Small-business owners often think of ‘going green’ as a double-edged sword. On one hand, many think of going green as the right thing to do to support the environment and the local community. Yet many also see it as an extra expense that cannot be recouped.
As a small-business owner, what should you do? Is the amount of time and money you’ll spend on going green worth the investment?
The answer is: Yes. Go green. More and more companies are going green every day.
Most small-business owners do not know that environmental management can be beneficial to the company in ways that go well beyond helping the environment:
· From an internal operations perspective, going green can actually reduce costs and help avoid liabilities, as well as present unexpected business opportunities if your company can provide an environmental solution to others. You can even go so far as to obtain certification from an independent third party so you can include their logo or “ecolabel” on your product and other green marketing materials. Ecolabeling helps market your product to green-conscious consumers.
· From an external perspective, by going green your company is that much more attractive to investors, lenders, insurers, customers and employees.
Environmental management is quickly becoming a bottom-line benefit – and a proverbial win-win – for small businesses.
Not All or Nothing
Environmental management is not an all-or-nothing proposition. There is so much that can be done to go green – from buying green products to recycling to using green technologies to moving to solar power. The multitude of options can seem overwhelming.
Yet, there is a tangible approach to environmental management that can be easily mapped out and implemented according to how you prefer to do business. It involves, simply, developing an Environmental Action Plan.
How do you develop this Environmental Action Plan? The place to start is the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has put together a workbook designed specifically to help small businesses go green. This workbook is called the Small Business Environmental Management Plan Workbook and can be found and downloaded at the Business.gov web site.
Step One: Develop an Environmental Policy
The first step is to take some time to develop an environmental policy. This is both an internal and external statement that formalizes your company’s level of commitment toward going green.
First decide what is most appropriate for your management and employees. Whether implementing a recycling program or moving to solar power, decide on what will work best for you. Then, put this decision into a formal document. The document will serve two purposes:
· to help communicate to the entire company your environmental level of commitment, as well as a first step toward communicating employees’ environmental responsibilities
· to help communicate your environmental management plans to suppliers, customers, shareholders, and the community so everyone will be aware of where your company stands in its efforts to go green.
There is also an environmental policy worksheet – including guidelines and samples – in the EPA Environmental Management Plan Workbook.
Step Two: Assemble an Environmental Manual
An Environmental Manual will be your “how to” document. This will map out the details of your environmental management strategy and how, exactly, you plan to go green.
This document should include things such as those environmental regulations and permits that pertain to your business, as well as best practices for environmental management. It is important to note that these details will be quite different depending on your industry and your business. Regulations, permits, and best practices will be vastly different for food service, healthcare service, or landscape service businesses.
And, of course, there is also an environmental manual planning worksheet – including guidelines and samples – in the EPA Environmental Management Plan Workbook.
Step Three: Go Green
Once you’ve got the details in place, it’s time to go green – according to your Environmental Policy and Environmental Manual. You must, of course, implement any necessary training and additional communication to company employees. You should also:
· Keep records of your environmental management activities
· Monitor your environmental compliance
· Measure your environmental performance
· Report your environmental results
Once your environmental management plan has been in place for a significant amount of time, you’ll also want to conduct an environmental review to see what’s working, what’s not, and what other policies you may want to put in place over time.
There is so much you can do as a small business to go green. While moving to solar power may be out of your reach, implementing a simple recycling program may be just the right fit. In fact, you may be surprised that the more you do, the more it will benefit both your company and the environment.
For more detailed information on going green, including Environmental Management and how to put together an Environmental Action Plan, go to the Green Business Guide section of Business.gov.
Nancy Sternberg, Business Gateway Program Manager, U.S. Small Business Administration