What are the benefits of “going green” for a small business?

Sustainability graphic on Performance.gov

A Johannesburg home owner has saved electricity through use of LED (light-emitting diode) globes, a variable-speed pump for the pool, a solar geyser and a closed wood stove. The home owner won an award for saving electricity.

The other day I heard an ad on a radio station for a plumbing service that offers water efficiency, solar geysers and help for home owners to harvest rainwater and cut back on wasteful water practices.

As costs of electricity and water rise consumers are increasingly under pressure to use less especially when their salary increases are minimal or non-existent. More home owners and businesses are “going green” not as a fashion statement but for real monetary savings.

What exactly is “going green”? What is “sustainability”? Why do these terms matter? Continue reading “What are the benefits of “going green” for a small business?”

What benefits does sustainability hold for your business?

English: Energy efficient light fixture locate...
Energy efficient light fixture  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sustainable products, practices and processes are growing in the marketplace but what benefits are there for smaller businesses that haven’t yet taken advantage of the green movement?

Small-scale farmers and food producers are now supplying more than 30 local food markets in the country. Entrepreneurs are innovating products from natural pesticides and eco-friendly detergents to water purification devices, personal care products, organically produced cosmetics and energy efficient solutions.

More innovations are in the making with products offering better performance than their “brown” predecessors. Green products work better, are healthier, less toxic, taste better and save time and money. Gone are the slow-moving health foods made by hippies, lentil heads and tree huggers that gather dust on supermarket and health food store shelves. Now we are seeing low-flow toilets, energy-efficient windows, eco-friendly lawns and gardens, furniture made with sustainable materials, hi-efficiency solar panels, environmentally-friendly carpets and water-saving showerheads. Continue reading “What benefits does sustainability hold for your business?”

Is the money that you’re giving to community projects making an impact?

In the boom times when everyone was awash with cash, companies were throwing money at as many community projects as they could. That’s all changed as belts have tightened. Now there is less community investment money to go around and companies want to see proof of their return on their investment.

It might seem a bit harsh for business to talk about impacts and return on investment but donors want to know what difference their money is making. Continue reading “Is the money that you’re giving to community projects making an impact?”

Time to tune up your sustainability skills at a fraction of the usual cost

I was looking at the cost of a basic university course in risk management and was shocked to see how much it costs. Basic three-year degrees cost as much as a top-of-the-range sedan. Not too long ago my son started a finance degree (he’s completed it) at a university and the rector in his opening address to parents remarked that the university had place for 22,000 students and had to turn away 12,000.

What a business to be in. Demand is strong despite the economy. Fees are so high that you are unable to pay for them unless you take out an education policy on the day your child is born or save for years for an amount that could buy you an apartment in a reasonably good area.

Education towards sustainability is even more expensive. At the high end, a basic one-day seminar on sustainability risk management costs up to R10,000.

For the start-up or small business, the costs of tuning up your skills in the area of sustainability can seriously challenge your non-existent training budget. Okay, that’s not to say that small businesses don’t invest in training. In fact, I was just looking at some information that showed small- to medium-size businesses invest the most money in skills.

How then do you find out the latest information, advice and techniques to take advantage of sustainability in your business? You’d be lucky to find any so-called “free” course on the market, and if you did, you will find that the information is heavily laced with sales messages for the service provider and their partners. Not only that but information is also often skewed towards forcing sustainability down suppliers’ throats. The materials have scant value to help a start-up or small business secure competitive advantage from sustainability practices.

Not all advice needs to come at a shockingly high price. One medium-size business reduced their energy consumption by 10% using a no-cost method that is so obvious but something that you won’t find on any sustainability course.

Another entrepreneurial business person in a dyed-in-the-wool business made one simple change to his process and his profits shot up.

For the costs of taking less than 30 seconds of your time, you can put your name down below and receive valuable regular tips, techniques, advice, suggestions that will help you tune-up your sustainability skills for a stronger competitive edge at a time when just that small difference can keep the wolf from the door and bring you improved profits.

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Last laugh

The bartender says “What’ll ya have?”

The climate scientist says, “I’ll have a beer.”

Turning his thumb towards the climate denier, he adds, “This jerk will have an extra strong hurricane. And no ice.”

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A dangerous word to mention in the wrong company

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” ? Alvin Toffler

I was talking to a young sustainability practitioner this week who told me his biggest challenge: he’s trying to introduce a recycling program but managers have stopped him because they say they won’t pay for the cost.

You’d think managers in an industrial research company would be forward thinking.

I wondered what this organisation’s shareholders would say about this resistance to change, to halt progress.

The word “sustainability” is often looked upon as a nice-to-have but is attacked when its proponents recommend changes, especially changes to the status quo that might inconvenience people or require some small initial capital outlay.

