Sustainability is about more than the project you are working on; it’s the way you impact the community you’re working in and the people you work with. Client demands and public expectations are shifting toward greener and more efficient buildings and companies. Demonstrating that you can address these concerns will give you a real advantage over those who can’t.
How you green your business is a decision you need to make just like any other. Greening is above all else a chance to renew your business. It is a chance to step away from old habits and to reinvest in your business. You can make green a part of your brand and use it to identify yourself as a green business. You can make green part of your business by taking it on as something you do but not who you are.
You have to find a balance. Green business is a way of doing business, not an accreditation. What you do to green your business is up to you. There are compelling arguments to green business and improving your bottom line is one of the strongest. No matter which argument tips the scales, the end result should be the same; a greener, less environmentally impactful business that runs smoother and more efficiently.
Here are some resources to help you get there; we will update this section as often as possible.
Make a Green Action Plan
When doing this exercise, try not to consider the cost of any changes, think about that later. Right now concentrate on why you want to go green and where you see opportunities to make greener choices. Don’t sort or edit your list while making it, just take ten minutes (set a timer) and write down everything that comes to mind. e.g. Bio fuels, solar heat and power, wind power, high efficiency lighting, recycled paper products, hybrid vehicles, anything. Imagine that you had all the resources you could need to make these changes. Shoot the moon with your ideas. Start by making 3 lists.
- Your reasons for greening your business?
- What you see as benefits to going green?
- What do you want or think you could do to green in your business?
Look at all aspects of your business from pens and paper, travel and commuting, to electricity and water use.
Put the list away and look at it first thing tomorrow morning before you start to do any other reading or writing, newspapers included. Make sure you set time aside to look at this again. When get back to your list if you have some new ideas, add them to the list. Your brain has had since yesterday to churn away at these ideas.
Take a look at what you’ve written down and sort under headings appropriate to your business. If you wrote down biofuels, hybrid vehicles and idle reduction list those under a heading like vehicle or fleets operations. If you wrote down recycled paper, paperless office, eco friendly printing, or paper recycling put that under Office or Consumables. Pick headings that mean something to you and your business. With your ideas sorted under some headings, imagine that you had 60% of the resources you need to complete your green changes.
Prioritize each list starting with what you see as the easiest to change and/or the changes you could make the soonest. Try not to remove anything from your lists. Changes like higher efficiency lighting and heating controls (thermostats), shutting off all lights, computers and devices at the end of the day and double sided printing should go near, if not right at the top. Changes like electric vehicles or 100% solar power you may want to put further down the list.
Re-title as Draft Green Action plan.
Ways to Reduce Paper Waste
When greening your business, paper is the first thing that comes to mind. Reducing your paper use will save you money and help save the environment.
How does using less paper save the environment? Reducing your paper costs will reduce more than just your overhead costs. The full life cycle of a sheet of paper is energy and material intensive. There’s more in your paper than just trees. A lower demand for virgin fibres (fibres that come from newly harvested trees) will mean that fewer trees are harvested; less fuel is burned in harvesting and transport equipment. This results in fewer habitats being disrupted. A reduced demand means production requires less energy, reducing the full cost of breaking down fibres and reducing the cost to the consumer. Fewer chemicals are used and in lower concentrations further reducing the impact on the environment from waste water discharge. Less potable water is used for something other than drinking or food crops helping to ensure greater food and resource security in Canada. The savings that result from a lower demand aren’t just in your wallet or your trash bin.
Why is recycled content so important and what are virgin fibres? Virgin fibre comes from freshly harvested trees. They are used mostly in disposable paper products like toilet paper, paper towels, plates and cups as they aren’t required to contain a certain level of recycled content like print paper. The products that typically contain the highest level of virgin fibres (toilet paper, paper towel) are more difficult to recover and recycle mostly because they require a lot more processing. Coffee cups and paper plates tend to be coated in wax or similar treatment requiring high heat to break them down. Toilet paper and paper towel end up in the trash or down the drain making sorting a difficult job. Using disposable paper products that contain a high level of recycled content reduces the demand for virgin fibres freeing up that fibre for high quality paper products like printing and photographic paper. Worries about single-use paper products being less comfortable is an old one. These products have come a long way from the rough or coarse texture we may associate with them. Products like recycled toilet paper or paper towel still have a higher cost but we are past the tipping point. Many of the companies that produce these products have been around for a few years, consumer demand has gone up and production costs are starting to drop making them increasingly affordable. Recycled toilet paper is not as sexy as a bio-diesel hybrid full ton truck but it’s no less important. Unlike the bathroom not everyone involved in your business will use that truck. Saving on paper use is relatively straight forward although it can take some time. Identify what paper products you use in your business, do some research into what other products are available. The best way to do this is to talk to you suppliers, tell them what you want and what you are trying to do. If they’re worth their weight they’ll keep their eyes open for you. With more of their clients asking for greener products the greater number of products will be available and the faster the price will drop.
