Consumers around the world are increasingly demanding that the businesses they buy from behave in an environmentally friendly and ethical way. The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility found that 55% of global online consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from “green” companies and 41% of mid-market enterprises (MMEs) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) say their customers expect products that minimise environmental and social impacts. In the UK, over half of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are investing in sustainable policies and there is increasing pressure on the government to provide more support and incentives.
But what does being “environmentally friendly” mean and how does being environmentally friendly affect a business?
What Does an Environmentally-Friendly Business Look Like?
There are many words and phrases to do with sustainability that are often used interchangeably: environmentally friendly, green, eco-friendly, eco-conscious, etc. But what does it mean for a business to be environmentally friendly?
At their core, all of these phrases mean acting in a way that is not harmful to the environment. This includes using goods, services and policies that cause minimal harm to the earth or none at all. An environmentally friendly business will only use products that do not contribute to air, water or land pollution and it will avoid unnecessary waste and use resources with consideration for their impact on the earth.
What “environmentally friendly” means for one business may not be appropriate for another. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) provides companies with a framework for establishing an effective environmental management system. ISO 14001 is an internationally recognised certification that demonstrates a serious commitment to sustainable working practices. Employers can also conduct their own assessment to identify where they excel in eco-friendly practices and where there is room for improvement. Considerations might include, the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, waste reduction practices, green certifications, employee programmes and sustainability metrics.
Business Benefits of Becoming More Environmentally Friendly
Boost Your Brand
A recent survey commissioned by a consortium of fair trade and ethical fashion organisations found that the “vast majority” of consumers in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK take sustainability into account when choosing where to shop for everyday goods.
The public expects more information about what they are buying, where it comes from and how it is made, than ever before. Whether you run a hotel, a government organisation or a bank, flying the green flag will boost your brand’s reputation, increase competitive advantage and attract more customers.
Attract and Retain Top Talent
Employee “churn” or attrition, is one of the most resource-intensive and expensive costs for a business. When a valuable member of the team chooses to leave, the company must devote time and money to securing a suitable replacement — that means advertising for, recruiting and training someone new. Not to mention allowing for an initial period of low productivity as the new recruit gets up to speed.
According to a survey by international HR company, Adecco, 52% of employed adults feel that the companies they work for should be more environmentally friendly. “Millennials” are especially focussed on the issue of sustainability, with 40% saying they would accept a pay cut to work in an environmentally responsible company.
Investing in environmentally-friendly strategies can help businesses attract and retain the best talent. Replacing your old plastic bottle hungry water dispenser with Eshara Water’s high-quality atmospheric water generator is a quick, easy and cost-effective way to let your employees know you care about the environment.
Improve Productivity and Reduce Costs
Many business owners are apprehensive about implementing environmentally-friendly policies and procedures for fear of the impact on their bottom line. Sure, there may be some initial outlay for new equipment and the human resources required to draft policies and change workplace practice. However, many companies enjoy improved operational efficiencies after putting sustainable business practices in place.
When a business begins using resources more consciously, it not only reduces waste but almost inevitably leads to more streamlined processes, which means lower operational costs.
Compliance with Regulations and Legislation
Some companies may be frustrated by the lack of government information and incentives for implementing sustainable practices, but regulations and legislation on sustainability in business are growing. Why wait until the rules change to get your company in order?
Making your business more environmentally friendly now, will make sure you’re prepared for future changes in legislation that require a higher standard of sustainability. The government has committed to cut the UK’s net carbon emissions by 100% by 2050. Businesses will be required to comply with more stringent regulations and to assume a higher level of accountability in the years to come.
Improved Employee Wellbeing and Engagement
Environmentally-friendly products, services and practices are often more people-friendly, too. Providing water that is clean, filtered and tastes great will lead to a happier, healthier workforce. Using green cleaning products is likely to reduce the number of employees that experience unpleasant reactions.
Employees will also feel more invested in your company, which will enhance morale and improve loyalty. As more people expect their employers to implement sustainable working practices, providing them shows that you listen to the wishes of your staff and take action.