Many years ago, prior to starting my own business, I was working as Energy Assessor under both Federal and NSW Government funded programs. My job was to help residential and small business owners cut down their energy costs by giving no to low cost advice as well as education to consumers on how to read their electricity/gas bills. It involved the promotion of these programs to the public through community events and festivals at community groups and Centrelink offices throughout the Sydney and Wollongong area. When I introduce myself to people, I usually get this response…
“Hi, my name is Rebecca and I work as Home Sustainability Assessor”
“Oh so you sell solar panels?”
Well, I don’t blame you. When asked about what sustainability means, most people first think of solar panels or the high costs associated with it. You will be surprised to know that sustainability doesn’t cost a fortune and it can in fact save you money and increase business opportunities.
So what is sustainability? One of the most often-cited definitions of sustainability is the one created by the Brundtland Commission, led by the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. The Commission defines sustainability as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The next question is: Why do we need it? We need to realise that Environmental Sustainability is a priority topic of the United Nations. The UN has encouraged its members to set carbon emission reduction targets and to outline policies and programs that encourage, measure, reduce and offset carbon emissions. In early December, France will host a UN Climate Change conference, where major world leaders such asUS President Barack Obama, China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi and Russia’s Vladimir Putin will attend and discuss ways to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
Most, if not all large enterprises such as Qantas, Woolworths and the Coles-Myer Group have formal Environmental Policies that outline their commitments to sustainability. These policies are particularly important for businesses, especially SME (Small and Medium Enterprises). As larger businesses seek ways to cut down on their own emissions, one decision they could make would be to ask/demand their suppliers to be more environmental sustainable. This not only brings increased business opportunities such as working for or tendering to larger companies/local government, but it can also save you money in business operations.
Employing sustainable practices in your business makes you stand out more compared to the rest of your competitors, thus increasing the chances of your business awarded the tender or contract. What’s more, the cost of raw materials is ever increasing. This means that every dollar saved by implementing sustainable practices is another dollar that can be reinvested back into the business.
You might say, “I’m only a small business, we don’t have a lot of money!” It’s actually easier than you think to incorporate sustainability practices when a business is in the start-up period. Before you release and launch a new product, here’s some things to think about: What materials I can use? Are there any other options for the packaging? If you need to buy any equipment, how energy efficient is it?
These four steps below make up the main framework that makes your business more environmentally sustainable. I will also give you some examples on how to achieve it.
- Installing door strips at the bottom of all doors to prevent hot/cold air entering the house in both summer and winter. Many times I have seen people using heaters in winter, yet they leave doors/windows wide open and wonder why the room is still cold!
Close windows and use blinds to stop heat entering rooms in summer.Thus reducing the need and duration of using an air conditioner.
- Turn off power points when not in use to reduce “stand by” power. Stand by power can accumulate a cost of up to 10% of your total energy bill
- Reduce air conditioner operation temperature by 1 degree during both summer and winter. The recommend temperature for summer is 23-26O C and for winter is 18-22O
- Send emails instead of sending letters. This saves the use of high grade paper and the trees needed to make the paper.
- Instead buying brand new items, reuse old items that are still useful. Some of our props used at expos are actually from my own home.Have a look around your home to see if there’s anything you could use.
- Use the back of junk mail or scrap paper for writing memos or notes, instead of using high grade paper.
- Reuse old packaging boxes and materials from other orders.
- Shred letters and use as garden compost.
- Drop old and unwanted mobile phones or printer cartridges at recycling points such as Aldi (batteries) and Officeworks (mobile phones/printer cartridges).
- Most paper and some plastic containers are recyclable. Dispose of them by placing them in a recycle bin.
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- As a business, our focus should not be how to increase profits and productivity only. Yes. We all want to make money, but many consumers today realise that it’s not right for businesses to abuse the environment for the sake of making profits. Businesses must make positive contributions to our society. Some ways to do this include; sponsoring a child through World Vision or Compassion, sponsoring a local sports team and buying Australian Made products to keep jobs in Australia just to name a few. Furthermore, do not forget to share these positive contributions with your customers and allow them help you to reach your goal.
One example I’ve heard was an electrician business that sponsored children through World Vision and proudly proclaim on their website and social media accounts that” for every new van we purchase; we will sponsor another child”. In another words, the increase in growth for their business equates to the increasing benefit the children receive. It is a win/win situation.
You can also go to http://www.soapdevilla.com.au/our-sustainability-policy to check out our Environmental Sustainability Policy and I hope that it will also inspire you for your own business. So why not grab a pen and some scrap papers, and write down your own Sustainability Policy and share it with the world!