Ways to save: In the mean time here are a few ways to save on your paper use and start to green your business.
- Purchase products with a high level of post consumer content.
- Buy in bulk to reduce packaging.
- Print only what you need. Things like final drafts or documents for your records. Accounting departments are the most difficult to reduce paper use because of required record keeping. When you do print, print on both sides. Reuse single sided documents from your recycle bin for quick printing and draft copies for editing.
- Email, instant message, or use a USB memory stick to move documents you’re working on to the people or places they need to go. A $30 memory stick could save you $300 in paper.
- Use paper codes for printing in your office. Print codes let you track who is printing what and how much. Create some incentive in your office by offering prizes to the group who uses the least amount of paper or that can reduce their printing the most.
- Switch to paperless faxing. Check with your system administrator, equipment manufacturer and software provider if it’s an option. If it isn’t keep it in mind when you upgrade your equipment.
- Make a reusable cover sheet for faxing. Laminate a standard fax cover sheet with your info on it then use an erasable marker or removable labels to add your recipient’s info.
- Get your printer cartridges refilled instead of replaced. Although this isn’t a paper use issue, it takes a gallon of oil to make a single cartridge. Check with your manufacturer to see if they have an extended producer care program.
Where can I buy green? Major supply stores often have greener choices; unfortunately they may not carry green options that fulfill all your needs. Here are some online resources to find greener office products.
Reduce Electricity Usage
Electrical use isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about environmental efforts, but there are some things to keep in mind about electricity and how we use it. Electrical use is the easiest and quickest areas to green. Switching to high efficiency products, appliances and policies will impact not only reducing your carbon footprint but your utility bills.
Incandescent bulbs are a century old technology; the fundamental technology has not changed since its creation. Incandescent bulbs are 95% inefficient, only 5% of the energy put into the bulb is converted to light almost everything else is lost as heat energy. Halogen bulbs are higher in efficiency with more electrical energy converted into light energy, however while halogen bulbs produce more light they have relatively higher wattage ratings than a CFL, meaning they consume almost as much electricity. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) have quickly become common place. The high level of efficiency and long life made them extremely attractive to everyone. CFLs last on average 3 times as long as an incandescent bulb. The most obvious benefit is that you only have to replace lighting a third as often as before. The environmental benefit is that you are producing a third the waste from base material extraction, transportation costs of materials and product, packaging and waste when the bulb stops working. They now come in a wide range of sizes, styles, colors and color temperature (cool, warm, daylight). The best thing about CFL lighting is that it uses on average a fifth the electricity as traditional lighting. There is some worry about the mercury content of CFL lights. The mercury content is extremely low, it is actually a trace amount left from the manufacturing process. CFL can be recycled. Check the product care information on the package or BC Hydro’s website.
Energy Saving Settings and Vampire Power
Energy saving features and setting are available on most technology. Refer to your equipment manual, supplier/vendor or manufacturer to find out how to turn them on. Most office equipment will continue to draw power even when inactive or in stand by. Printers, photocopiers, fax machines, computers, shredders or anything that is plugged into an outlet if completely switched off or unplugged will continue to draw power. Decide how these devices are used and develop a plan based on their use. You plan can include things like go to standby mode after 20 minutes or turn them off at the end of the day. The continual power draw is sometimes referred to as vampire power. Devices that sit in a stand by mode keep drawing power. You computer monitor is a good example, if not switched off it will go into a “power save mode”. The monitor is still on and drawing power but at a reduced rate. It’s like having a dimmer switch. Chargers are a major culprit of vampire power. Even when not charging but left plugged in to the outlet they will continue to draw power.
Computers use a surprising amount of electricity. The average desktop and monitor during normal operation consume, on average, 150 watts of electricity and while in suspend or standby mode still consumes around 30 watts of electricity. If you are using a CRT monitor the average consumption increases to about 180 watts. Screen savers will not save power. Screen savers were developed to prevent screen burning. Screen burning happens when an image or screen is displayed without change on a monitor for an extended amount of time. When you change the screen or switch the monitor off the burned image remains visible. The best option is to switch it off, even if you are going away for 20 minutes. If you aren’t using a computer or are leaving for the day shut it down and switch it off. You wouldn’t leave the light on in your office why leave your computer on? Check with your system administrator before you institute a policy like this, they may tell you that some computers need to be left on all the time. Servers and telephone equipment generally needs to be left on all the time. When it comes time to upgrade computer equipment keep the electricity use in mind. More companies are offering “green IT” or equipment that uses less energy, in some cases they will have simplified cases further reducing the energy intensity of the product. Be sure to check technical information and compare against other none “green” options to verify claims.
