What is the business cost of going green?
In today’s society most of us are becoming more environmentally conscious, particularly in our personal lives. If the adoption of greener habits and practices are going to accelerate then we need to see more green initiatives in business.
The larger organizations and the public sector often have the resources to appoint a green “Tsar”. However, for most small to medium business, green often is tagged with a perception of additional cost which is clearly not popular in these more austere times.
Personally, I think taking a greener approach is not about making massive wholesale changes; it’s about evolution not revolution as the saying goes. Here are some simple examples :
Don’t Write Off The Paperless Office
The paperless office is a slightly tired phrase and fundamentally it is often perceived as flawed; people just love to print stuff off, don’t they? However, is it achievable in parts. There are examples of organizations who have successfully eliminated unnecessary paper waste in their organization by digitizing key business processes, such as the mail room, accounts payable, expenses. This takes away the need for people print and sign physical documents and helping to change habits.
Think about your own organization and how many paper based systems you still
use; holiday forms, purchase order sign-off, invoice sign off, expenses, just to name a few. I bet you can also come up with half a dozen significant issues associated with these
processes that impact the costs in your business as well. These are often exacerbated when your business is spread over multiple offices.
Then, consider the impact of managing these processes electronically or digitally. Other than the important role of eliminating waste there are some pretty significant advantages for businesses taking this approach, improved productivity, less errors, less staff time to manage the processes and less cost. I would also suggest that in most cases the benefits are measurable.
In the past this kind of automation has been the preserve of large corporates with huge IT budgets, but these days with the maturing of cloud based computing and software as service (SaaS) the cost of deployment and cost of ownership are significantly reduced.
A purist may say that there is still a green cost to running the IT equipment and my argument would be – fine – I agree. However, we cannot operate a business today without IT and suspect in most cases the incremental service cost and carbon footprint required to make these changes are significantly less the storing and shipping around unnecessary paper based files.
For instance, if you need, but don’t have high speed scanning equipment then don’t bother going out and buying more expensive equipment. Use a specialist service provider who has already made that investment. In most cases the equipment used by one of these specialist providers are significantly more superior than the equipment most of us would be able to purchase.
My suggestion – start with something small and very achievable.
Working From Home
The average worker spends 140 hours a year commuting to work and back. That’s 3 to 4 weeks a year. Most of this is by car and some by train.
Over 750,000 people commute into central London daily.
I am not sure what the carbon cost is for these kinds of figures, but I bet it’s substantial. Again, technology plays a part allowing people to work remotely and collaborate. Sure, there are some jobs that will simply never allow people to work from home.
The trend for home working is traditionally associated with sales and call centers. However, what about your administrative staff? Do they really need to be in the office? If you don’t adopt the philosophy of the paperless office this could be difficult. Also, working from home 5 days a week for some staff members could be impractical. What about offering it as a benefit? Allowing staff to work from home 1 or 2 days a week on a rotation may work for your office. It is well documented that staff that work from home are often more content, more organized and more productive and they take less sick time!
As a business you have to be organized. If your accounts payable clerk works from home a couple of days a week you have make a point of scanning the post every morning and delivering the post by electronic means. You don’t have to be in the office., there are a plethora of affordable document management tools available in the market place today that would work.
Not only do you have more content staff but you have more effective staff and just think of the carbon saving that could be achieved through simply reducing the amount of commuting time.
I believe the green price tag is a myth and I also think there are so many things that we can do that are simple, achievable, practical and cost-effective, but many of us miss these opportunities through this common misconception. If you need to reduce your office budget and have been looking at ways to eliminate unnecessary cost; then take this opportunity for change try taking a greener view.