With increased customer awareness and consumer demand about the virtues of going green, getting your company to become more environmentally friendly is a winning strategy. But sustainable business practices are relatively new to many companies. The most common question I get is: “Where do I start?”
There is no direct “green path” laid out for businesses to follow, which means the chances of taking a wrong turn are high. Yet the good news is that with no set roadmap to sustainability, there are many places to begin.
Companies choose to go green for several reasons: environmental concerns, shareholder or public pressure, cost cutting opportunities, corporate image, and regulatory requirements. Many leading retailers understand environmental and social responsibility and take responsibility to create a green vision. This vision is typically linked to driving business value.
Begin with a vision
Sustainability is central to corporate social responsibility. However, businesses leaders understand that sustainability must ultimately link to business value. After all, altruism serves no business purpose in a vacuum. It needs to support the bottom line.
And as the old saying goes, you cannot manage what you can’t measure. So start by determining your current carbon footprint using standard reporting measures such as the Global Reporting Initiative; then apply scenario-based modeling to help decide what green priorities to tackle first. For most corporations, determining sustainable measurement strategies are is a long journey, not a weekend retreat.
Many retailers have found that store design, packaging and the supply chain – including transportation – offer the biggest opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint. Other areas to investigate are marketing (save trees by sending out flyers only to customers profiled as most likely to respond), and IT (optimize your data centre to use fewer servers, which saves on both power and cooling costs).
Once the corporate sustainability vision is in place you will need a green champion – a leader who can work across the whole organization with executive support, and with a goal of integrating green into every facet of the business. This person will lead the charge internally, pushing for greener practices and policies by communicating the benefits of sustainability to everyone in the organization: merchandising, logistics and operations.
It’s important to have employees onside, so finding innovative ways to recognize and reward green accomplishments at the individual, departmental, and organizational levels will inspire everyone to bring forward their ideas and enthusiasm. In review, here’s how to determine and begin moving on Your Vision:
- Understand that sustainability must ultimately link to business value.
- You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Determine your current carbon footprint using standard reporting measures such as the Global Reporting Initiative.
- Set some targets. This could be anything from reducing your energy consumption by 10% to getting more employees to take public transit to work.
- Once the vision is in place you will need a green champion who can work across the whole organization with executive support.
- Think outside the box. As the following list shows, there are literally dozens of ways to reduce a company’s environmental footprint.
After you’ve created and shared your vision, it’s time to start making changes. Over the next few days, I’ll lay out a Green Enterprise Checklist to help you identify specific areas to create a greener business. We’ll cover each of the following fourive areas in more detail, determining ways to minimize your company’s ecological footprint while navigating the road to sustainability:
Step 1: Create the vision
Step 2: Evaluate your operations
Step 3: Evaluate your merchandise
Step 4: Evaluate your supplies
Step 6: Evaluate your People
Since I am a Retail Solutions Specialist with SAS Canada, these posts will be addressing important areas for retailers, and I’ll be providing links to Canadian resources. However, I encourage readers in other industries and other regions around the world to read along as well. It is my hope that everyone will find inspiration – or at least a few good ideas – from the lists that will follow.