There are many steps you can take to become an environmentally sustainable business, but eco-friendly businesses aren't created overnight. It often takes several steps and a variety of changes to reach total sustainability and zero waste. Some of the steps you may need to take to transform your business to an eco-friendly model may cost some money in the beginning, but the initial investment can be well worth the price.
Here are five successful eco-friendly companies you may wish to study to learn about the steps you can take to increase the sustainability of your small business. Some of these companies are still working on their environmental initiatives, and some are considered giant, multinational corporations. Environmentally friendly businesses come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
1. Seventh Generation
The highly environmentally-conscious company Seventh Generation was founded in 1988 and has become an industry leader in selling environmentally responsible products while also engaging in deliberate practices to maintain sustainability within the company. They sell products like biodegradable cleaning products, chlorine-free tampons, and various natural products.
One of the most interesting ways the company seeks out environmentally sustainable practices is with its employee bonus program. According to Forbes:
"The company has an employee bonus program that awards workers who figure out ways to make the company’s wares even more sustainable."
Outside of employee-led initiatives and its eco-friendly products, the company also works to ensure virtually every facet of its company is run in a responsible manner. For example, its offices are housed in LEED-certified buildings, and many of the vehicles driven by employees are low-emission cars. During manufacturing, at least a quarter of the energy used comes from renewable sources.
Seventh Generation is an excellent example of an eco-friendly company because it operates in an environmentally sound manner, sells eco-friendly products, and is always looking for additional ways to increase the sustainability of its business practices. An eco-friendly business owner is never satisfied with current operations. He or she is always looking for more ways to boost green practices.
Like Seventh Generation, Method is also in the business of selling environmentally responsible products. The San Francisco-based company had a unique goal in that they wanted to sell effective and eco-friendly cleaners that were also aesthetically pleasing to buyers. They're the company responsible for the classy teardrop-shaped bottles of hand soap.
The official website for Method shares their company goals, which all revolve around green practices, environmental sustainability, and a conscious effort to sustain the planet's health for future generations. Some of Method's goals include:
- Using corporate profits for social and environmental good
- Considering how decisions today will impact the future
- Creating product lines that are safe to use around pets
- Taking steps to lower carbon emissions
- Engaging in green supply chain practices
- Sourcing ingredients and manufacturing responsibly
Method is a stand-out example of an eco-friendly business because its green practices impact many facets of its business. It's not just the products the company sells, but the operations of the company that strive to reach environmentally-friendly status.
In 2007, Google launched an initiative to transform renewable energy from a cost that was more than coal than one that was more affordable. The company invested in a variety of companies that would help move its supply chain into a more eco-friendly place. For example, the company invested in green energy options for its data centers and has invested more than $850 million in developing renewable energy technologies.
Engaging in green practices regarding supply chain management isn't a walk in the park because it's a process that impacts many levels of business operations. It's much more complicated than putting a few recycling bins in the office or asking customers to bring their own bags for shopping. It takes planning, money, and change.
Aabaco Small Business shares:
"Undoubtedly going green is a great move for a consumer facing company. But there are problems that need to be addressed further down a value-chain you go. And these problems can be a plethora of items including a level of uncertainty regarding: market position, stakeholders concerns, and change."
One of the biggest concerns regarding green supply chain practices is the additional cost of implementing the practices required to fully "go green." If you're the owner of a small business, the cost could seem prohibitive, but switching to eco-friendly supply chain practices at an early point in your company's development is the most affordable time to make such changes.
4. New Belgium Brewing
Based in Fort Collins, CO, this brewing company boasts a large share of the country's craft brewing sales. The brewery was founded in 1991 by a former social worker, and its environmentally-friendly processes impact all facets of the production process. Not only does the company monitor all the energy it uses, but it also keeps a record of waste, emissions, and recycling connected with its manufacturing.
The company recycles a significant portion of its waste and also engage in a healthy composing program. To top it off, the company even has a Prius available for employees to make local errands, as well as bikes that employees can use while at work. The company is also a benefit to the local economy since it's employee-owned and has revenues that exceed $180 million each year.
According to Terrain.org, the company's owners would drive even less than they do (they do a lot of biking) if it was convenient to drive their child to school on a bicycle. The owners also had a recent staff meeting where they posed the question to employees about an investment in wind technology:
"At a recent staff meeting of owners and owner-employees, Jeff made a proposal to the group. What did they think of the idea of meeting the facility's entire electrical needs with wind power? He explained that the company would have to pay a premium for the power, and that the expense would come out of the company's profits, possibly affecting employee owner-wages."
It didn't take long for the group to agree that moving toward wind power, even at the expense of some profits, was the right thing to do.
With more than a half-billion in sales each year, Patagonia employs more than 1,300 people and has been in business for more than four decades. The company uses the term "environmentally preferred" to describe its high-end outdoor equipment, and the term means that materials are recycled, organic, or environmentally-friendly in some way.
The company was one of the early leaders in environmentally-friendly practices when it suggested that climbers utilize environmentally-friendly equipment instead of devices called pitons, which were damaging to rock. Additionally, the company began a practice in the 1980s of donating money each year to groups engaged in environmental preservation efforts.
Even further on the scale of eco-friendly is the company's offer to all of its employees to take two months off each year with full pay to spend time with an environmental organization.
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