by Marshall Goldsmith
How can I practice green or sustainable business during these tough economic times?
MG: That’s a good question: Budgets are tight and customers are tighter. Going green was an easy sell a few years ago, but is that movement dead during a recession? For an insider’s perspective on how to be green during tough times, I turned to Tim Sanders, author of the new book Saving the World at Work to help answer your question. Here’s what he says:
TS: In ten years, your company will need to be much greener than it is today. Otherwise, its brand will weaken and regulations on carbon will attack your margins. But that’s a long time away, you say, so let’s take a break for a few years until things get better. Here’s my news flash: Done right, green is free!
Going green has previously been a “spend money” exercise including investments in new technologies, expensive product or service ingredients, etc. Today, spending extra money on “going green” may be a tough sell at work. The good news is that you can green up your company, and likely save money at the same time. Here’s five things you can do:
1. Focus on waste reduction. Ray Anderson (founder of Interface Inc.) saved his company over $300,000,000 in about ten years by focusing on waste reduction as the eco-plan for the company. You can too. If it doesn’t add customer value, cut it. Look for waste like you look for money-and you’ll find some to cut.
2. Focus on Reuse and Repair over Dispose and Replace. One new laptop can create hundreds of pounds of carbon emissions. So put them off until the current ones can’t fulfill business needs. Instead of new office chairs, how about having the current chairs fixed or reupholstered? Instead of a water cooler, how about a water filter?
3. Replace stuff with bits. Look at everything you do with your customers and supply chain. How much paper, plastic, petro, and power go into these transactions? Instead of packages, you send files. Instead of physical products (books, DVDs), you provide online access.
4. Share the savings with the eco-team. Team up with a few people at work and calculate the current fixed eco-financial costs of the business: power, travel, document printing, shipping, etc. Announce a program where all employees are invited to participate in reducing the impact of the company. At the end of 90 days, calculate the savings, then share half of it with the employees on their next paychecks. If that’s too radical, just offer a grand prize for the biggest idea and the biggest contributor to the program.
5. Test and scale. If your department finds a way to reduce travel by 25% without hurting the business, share this process with other departments. If your group can find a way to reduce document printing and shipping successfully, share it with the rest of the company. When you have four or five departments winning with an innovation, bring it to the big bosses as a win.
MG: Thank you, Tim. Readers – You can find out more ideas at www.SavingTheWorld.net. As always, your thoughts and ideas on this subject are appreciated. Please send in comments.