Research carried out for the ultra-conservative and over-sensitive, recommends that the “S” word is not to be mentioned in business circles or in companies. Forbidden words are “zero waste”. Instead, one must use “lean production”. Another word that requires censorship is “greenhouse gas emissions”. Rather use the term “reduce energy spend”, they say.

It makes sense to couch language in terms that will be understood an appeal to end users or customers as any effective salesperson will know. But to tip-toe around words that have to do with sustainability is perhaps taking things too far.

Sustainability, the term by the way has been around for almost 40 years, is not supposed to be familiar to start-ups and small businesses. The word is seem to be mainly used by large corporate enterprises and public organisations. However, while the term “sustainability” points to an ideal future state, the practice of sustainability is something that small businesses do all the time. Not all of them, mind you, but a large number.

  • Why is then that small businesses buy second-hand office furniture rather than new?
  • How come they are the first to support local community charity drives?
  • Why is it that they look at every way possible to save energy costs?
  • How come they substitute existing raw materials with more eco-friendly raw materials?
  • What motivates them to provide entry-level jobs to young people in local communities?

Yes, start-ups and small businesses could do more when it comes to sustainability but I don’t buy the argument that they are doing nothing or very little.

In this economy lean and green make business sense.

Smaller companies are much more expert at saving costs, reusing materials such as stationery and packaging and buying new only when they absolutely have to than giant businesses.

Sustainability is not only about resource reduction, using less to do more (although this is very important) but it’s also about helping reduce poverty and inequality (as many small businesses help do) and responding to a new economy that increasingly requires new and innovative thinking.

This includes opportunities for sharp ecopreneurs, start-ups and on-line entrepreneurs to take advantage and seize the opportunities that green consumer buying is making available and will increasingly make present in the future.

Sustainability – a must-have or simply an add-on for start-ups?

When a partner and me launched a start-up in the grocery trade a few years back most of our initial time was spent planning – thinking about things like setting up a small distribution centre, identifying larger customers, working out whether our range was big enough and doing sums to see that our sales would be profitable.

As soon as we got going, all our time was spent rushing out to customers from early in the morning until late in the evening, selling and distributing our products. We had almost no time to think about our strategy, financial objectives and marketing.

If you have been involved in setting up a start-up business, then you will know that a new business venture is a complex process which involves spending a lot of time on planning and preparation. Once you get started, your time is eaten up by serving customers, checking your expenses, cash flow and re-ordering. Continue reading “Sustainability – a must-have or simply an add-on for start-ups?”

100 smoking-hot ideas to make your business sustainable but which one is right for you?

For the small business owner wanting to get started on a green journey there are more than 100 ways to begin but if you listen to all the ideas and suggestions and advice out there on the Internet in books and from consultants it would be pretty difficult knowing where to start.

I’ve noticed that much of this advice came about 4 to 5 years ago when in an enthusiastic rush advice flooded the market on “how to improve your bottom line, grow your brand and save the planet”, one hand “101 ways to turn your business green”, and “the hands-on guide to creating a successful and sustainable business”. Continue reading “100 smoking-hot ideas to make your business sustainable but which one is right for you?”

It’s people like this that give sustainability a bad name

I’m itching to tell you this story. But before I talk about it, I’d like to get some things out of the way.

Let me confess, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes in sustainability projects. But like others in the business to be professional and successful in sustainability, I’ve had to sweat out worrying nights, put in hard work against skepticism, cynicism, resistance and even ridicule in selling sustainability and sustainability projects.

And it’s not only been from start-ups and small business…

With that out of the way, let me tell you a story. Continue reading “It’s people like this that give sustainability a bad name”

Horsing around with meat is one thing but investigators should crack the whip on carrots

There’s more than meets the eye in this horse meat scandal. The shortcuts that large food producers are taking casts a spotlight on the shady practices that have been kept from public view. Substituting horsemeat for beef is despicable but finding no meat in a beef pie in Iceland is another thing. Smell a vegetarian conspiracy here?

All the fuss about substitution of beef products is important because we want to know what we are eating and paying for. But what about other foods such as bread, grains and fruit and vegetables? Continue reading “Horsing around with meat is one thing but investigators should crack the whip on carrots”

Sustainability is a symphony, not a grouping of raving solo acts

When I was a youngster growing up near the fishing harbour at Kalk Bay, if any of us became too big for our boots or foolish, one of the boys would catch us unawares and jet chokka (squid) ink into our face.

I won’t talk about the ungenteel language that spewed out so even the seals below would look up (wondering what the commotion was all about).

Although you can’t do that sort of thing in the adult world of business – whatever the size of your business – one sometimes one feels so frustrated by what happens in practising sustainable solutions that you’d like to spray some obnoxious fumes towards all the people who are falling all over the place doing their own thing. Continue reading “Sustainability is a symphony, not a grouping of raving solo acts”