Net metering is being offered by BC Hydro. It allows for your power meter to run both ways. Net metering is for people, business and organization that are generating their own power. If you have photovoltaic (solar) or wind generation attached to your place of business to generate a portion of your electrical use you probably have net metering. There are still incentives available from both the federal government’s EcoEnergy program and from the Live Smart program from the BC government. Using Net Metering you will save on your power bill (potentially earning some money) and contribute to renewable energy through your purchase and efforts.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility?
A Corporate Social Responsibility code or CSR is part management tool, part promotional tool, and part decision making framework. CSRs go by many names including: corporate governance, triple bottom line, corporate responsibility, corporate citizenship and corporate ethics, to name a few. While at first glance a CSR looks only like a PR tool, incorporating a CSR into your organization can provide a real competitive advantage by streamlining your corporate decision making, increasing operational transparency, reduce risks and build on your organizations social capital. CSRs can define your organizations relationships by informing others of what your organization is about and what they can expect from you. CSRs are about relating your social and environmental performance directly to your financial performance. Developing a CSR is relatively straight forward; you decide what to include and what it will mean to your business.
Take a few minutes and ask yourself these five questions:
What are your company’s values and goals? Decide what else affects your decision making other than your bottom line.
Who are your key stakeholders, not just your shareholders? List all the groups who affect your decision making and are affected by your decisions.
What strengths and weakness are there in your corporate decision making process? Look to issues that leave you saying “I don’t know.”
How do you relate your business’ goals, your organizational values and your operational practices to your financial performance? What values and practices directly impact your bottom line?
How do your social and environmental performances affect your financial performance? How do your hiring policies, community involvement, and environmental practices impact your bottom line?
Why should you have a CSR Statement?
CSRs can be an avenue to correcting behaviour or to making business more sustainable. CSRs are about developing Social Capital and are a valuable and real way of saying what your doing and doing what you say. They state in plain language what an organization, company, business, or corporate entity believes in and strives for. CSRs show what stakeholders can expect from you and what you expect from stakeholders. CSRs are fundamentally a strategic tool for medium to long term planning and success. Corporate Social Responsibility codes incorporate the idea of the Triple Bottom Line. The Triple Bottom Line represents equal consideration to People, the Planet and Profit; relating all three to each other and showing that each one is dependant on the other two. Social Capital is the goal of adopting a CSR, which means strengthening the social connection and interdependencies of the public with private business through increased dialog and considerations for both sides of the relationship. Public expectation for companies to operate responsibly means business will have to be able to demonstrate and document their social and environmental activities particularly when dealing with the public sector. Contracts may be awarded to companies that have adopted a CSR over one that has not even without the requirement of having one. Being able to demonstrate and document your relationship to your community can create a real advantage. Given the choice between two similar companies, the decision may come down to who will be a greater positive influence on the project or who has a stronger connection to their community.
Who has a CSR?
Many companies have a CSR, in fact the majority of them have incorporated them as part of the core of their business. CSRs are more than just transparent operations and community involvement. CSRs can ensure the long term sustainability of a community, even after you’ve finished doing business there. Take a look at what some other companies in Canada are doing with their CSR:Toyota, Weyerhaeuser, Telus, VanCity, Barrick, Industry Canada.
Emission and idle time calculator
Knowing the size your carbon footprint is the first step in accounting for it and managing it. Your vehicle and equipment emissions are a significant portion of your total footprint. Discussions about offsetting, emissions, carbon trading or the cost of carbon won’t mean much until you can attach a number to your carbon footprint and dollar value to that number. Contracted sources of emissions, like construction work or transport, must be included in emission reporting. So even if your organization does not have reporting requirements, the organization that has contracted your services may. Being able to quantify your emissions and include that in your bid for projects may give you a competitive advantage. Green Fleets BC has developed simple tools to do just that; BCCA has partnered with Green Fleets to bring our member those tools. Vehicle and equipment emissions do not represent your entire carbon footprint (or GHG Inventory) but know the volume of your emissions will give you a clear idea of what kind of costs may be attached to your emission in the very near future. The BC carbon tax is only a first step; it will apply to everyone, even those not directly affect by cap and trade system still in development.
The single fuel calculator determines your emissions based on volume of fuel used. So if you are using 10,000 litres of diesel you emission will equal 34.89 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide. Idle reduction is a simple and effective way to reduce your emissions and save on your fuel bill. This download from the E3 Fleet Rating system will give you a dollar value to the time spent idling your vehicle or equipment. This calculator is a simple and easy to use Excel spreadsheet. Use the Multi-Fuel Emissions Calculator.
*E3 Fleet Rating system Excel document
*Emissions Calculator as member login wall