In operating your own business, determining your “return on investment” is always top of mind when making decisions. One big decision for your company is whether to implement green initiatives, and that includes everything from reducing energy consumption to wasting less paper.

When considering the decision to “go green,” look at both the short and long term results of green initiatives and, chances are, you’ll discover a number of benefits.

Those benefits go well beyond feeling good about helping the environment. They also directly impact your business, both in terms of reducing your operational costs, as well as streamlining your processes by making them more efficient.

Before you implement your new green plan, you’ll also have the chance to assess how your company is currently performing and audit where all your money is being spent. That way, you can make the best adjustments possible when you enact your green plan.

Want to know exactly how going green can benefit your business? Keep reading.

Economic Benefits

Other than decreasing your business’s impact on the environment, one of the biggest benefits of implementing green initiatives is cutting costs, particularly in regards to energy consumption. In addition to cutting your utility costs, it’s also quite possible to cut down on the costs of transportation, water, waste disposal, and paper.

Of course, your biggest savings in these areas will depend on the kind of company you operate. Those with manufacturing plants might find the most savings come from altering their waste disposal plans, but this can be difficult to change if they handle multiple chemicals every day, which often require strict and limited disposal options.

On the other hand, a business like a restaurant may optimize their cost savings by sourcing ingredients locally, which can not only help the environment, but also maximize efficiency. After all, it’s more efficient to get ingredients from a local market rather than placing orders and waiting for food deliveries.

While there are many economic benefits to implementing green initiatives, there are a few costs as well. For instance, if you decide to start using solar power to provide some of your company’s energy, there will be an upfront cost to get an estimate for the solar panels, get them installed, and ensure they’re working properly—and it’s not cheap. In the long run, you’ll probably save money on your energy bills, but it may not be a savings you see right away.

The Pros and Cons

Here’s a quick look at some of the pros and cons, from an economic standpoint, of going green:

Pros:

  • Buying local can be cheaper than importing, plus you are helping the environment by reducing the fuel needed to bring something from far away to your company.
  • You may be able to get grants and other incentives for taking your company green, which can put money back in your pocket.
  • Going paperless can save lots of money on the printing out of documents.

Cons:

  • Alternative fuel sources can be expensive. While wind power, for example, is better for the environment than fuel provided by coal, it’s simply not cost-effective for most businesses.
  • If you own a small business, you may not be able to negotiate the favorable deals on green energy that bigger companies can facilitate.
  • Going paperless means everything is saved on your company’s computers. If they are damaged or stolen, it could cost you a lot of money to reconstruct those records, and you could be out even more money if the lack of documents leads to less reimbursement from the insurance company.

In the end, sometimes a greater economic cost can be worth it, if it’s going to win you long-term benefits or the goodwill of customers. Remember, green initiatives are not always about the bottom line, but about helping your company do the right thing.

Brand Recognition

“Going green” is a big trend right now, and it’s not going anywhere. Draw up a social responsibility statement that you can disseminate to your employees, post on your website, and use in your marketing.

With your marketing plans in particular, you can stress your dedication to green initiatives, and that in itself can potentially attract new customers. The same marketing can also establish you as a “business that cares” in the local community.

This sort of recognition is priceless in terms of public relations. The Green Business Bureau reports that more and more customers are looking specifically for environmentally conscious companies to do business with. When you develop a reputation for doing the right thing in terms of the environment, then you will naturally gain status with potential clients.

Going green shows you care about more than just your bottom line, since as we’ve already established, it can cost more to go green than it can to stick with traditional business approaches. Let’s look at some examples of environmentally conscious companies whose green practices have really put them on the map.

  • Panasonic: Though you probably know Panasonic as a manufacturer of TVs and cameras, which are business-to-consumer products, it’s also a big business-to-business company as well. That’s where its green practices are really paying dividends. As a maker of lithium ion batteries used for electric cards and in-seat airline entertainment systems, Panasonic has gained a big following because of its green practices. It makes sustainable products that other companies can feel good about using.
  • Chipotle: The category of upscale quick-service restaurants has been growing like wildfire since the recession. People want a nicer meal than they can get at McDonald’s, but they don’t want to spend too much money. Chipotle has benefited from this trend, but it’s also booming because it has been a leader in environmental concerns. The chain only uses meat that is free of hormones and antibiotics, and it has called on other restaurants to do the same, despite the fact that it costs a lot more.
  • Starbucks: The world’s largest coffee chain has long been vocal about its support for recycling, reusing, and supporting sustainability. One of its biggest projects has been encouraging people to employ reusable cups. Paper coffee cups create a huge amount of waste each year; even the ones that are recyclable aren’t always tossed in the right can. Starbucks has long offered reusable heavy-duty coffee mugs, but it also recently introduced lower-key plastic cups designed to look like the iconic original Starbucks cup (for those who really like to advertise that they went to the coffee shop that morning). Although Starbucks is a chain, this is one reason why people are eager to announce their allegiance to it. Starbucks has also installed low-flow water fixtures, and uses low-energy light bulbs as additional ways to help the earth.
  • Adidas: The sneaker and clothing label undertook a major initiative a few years ago to decrease its worldwide energy use by 15 percent by next year. That has helped boost its image both in the U.S. and abroad, and the company has hired experts in every country where it operates to help figure out how best to wean itself off energy. Adidas has even undertaken a project in Brazil that encourages people to donate their old athletic shoes, which are made into sustainable energy sources.

Employee Satisfaction

Not all benefits of your green initiatives are easy to quantify. In general, some surveys have reported that employees are generally happier with their job, and the company as a whole, when the company is doing as much as possible to be “green.” This is most likely because green initiatives typically motivate employees to work as a team toward a common purpose. As you establish your business as a green company, people will start to recognize you as such, and it can also help with recruiting new employees.

Prove You Are Eco-friendly

While there are a number of benefits to implementing green initiatives, don’t let it be all talk. After you create a plan to implement your green initiatives, follow through. Get ISO 14001 certified as well as LEED certified. In doing so, you may also increase your chances of getting recognized for your efforts and even win awards, once again extending your brand’s notoriety.

Going green is entirely up to you, but consider this: If your competitors are implementing green initiatives, then that’s one way they’ve differentiated themselves from you in a way that reflects poorly on your company. Not to mention, there seems to be more regulation requirements each day. Don’t fall behind the times—start implementing a green plan that makes sense for your company, and start reaping the many benefits as soon as possible.

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Kayla Matthews
Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a business blogger with a passion for green initiatives and workplace satisfaction. Follow her on Google+ and Twitter, or at her blog Productivity Theory to learn more about her.