The prospect of making eco-friendly changes to a small business may seem daunting at first. With cash flow already tight, why rock the boat? Well, once you run the numbers through your accounting solutions, you are likely to find that greening your firm is as healthy for your business' bottom line as it is for the planet.
With high energy prices currently impacting households and businesses of all sizes, there has never been a better time to make a big difference through small actions. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, firms can enjoy cash savings of at least 25 percent by improving energy efficiency.
But these changes have benefits beyond those that can be immediately viewed with your accounting solutions. Going green can also help small businesses grow. The environmental movement has gained such momentum across the country that a company's green policies can only enhance its reputation. Individuals - and vendors - are keen to do business with sustainable organizations. This trend provides the perfect opportunity for a burgeoning business to tap into an emerging market and carve a niche.
And people also want to work for green firms. A 2007 MonsterTRAK survey reveals that 92 percent of young professionals would prefer to be employed by an environmentally friendly company. Even small gestures, such as keeping a collection of reusable coffee mugs on hand for workers, can help reassure staff they are working for a socially responsible employer. So, once you're ready to commit to greening your small business, where do you start?
According to figures from the Small Business Administration, replacing ordinary light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can reduce lighting costs by as much as 75 percent - and they also last at least ten times longer. Of course, you should make sure workers are turning off lights when they are not in use to achieve maximum savings.
Remember that even when switched off, appliances continue to draw a small amount of power. Even better than turning off computers at the end of each day is connecting electronic equipment to power strips so that the power supply can be completely shut down.
Fortunately, today's office equipment uses far less power than older equivalents. When the time comes to replace outdated machinery, the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star website for small businesses can help owners make informed choices about purchasing energy-efficient new models.
Did you know that a recent study by British organization Envirowise discovered the average office worker prints 22 pages per day? Those printouts can really add up and are often an unnecessary indulgence. A smarter, greener business establishes clear printing policies for employees from the outset, encouraging them to work on-screen as much as possible and to resist the urge to print emails.
Of course, there are times when printing is unavoidable. Both printers and photocopiers can be programmed so they automatically use both sides of the paper. Meanwhile, providing workers with personalized codes for the photocopiers can help bosses keep a close eye on usage.
Prominently placed recycling bins are another good way to make sure staff are doing their part for the environment. And, although they cost more than standard paper, recycled paper products may be the right choice for the firm that is completely committed to its greener image.
Paper isn't the only thing that companies can recycle. Xerox claims that 13.8 million pounds of waste was diverted from landfills in 2004 as a result of its printer cartridge recycling initiatives. Refilling printer cartridges also saves a significant amount of money on a product that can be one of a firm's most expensive regular expenses - a perfect way for your accounting solutions to capture some savings.
When computers and other machines are ready to be retired, there are a number of services across that country that will pick them up for recycling and reuse. The Environmental Protection Agency's website provides a list of these organizations, as well as contact information.
Approximately 77 percent of small businesses report that rising gasoline prices have negatively affected their bottom line, according to data from the National Small Business Association. In fact, many firms have already cut down on unnecessary travel, substituting teleconferences for face-to-face meetings and encouraging staff to telecommute.
However, if driving is a necessary part of your business, look into purchasing hybrids for use as company cars. Make sure you record the purchase using your accounting solutions - this environmentally smart choice can also earn you tax credits. You can also think about using a GPS system to monitor the number of miles each employee is driving, pinpoint where idling occurs and develop more efficient routes.
Your employees may also appreciate a little help. Employer-organized car pools and van transit are perennially popular perks and may also qualify for tax credits.
The bottom line is that there are a number of options for improving your bottom line while creating a greener image and helping the environment. Joel Makower, founder of GreenBiz.com, told USA Today that "small businesses have barely scratched their potential" to incorporate sustainability and an environmental consciousness into their operations. At this stage of the game, there are still plenty of opportunities to be a leader.