“How do you make your business sustainable?”
I get asked a lot about how and why I chose to make my law firm environmentally sustainable.
Everyone defines sustainability differently and will have different ideas of what constitutes sustainable business practices. For some, simply recycling paper suffices. For others, if you’re not composting your office’s coffee grounds, you might as well be using plastic straws.
The truth is, there’s a wide range of sustainable practices businesses can adopt and the landscape is ever evolving. I define sustainability as doing the best you can to minimize your business’ environmental footprint, using technology to reduce waste and being open to new ways of doing things.
Getting started in even the smallest ways can lead to unexpected positive results: converting to more sustainable office practices improves employees’ perceptions of their job and their employer. Everyone wants to work for environmentally friendly companies (especially millennials). Greater workplace satisfaction has a host of benefits to employers – greater employee retention, productivity and efficiency. Another added bonus to adding these practices – your employees’ health! Multiple studies have shown that businesses that focus on environmentally-friendly practices see improvements in their workforce’s mental and physical well-being.
The below is by no means an exhaustive list – you could spend days going down that rabbit hole – but it’s something to get you started:
1. GO PAPERLESS
This is an obvious one, but it seriously makes an impact. It’s estimated that for every employee that goes paperless, 938 GALLONS of water are saved per year. How does one make their office paperless? Start by digitizing the paper documents you already have (and recycling the originals!), then going forward, use paperless invoices, create automated forms and workflows, email instead of fax, use only two-sided printing (and only when absolutely needed), etc. There are a host of practices here to get you going.
2. WORK FROM HOME
Employees allowed opportunities to work from home (even if it’s just one day a week) save more than just gas money. Working from home reduces carbon emissions, in addition to reducing the amount of breakroom fare consumed (organic oat milk isn’t cheap). When I’m not in the courtroom or the office, I like to work from home, challenging myself not use my car that entire day (yes, I walk to get my organic oat milk). With all of the new ways that telecommuting has been made easier (and information more secure), adopting a policy allowing your employees to work remotely makes sense – for your bottom line, for the environment and for employee happiness.
3. GET THAT GREEN (ENERGY)
To the extent possible, energize your business using renewable energy sources. Not only will this lower your environmental footprint, it will save you money on electric bills and possibly taxes. There are a number of states that offer tax incentives to businesses who use more renewable energy, e.g. Florida offers a sales tax exemption to companies using solar. The federal government also offers tax incentives to companies using green energy sources.
Is this an exclusive list of everything you need to do to make your business sustainable? Of course not. New technologies and practices are constantly creating new ways to lower your business’ environmental impact. We just have to stay curious and be open to using those technologies and practices as they become available.
With that, I’ll end with the same question I was asked – how do you make your business sustainable?