123rf31510305 bothWith every change that takes place in government, policies shift and new trends come into play. Environmental sustainability is one that often becomes collateral damage, as politicians jockey for power based on the argument of the day. Whether you agree with them or not, there’s money to be saved (and made!) by implementing environmentally-friendly operations and following through with them.

It’s About More than Just Reducing Your Printing

The age of technology has made it possible to view most business documentation online, so reducing your paper usage is not only a practical cost saving but a simple step. [quotesright]There’s much more that companies can do, though, which brings substantial financial benefits. [/quotesright] Some of the better-known methods include:

  • Switching to solar power for production energy or other green strategies to reduce problematic waste by converting it into cheap energy. For example, converting animal waste into methane or sawdust into boiler fuel to create on-site power has paid off in low energy bills.  Even a partial switch or a supplemental solar power supply helps to reduce the amount you pull from the grid.   In manufacturing companies, for example, this can have a significant effect, both on your usage and your bottom line.
  • Sourcing raw materials from local suppliers: Anything that must be moved a long distance to reach you is not only burning up fossil fuel during transportation but also contributing to pollution. It might cost more locally, but this is usually offset to a degree by the reduced shipping costs. And by supporting local suppliers, you’re helping your immediate community to be self-sufficient.
  • Choosing recycled materials where possible: This reduces the quantity of matter in landfills and avoids the need for raw materials. It also often saves on resources such as water used to process raw materials. [quotesright] While recycled materials are often more expensive for the end user, their popularity can be turned into an effective marketing exercise, thereby generating better returns[/quotesright] on your marketing dollars with environmentally conscious consumers willing to pay a premium for environmentally friendly produced products. Alternatively, using easily renewable materials such as bamboo instead of plastic is also an option.
  • Using less packaging materials or switching to environmentally degradable ones that incur no disposal penalty for your customers can pay dividends.
  • Making products repairable: Designing items that last longer and can be repaired easily as opposed to being disposable/replaceable.

Sustainability Trends for 2017

With the movement toward increased environmental sustainability and its impact on your profitability, what trends can you expect to see in the coming year?

1. More Focus on Mindfulness

There’s so much more to sustainability than simply taking steps to decrease your company’s environmental footprint. The point is taken to heart by popular Canadian athletic apparel retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc., which is focused on continuing to implement a philosophy of mindfulness in 2017. This includes:

  • Maintaining a high performance, collaborative culture,
  • Responding to community-led requirements for products instead of “pushing” new designs onto the customer base,
  • Following its principle of being functional and design-led (if it doesn’t help solve an athletic problem, the company doesn’t want to make it), and
  • Ensuring that all employees have a signature experience that turns them into ambassadors and brand-loyal disciples.

2. Increased Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs

CSR programs have been a trend for some years now. While the programs mostly began as publicity exercises, they have evolved into real opportunities for companies to benefit the communities in which they operate.

3. Stronger Governance and Procurement Policies

At one time, corporate buying departments and officials were merely encouraged to look for sustainable options, but change has been too little, too slow. With the increased focus on environmental aspects in 2017, many larger companies will formalize their procurement policies and other governance criteria.

[quotes]You can expect to see quotas enforced for sustainable purchases, policies enacted around energy usage and printing, and real penalties for transgression.[/quotes] Buy-in is no longer going to be enough, if you want to keep corporate customers in your stable, you’ll have to comply with the requirements.

4. Stricter Employee Management

Increased workforce competencies will enable employers to avoid duplication and over-staffing – a factor that affects both efficiencies and profitability. [quotesright] The implementation of codes of conduct for staff will help to reduce waste and injuries, [/quotesright] keep the company operations “leaner and meaner,” and heighten alignment with and commitment to the organization’s principles.

At the same time, tougher penalties for wayward employees will ensure greater compliance. [quotes]No one does anybody a favor by being too soft and easy going.[/quotes] If your staff get away with (almost) everything, the chances are good they will get bolder and bolder until the point where you take them to task – or fire them.

Whether the issues facing your company are confidentiality breaches or ineffective use of staff work time, having specific penalties in place will help you provide direction while simultaneously avoiding subjective repercussions.

This isn’t an exercise that needs to be done overnight, neither does it require additional employees to make it work. It’s a process you can begin implementing slowly and you’ll gradually begin to see results. Get a business coach to help you define key performance areas to start with and create a plan for the overall process.

The Bottom Line Still Counts

In the end, you must compete with others and deliver solid financial performance to stay in business. You may want to “Go Green” but make sure doing so doesn’t end up disadvantaging your company in the marketplace. You can and should be a good steward of the planet but if you are out of business, you can’t affect things like you can when your margins and your balance sheet are strong.

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