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January 24, 2017

Three Ways Companies Can Improve Sustainability

We are heading towards a greener future. The price of solar energy is dropping. New wind farms are completed every year. The amount of attention paid to global warming continues to increase, and the recently ratified Paris Agreement is a testament to the fact that people want to live in a more sustainable society. As the prices of renewable energy continue to drop, eventually they will not just become cost-competitive with oil and natural gas, but they will become cheaper.

Yet there is reason to pursue sustainability prior to that day. On one hand, sustainability saves companies money. Properly insulated buildings require less energy to regulate temperature, meaning lower electric bills. Reducing waste means lower costs of disposal and often lower costs of the acquisition of raw goods. On the other hand, customers are actually willing to pay a premium for sustainable products. Nearly 66 percent of consumers said that they would pay more for green products, and it’s worth noting that younger generations had even higher percentages.

All of the evidence points to the fact that pursuing sustainability is a savvy business decision; yet, despite there being a plethora of green business strategies out there, many companies either don’t have a clear sustainability plan or lack any sort of policy altogether. Here are three easy ways companies can improve sustainability:

1. Let employees work from home.

Many employers fear that if their employees work from home, they’ll sit around on the couch all day in their pajamas and not get any work done. In fact, the opposite is true. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that remote workers are actually more productive than their in-office counterparts. Not only does allowing employees to work remotely let businesses have smaller offices and use fewer supplies, but remote work also keeps more cars off the road because those employees don’t have to commute to the office. One study found that if employees worked remotely just half the time, 54 million tons of greenhouse gases emitted by commuting cars would be gone—this is equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road for a year. Plus, with massively successful startups like Toptal embracing remote work to the point where it doesn’t even have an office anywhere in the world, there is proof that remote work can work in a company’s favor.

2. Update the office.

It’s true that not every business can go office-free, but that’s no excuse to let the office building itself become outdated. It takes investment up front, but revamping an office to boost its energy efficiency can save dividends in the long run. Installing energy-efficient light bulbs is a simple yet effective way to reduce the building’s overhead. While the bulbs themselves are expensive, they are anywhere from 25-80 percent more energy efficient than traditional light bulbs. Similarly, making sure the office is properly insulated will help ensure that it can regulate temperature with minimal energy. Finally, getting LEED certified is a worthy goal for any office building and can help businesses aspiring to reach sustainability understand the bars that need to be met.

3. Go transparent.

One of the most important steps that companies can take towards improving sustainability is creating transparency around their initiatives. Not only does this type of transparency ensure that every employee is aware of and on board with new practices, but making sustainable policies public holds the company accountable for them. If no one knows how many pounds of emitted GHG gases a company wants to remove from its pipeline, then it’s easy for a business to slide on those numbers and not meet its goals—because let’s be clear about one thing: sustainability isn’t easy to achieve. Change within a company is difficult to produce. However, transparency pushes a company to meet the goals it sets. Plus, this clarity of policy has one additional benefit: it encourages other companies to become sustainable too. Sustainability is a worldwide movement, and the more businesses that come forward with sustainability as a priority, the faster the world becomes a green economy.

There are all kinds of ways for businesses to become more sustainable, whether it’s one of the options above or even taking such simple actions as going paperless or turning off all appliances before leaving the office at the end of the day. Becoming sustainable isn’t an easy transition for companies, but it’s in their interest to make that change sooner rather than later. After all, sustainable business doesn’t just refer to a business that impacts the environment in a sustainable model; it also refers to a business that is sustainable in the long-term.

Edited by Alicia Young

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