But there are several reasons why SMBs should shake up established processes, systems and policies by implementing sustainability programs in the coming year.
For starters, being environmentally responsible can help organizations recruit and retain millennial workers who tend to choose employers with a stated or clear purpose. When an organization is aligned to a cause that employees are passionate about, those employees become more engaged. Investing in the idea of “job purposing” is another way to engage employees and quite possibly encourage them to build new sustainable norms in the office.
In addition to serving as a top recruitment and retention tool, effective sustainability programs can lower operating costs, save on energy and reduce waste.
And while both building an engaged workforce and saving on operating costs are two great reasons, protecting your brand’s reputation with customers might actually be the most important reason of all to view sustainable policies as a key business priority.
1. Empower your sustainability champions
The first step toward sustainability is to build it into company culture. Business owners who embrace and evangelize the concept and underscore its importance regularly with employees are often the most successful.
An effective sustainability program only works if your employees buy-in and help support the cause. The odds are you already have a few sustainability champions looking to be “found”. These are the employees that are going to see opportunities for positive change and put your organization on the right course.
The WWF Living Planet @ Work program is a free resource and peer-to-peer network that SMBs should encourage employees to visit. It contains useful tools to help empower sustainability champions, including many examples of how sustainability advocates are making their offices more energy efficient, or reducing waste and ultimately growing their organizations’ ability to make sustainable business choices.
The program has now been extended asking participating organizations to take the Smart Office Challenge — a toolkit aimed at helping companies educate employees about the environmental impacts associated with IT functions such as printing, PCs, data centres and more. The toolkit includes a green IT checklist, print responsibility challenge using eco-friendly supplies (i.e. recycled print cartridges and paper), power down audits and many more activities that will help drive energy and waste reduction efforts.
Sustainability programs are relatively new when compared to other corporate initiatives, so it doesn’t yet have a standard home within most large enterprises, let alone SMBs. It is important to find employees who know your business and are passionate about implementing sustainable practices and lowering the organization’s footprint. And once you find them – whether they are in legal, marketing, finance, operations or sales – empower them to take action.
2. Deploy sustainable technology
Speaking of IT, SMBs have numerous options when it comes to choosing technology that is energy efficient without sacrificing performance. For example, a newly released printing technology features a stationary print bar that spans the width of a page and prints in a single pass. With fewer moving parts and no fuser element needing to heat up, this technology uses less energy than many laser printers.
Beyond just buying printers that are designed with the environment in mind, businesses can save money and reduce paper waste with a few simple procedural steps.
For example, internal HP data has found that by turning two-sided (duplex) printing on by default, companies can save 25 to 50 per cent on paper waste, depending on the number of odd pages printed. Companies can also cut waste with pull printing where jobs are stored on the server, in the cloud and on networked printers until the authorized user is really ready to print them.
Managed print and device-as-a-service solutions also offer analytic capabilities that identify ways to reduce consumption. By some estimates, managed print services can help businesses reduce environmental impact by 20 to 40 per cent while trimming printing costs up to 30 per cent. And device-as-a-service programs allow vendors to responsibility manage PC and smart phone hardware at the end of its lifecycle.
3. Get suppliers and partners on-board
And finally, there’s nothing more embarrassing (and quite possibly damaging) than telling customers a brand is committed to sustainability and then finding out that’s not the case in the supply chain or partner ecosystem.
To really walk-the-walk, decide what constitutes a sustainable supplier or partner. Most major brands recognize the importance of doing this and view sustainability as core to their procurement processes. SMBs should follow suit.
At a minimum, articulate the company’s environmental commitment to every partner, however it might be worth going beyond that and giving them a challenge. After putting your business on the right track, invite your suppliers and partners to do the same by building sustainability criteria into every agreement you make with them.
The key takeaway here is to never do this alone. Finding the right allies both inside and outside of your organization will help your sustainability strategy succeed. At the end of the day, implementing a successful sustainability strategy is not only great for the community, but the businesses’ bottom-line.
Mary Ann Yule is the President of HP Canada.
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