What good is reaching phenomenal levels of success if you have no way to sustain them? Creating a business that is sustainable (both in terms of profit and in terms of environmental friendliness) is important. Here are some ways that you can increase your business’s sustainability in the coming year. If you haven’t already, always start with the…
Basic Environmental Savings
If you think about sustainability in terms of being “green” there are lots of options available to you. Use LED lights instead of incandescent or CFLs (CFLs are so last year–don’t you know they are less efficient than LEDs, are less durable, and also contain mercury?!? If not, check out this great video). Provide solar chargers for devices like laptops, tablets and cell phones. Install low flow toilets and faucets in the bathrooms. Use plants to help clean the air to reduce dependence on air filters. Install better windows to keep the office climate control in check. You get the idea, but also consider some less obvious sources of waste that you can eliminate, like paper napkins.
Encourage Employees to Stay On Site
Many Silicon Valley companies are leading the way with creating great work environments for employees. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and many other San Francisco-area tech companies provide extensive facilities on site, which minimizes carbon emissions from employee lunch trips–and keeps them focused on work.
If you don’t yet have a break room or office kitchen, now is the time to install one. It doesn’t need to be extensive but it does need to be well stocked. Provide real cups, plates and cutlery for employees to use for meals and snacks so they won’t reach for styrofoam and plastic ones. Have basic appliances for foods that need to be warmed up. It’s a good idea to also provide a couple of well stocked vending machines full of fresh fruits, Clif Bars, and other eco-friendly goodies (check out 1800 Vending for ideas and supplies).
Invest in iPads or some other type of tablet computer for your employees. When you buy them in bulk you can often get a really good deal from the manufacturers. This investment will quickly make up for itself in the money you’ll save on paper, toner, ink and machine maintenance fees (which means more money stays put in your profit margin). Going paperless has the added bonus of being environmentally friendly as well.
Invest Some Profit Back Into the Company
In terms of financial sustainability, it is important that you regularly take a portion of your profit and reinvest it into your company. You can improve your computers or networks to increase productivity. You can pay for better and more expansive marketing plans. You can run studies and surveys to find out how to improve your products and services. The key to a sustainable business is not just to keep doing the things that made you successful in the first place but to do them even more intensely and expansively so that your profits continue to grow.
Invest in Your Employees
Take a portion of your profit margin and give it back to your employees. Giving everybody some extra training, a step raise or a bonus periodically does quite a lot to improve your work force’s productivity. It also makes your employees more loyal. Reducing your employee turnover is good for your profits because it means that your worker base spends its time actually working instead of training newbies on how to do the job well. A good example of this in the real world is Costco. Costco’s CEO took the company’s 2012 profit and gave every penny of it to the company employees—something he does regularly. Costco is consistently named one of the best companies to work for and has one of the lowest turnover rates in the retail industry.
These are just some of the things you can do to help your business become even more successful and sustainable. What other things can you think of that will help you keep up the status quo?
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on Google Plus
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