Managing a green business makes good economic sense; by focusing on eliminating waste in all systems and processes of an organization significant small changes can be made to contribute to a healthier workplace and healthier planet. There are so many different kinds of workplace that it’s hard to make environmentally helpful suggestions that apply across the board. However, there are common elements, most of which relate to administrative tasks, water and energy consumption. A green image is seen as key to future business success; consumers favor a company that demonstrates its commitment to protect environmental resources, ensure the well-being of both employees and suppliers and is constantly revising its approaches to make them more aligned with reducing the world’s carbon footprint. According to Chris Zane (Reinventing The Wheel: The Science of Creating Lifetime Customers, 2011), “If you can shift your thinking away from merely selling and into building trust instead, even if it costs you a few bucks in profit, you’ll begin to see opportunities you never imagined once you understand what it means to ‘wow’ that customer by giving them more than they expected.”
The first step to greening your business is to conduct an environmental audit of the business. Take a good look at the equipment used, the way people work, purchases made, and overall wastage. No matter how small your business is you will have activities, areas or products that have an environmental impact, including lighting, heating, cooling, cleaning materials, office consumables, and equipment. However, greening your business is a long-term commitment to enter into the process of continually moving in a new and sustainable direction. Adopting the “Kaizen” mindset (a Japanese business strategy of gradual, orderly, continuous improvement that involves everyone within the organization) will smooth the progress of putting your business on the path to sustainability and provide the flexibility to thrive in the long term. Management should encourage employees to make suggestions to enhance their job and the work environment. The Kaizen business strategy begins and ends with people: it affects the entire company culture, promotes open communication, continual change, teamwork, and taking personal responsibility for day-to-day procedures. Although team-building skills are important in a Kaizen mindset, getting input from every employee is what makes the strategy effective. Not a single day should go by without some kind of improvement being made somewhere in the company.
Make it easy for employees to change some work practices. For example, the computer age brought with it the potential for a paperless office yet some people still prefer hard copies of documents for storage or legal reasons; paper represents more than 70% of all the waste produced by offices. Encourage employees to take public transport instead of driving or to car pool where possible. Initiate a smoke-free policy to make sure workers’ health is not compromised; choose an area that’s away from doors, windows and other sources of fresh air to allocate a smoke area outdoors if possible. Once you have new “green” systems in place, you need to put up signs or posters to constantly remind employees how to reduce, re-use and recycle, and not to leave equipment on permanent stand-by.
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