Since the 1990s, the idea of “greening” institutions has been at the forefront of discussion. Conversations about sustainability have centered on the need to protect the environment and save the planet's capacity for sustaining human life. There is also a compelling business case for ensuring a sustainable workforce and moving to make your office environment as sustainable as possible, and for new start-ups this can be considered during the initial phase of planning the business.
There are several things one can do to make a business more environmentally friendly and these mainly revolve around the reduction of waste and the wholehearted embrace of recycling initiatives. Although the move to the “paperless office” has been a long time coming – and still seems a long way off completion as overflowing waste paper bins will attest – it always pays to use as little paper as possible and to recycle as much of it as is practical. The increase in cloud-based IT and telecoms has also been a boost for this, and the business advantages are clear.
It's all about cutting costs. While many enterprises were initially suspicious of a move to a more sustainable way of doing business, the savings available have changed most minds. Using less paper means buying less paper, for instance – and of course the same applies to other resources such as heating, lighting and water. The savings will show up on your balance sheet and speak for themselves.
There's more to sustainability than just cutting expenditure, though. The concept is a broad one and encompasses such things as the development of sustainable long-term trading structures that do not damage the environment they rely upon, and “corporate sustainability”, where business practices themselves have a neutral or positive impact on society and the environment.
The business advantages of practices such as these are that they attract savvy investment, with an eye on the long game. Investors are increasingly keen to support enterprises that have a low carbon footprint and a good public image thanks to its positive social and environmental actions. The other advantage is increased competitiveness, both by integrating compliance with local or national environmental regulations, and by the increased profits that come from innovating new products and developing new markets.