Businesses today may claim that they’re sustainable, but only a portion of them will put their money where their mouth is. Corporate social responsibility is about more than sharing your thoughts and feelings on green initiatives and giving back; it’s about actually making the changes that make a difference.
Sustainable businesses set the standard and show other companies how to be more ethical. From upgrading offices to be more environment-friendly to getting employees on board with volunteering, there are a number of ways that businesses can be more ethical. Here are some practical approaches that businesses can take to embrace sustainability:
Consider Alternative Energy
Socially responsible businesses and corporations are able to help the environment while also cutting back on spending. Solar and wind energy are finally competing with fossil fuels when it comes to cost.
Today, smaller businesses are offered the same energy incentives that were once available only to big companies. For example, businesses that install solar power may qualify for a federal tax credit of 30%. While the cost of installing solar power is high, the tax break can offset a large amount of it and make it more affordable. In the long run, energy costs will be lowered.
Companies that are concerned with climate change will want to consider alternative energy options, whether that’s geothermal systems, hydropower, solar power or wind energy. Businesses can redeem energy-efficient tax credits, like the Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, which applies to these types of upgrades.
Make Energy-Efficient Upgrades
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, approximately 20% of the energy used in the U.S. powers office buildings and schools. While some new buildings are being designed to save energy and to be LEED-certified (a rating system for green buildings), existing buildings can make sustainable upgrades to improve their efficiency. Here are six types of sustainable upgrades:
- Make the most of the natural sunlight that comes into the building. Keep windows clean and open blinds or curtains to let in natural light and decrease the need for artificial light.
- Invest in windows with better insulation, which will keep cold and heat outside, reducing the need for extra heating or cooling indoors.
- Create sustainable workspaces with energy-efficient computers or laptops, and use desk lamps with LED bulbs.
- Switch to the cloud instead of using your own servers. Cloud computing cuts down on travel costs because business information can be accessed from anywhere. Plus, server equipment is expensive to maintain and uses a lot of energy, which you can eliminate by hosting on the cloud.
- Leaks waste resources while raising your utility bill. It pays to hire a professional who can find and fix water and HVAC system leaks. Also, caulk and weather stripping can be used to plug leaks around doors, outlets, and windows to keep out drafts and heat.
- If you don’t already have one, create and implement a records retention program for your business. Not only will this cut down on paper waste in the long run, but it will also build a sustainable system for tracking and storing business documentation for legal and financial purposes.
Energy-efficient office upgrades don’t have to be made all at once. Do an energy audit at your office to determine where the building is the least efficient. Start from there, then make upgrades as you’re able to afford them.
Choose Responsible Suppliers
Go over your suppliers and determine whether they have environment-friendly practices. The goal should be to use goods and services that are sustainably produced and that don’t use an unnecessary amount of packaging. Some factors to consider include:
- Supplies should be recyclable, made from renewable materials and free of harmful or toxic substances.
- Determine whether suppliers have in-house recycling programs, like taking back packaging to reuse it.
- Try to find local suppliers. Some of the best suppliers will be local because that will automatically cut down on your carbon footprint.
- Look for transparency. Suppliers should be forthcoming about their practices and production methods. If they’re not, that could be a red flag that you should look elsewhere.
Support a Cause
Sustainable businesses strive to improve communities outside the workplace as well. You may choose to support a cause that’s local or global, but the key is to select a cause that you care deeply about. That may mean supporting a local homeless shelter or volunteering with kids in need, or it can mean working for climate change or improving eco-tourism.
Whatever cause you choose, encourage employees to volunteer by creating a volunteerism committee or dedicating one workday a month to volunteering. Take photos of your efforts to further promote the cause on social media and to show job seekers how your business contributes to the community.
Improved sustainability isn’t just good for the environment; it’s also good for a business’ bottom line. On top of qualifying for green loans and getting tax credits, socially responsible businesses also attract top talent. Today’s job seekers look for companies that give back, and they’re more likely to apply to work at a company that has social efforts they believe in. Create a website page that discusses your sustainability commitments and share your efforts on social media.