, while barely affecting costs. If your current company doesn’t offer non-toxic cleaning options, it may be time to make a switch to one of the many companies that do. You can find several planet-friendly cleaning products through Green Seal.

19. Introduce Plants Into Your Office Space (Sustainable business practices can be aesthetically pleasing too!)

Having plants in the office has been proven to decrease air pollution and increase the mood and productivity of employees. Thus, this is a cheap and easy practice that can improve employees’ long-term commitment and output.

20. Buy Second-Hand Office Equipment When Possible

Buying second-hand equipment decreases waste going to landfill, makes producing new equipment unnecessary, and can save your business a lot of money simultaneously. This is not always possible for products that degrade quickly or become obsolete like computers – but for generic, durable equipment like desks and cabinets, opt for second-hand.

Conclusion: Applying Sustainable Business Practices Yields Major Benefits

Following some or all of the 20 sustainable business practices outlined in this article will bring your company significant cost-savings, increased employee commitment, and will demonstrate to all stakeholders that your business is working toward a sustainable future.

For further guidance on how to become a more environmentally responsible company and to access a library full of sustainable business practices, sign up for a Green Business Bureau membership today. Click here to learn more about the GBB green business certification program and its benefits.

Summary of Sustainable Business Practices

Follow some or all of these sustainable business practices to create a greener, more eco-conscious workplace:

  • Switch All Lighting to LEDs
  • Implement a Comprehensive Recycling Program
  • Use No-VOC Interior Paints
  • Allow Flexible Work-From-Home Options
  • Eliminate Paper Use
  • Strive for Zero Waste Break Rooms
  • Install Water-Saving Fixtures
  • Consider Renewable Energy
  • Choose a Green Web Hosting Service for Your Website
  • Recycle or Donate Your Office E-Waste
  • Replace Unnecessary Business Trips with Video Calls
  • Install Motion-Sensors for Office Lighting
  • Encourage Employees to Choose Greener Commute Options
  • Institute a More Flexible Dress Code
  • Eliminate Phantom Power with Programmable Power Strips
  • Buy Remanufactured Ink and Toner Cartridges
  • Apply Window Film to Block-Out Heat in the Summer
  • Use Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
  • Introduce Plants Into Your Office Space
  • Buy Second-Hand Office Equipment When Possible

About The Author

Dylan West

GBB Green Ambassador

Dylan West is a content creator for the Green Business Bureau who is passionate about the pursuit of a better future through sustainable business. He is currently working toward an undergraduate degree in Business Management from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Outside of his professional life, Dylan enjoys playing sports and exploring the natural splendor that surrounds his home in Vancouver.

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