We small business owners have a lot on our plates, but as the linchpin of your small business, the struggle to make a success of it can keep your horizons fairly limited at times. The time commitment needed to keep the cogs of your business running smoothly can be significant. And when you’re not wrapped up in the day-to-day workload, there are always a thousand and one little matters that need sorting out – from filing tax returns, to supplier hassles, to keeping staff happy. So it’s not surprising that, for many ongoing small businesses, the environmental issues surrounding their activities can seem like so much fluff.
Can Going Green Affect the Bottom Line?
After all – since when has going green affected your bottom line? That thought process certainly makes sense, when your horizons are narrowed – but the fact that such considerations are kept off your radar, by the day-to-day chaff, is an indication of a bigger problem in itself. For a business to grow and thrive, it needs a wider vision, not just shovelling at the coalface. And if you can take time to step back and reassess the broader picture – of how your small business could thrive – you’ll find adopting a green strategy can do more than save the planet. It could make your business bloom in the challenges of the 21st century. If bigger businesses, especially those with visionary leaders, can do it, you as a much more agile company surely can.
Where are the Savings?
The most obvious benefit to any business from going green can surprisingly be found on the balance sheet. US Government agencies have estimates that energy costs make up anywhere between 9% and 20% of total revenue for small businesses. And they also show that small businesses typically have to pay higher rates for their energy, whether electricity, fuel oil or natural gas, than larger businesses. Some may call it economy-of-scale, but it probably feels more like the big firms turning the screws on the small guys again. But if you were to implement a focused, sensible green energy policy, you could cut much of that cost fat from your business. That would benefit your bottom line in the long term – as well as making you less beholden to the utility firms. There are a number of steps you can take on this front, but the important filter that you need to apply to any action is the payback period. To invest large capital, into schemes that won’t save you money for more than a decade, is not really an option for the small business.
Federal and State Incentives
One way in which the payback period can be shortened, and capital outlay reduced, is to take advantage of federal and state government incentives to green your business. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers affordable loans for small companies looking to tool themselves up with energy-saving equipment, as does the LEED scheme (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Combining these two could net up to $6 million, if your plans would result in more than a 10% saving in energy. There are also a whole host of state-level programs, aimed specifically at improving energy efficiency, which you would do well to take advantage of.
Apart from the bigger outlays related to heating and fuel use, what other aspects of greening your business will help to make it lean? Using recycled products, instead of new purchases, can make a lot of sense, both environmentally and financially. Recycled copier paper, and printer cartridges, are much cheaper than those coming from a virgin source. And much modern computer equipment is anything but redundant, just because of its age. If you can source your PCs and laptops from a reliable second-hand source, you’ll save a lot of cash – and won’t be placing strain on all of the natural resources needed for new computers.
Connect with Customers
And there is another very fundamental advantage for your business, reaped by taking some or all of these measures. A large proportion of your customers are likely to have environmental issues near the top of their concerns. Even though worries on some green issues may have slipped, due to concerns about the economy and jobs, green-orientated consumers and companies still make a significant section of the populace. By re-orientating your business along a sustainable axis, you will be able to demonstrate to that customer base a commitment they will value.
That could win you more customers – and much more loyal customers. When conditions have been as harsh for small businesses as they have been, that isn’t a trivial advantage to have. Adopting a green strategy really could sharpen up your business, making it leaner, greener and more able to expand in new markets.