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business sustainability

How to Make Your Business More Socially Responsible

Go Green at the Office With These Sustainable Business Practices

A business with eco-friendly credentials has a major advantage over the competition. Not only do many customers prefer companies that prioritize sustainability, but prospective employees are often looking for organizations that share their eco-friendly values. 

But many businesses don’t know where to start. What exactly makes a business sustainable? What steps can you take to improve your environmental impact? We’d like to help you figure it out. 

First, What Is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a movement that encourages businesses to develop sustainable practices that limit negative impact to society, the environment and the economy. Whether it’s creating sustainable manufacturing processes or simply cutting back on paper usage in the office, every step makes a difference. 

To guide their planning, many organizations adopt the triple bottom line framework. Coined by John Elkington in 1994, this approach consists of three parts: social, environmental and financial. The factors are more often described with the phrase, “people, planet and profit.” Your business can adopt this framework to demonstrate your commitment to corporate social responsibility.

What Is the Triple Bottom Line Approach to Sustainability?

The Three P's The Bottom Line
People - Social Responsibility A TBL company does business fairly, with the well-being of all stakeholders in mind.
Planet - Environmental Responsibility A TBL company works to minimize environmental impact and reduce its ecological footprint.
Profit - Economic Responsibility A TBL company measures its economic results to include the social benefits of its operations.

You can start with keeping the triple bottom line approach in mind as you decide which strategies work best for your company. There are a wide variety of ways to boost sustainability at your business. Here are a few ideas to get started.

Strategies to Make Your Business More Sustainable

1. Involve Your Employees With Sustainable Business Planning

Ask your employees what they would like to see the company tackle first. Then, keep them engaged throughout the year with check-ins and status updates on the goals you set.

If your employees help decide which corporate sustainability initiatives to tackle, they’ll be more invested in making sure those initiatives succeed. 

“Most employees do care about being sustainable and the environment. They often have it engrained in their minds as ‘This is how I do work,’ so it’s important to engage with them about what they can do from a sustainability perspective.”
Kevin Wilhelm | CEO, Sustainable Business Consultants

2. Get Everyone On Board With Your Corporate Sustainability Initiatives

Before requiring new sustainable business practices, host a kick-off meeting with your employees to put them at ease about any changes to their workflow. 

Some employees may resist change. But Wilhelm points out, “It’s always helpful to show what a pound of food waste looks like, or how much trash an average dumpster holds. Put everything in perspective.”

3. Make Energy-Efficient Improvements to the Office 

Almost all utility companies now offer incentives for making energy-efficient upgrades. To reduce energy consumption at your business you can:

  • Install motion sensors in conference rooms or hallways.
  • Replace compact fluorescent lights with LEDs.
  • Set computers and monitors to turn off after 10 minutes of inactivity.
  • Make the most of natural lighting when possible.
  • Shut down computers before leaving the office.
  • If remodeling, ask your contractor about using sustainable building materials.

4. Conduct a Waste Audit to Identify Problem Areas

A waste audit will identify what items you’re throwing away that could be donated or recycled instead. Some public works departments will perform a waste audit of a business completely free of charge. 

They can also connect you with local organizations who can accept items that would have been thrown away. “In Seattle, Starbucks bags up their coffee grounds for composting instead of sending them to a landfill,” Wilhelm explains. 

5. Reduce the Amount of Paper You Use

With the exception of documents you need for daily operations, think of ways to reduce the amount of paper used at the office. 

  • Email meeting agendas or list items on a whiteboard instead of printing. 
  • Think before you print—do you really need a physical copy of this document?
  • Set your printer and copier’s defaults to double-sided.
  • Avoid printing emails or unnecessary documents.
  • Purchase recycled paper products.
  • If you’re not already recycling—start!

Create Corporate Sustainability Initiatives You Can Stick With

Whatever sustainability goals you decide to pursue, make sure that they’re measurable. Avoid vague goals such as “waste less paper.” Instead, make your goals specific: “reduce paper waste by 40 percent.” 

Once you’ve set your goals, measure them regularly to see how your new sustainable business practices are performing. This way, you can adjust as needed to make sure those goals are met.

Which steps are you taking to green your office? Let us know in the comments below.