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The small business benefits of going green (and how to get started)

The small business benefits of going green (and how to get started)

By Kim Mercado
Apr 14, 2022
10 min read

When business owners have a hundred things on their to-do lists, it’s understandable that sustainability may not be top of mind. However, the benefits of going green are becoming too strong to ignore and potentially causing you to leave money on the table.

Why? Because today’s customers have come to expect social responsibility from businesses large and small. In return, they’re more motivated to do business with you as they, in turn, want to support green initiatives.

As a small business, you may be concerned that finding ways to go green is costly, but many businesses report savings directly attributed to eco-friendly tactics and profitability.

So, if you want your business to resonate with your customers, get into the mindset that business and environment are a recipe for success. This post will discuss four major benefits of going green for small business owners and ways to get started.

1. It’s good for the environment

Let’s start with the obvious: The benefit is a better, healthier world for everyone. With climate change, carbon emissions and their irreversible impacts on the environment filling global headlines, every person needs to do their part.

Whether you’re a small coffee shop or an influential marketing firm, you have the power to conserve energy, minimize environmental impact and implement some green practices. 

For instance, a coffee shop can start small by suggesting their customers recycle coffee cup sleeves or offer a small incentive for bringing in their own travel mugs. Similarly, a marketing firm can reduce its carbon footprint by adopting cloud computing solutions. 

Takeaway: Green initiatives are not just for large corporations. Small business green initiatives are just as important on a global scale. Small businesses still make up 99.9% of U.S. businesses and can make a big impact.

2. Going green attracts more customers 

Today’s customers want to align themselves with brands and companies that share their values. According to Forrester, 68% of U.S. consumers say a company’s social responsibility reputation influences their purchasing decisions.

Environmentally-friendly companies tend to incite more loyalty as they share strong values with their customers. In particular, younger Americans — Millennials and Gen Z — show more engagement with climate change issues and have been vocal about their choices in supporting green companies both from a consumer and workforce standpoint.

However, your commitment and actions must be authentic to attract and retain these customers — not just marketing lip service. The deceptive practice of branding yourself as green without adopting real, sustainable practices is called "greenwashing."

If caught greenwashing, you risk losing customer trust and tarnishing your reputation like some corporations who didn’t live up to their advertising.

Takeaway: When you build up a more sustainable business you can attract and inspire customers while improving your brand image.

3. Eco-friendly practices save you money

Did you know that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star program says that small businesses spend more than $60 billion a year on energy? They also say that with strategic investments, entrepreneurs can cut their energy costs 10-30% without sacrificing anything.

Small business green initiatives had a bad reputation for being costly in the past, but times have changed. The reality is that green business practices often save you money on recurring expenses. 

For instance, utility costs can be lowered if you change out your light fixtures. Switching to energy-efficient equipment and appliances from printers, coffee makers and refrigerators can also net potential savings.

Similarly, if you plan to make large changes like switching to renewable energy, there may be tax credits, rebates and incentives that the government will reimburse for green efforts.

On top of a nice tax incentive, the cost of technologies, such as solar panels, has gone down. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports the cost to install solar has dropped by more than 60% over the last decade with an average-sized residential system dropping from a pre-incentive price of $40,000 in 2010 to about $20,000 today.

Takeaway: Adopting greener habits and purchasing practices can lead to long-term savings and an improved bottom line.

4. Healthier working conditions for you and your employees

Going green doesn't just benefit your customers; it’s good for your employees.

First, as a small business owner, your employees’ health is imperative to the success of your business because you can’t grow if they are constantly out sick. Using green products helps employees feel safer and that you’re creating a healthier environment for them.

For instance, by trading old-school cleaning products for eco-friendly products without carcinogens and toxins, you might improve your cleaning businesses’ employee retention while attracting customers.

Involving workers in company-wide green initiatives also boosts employee morale. For example, you might provide incentives for your employees to help them stay healthy. It can be as simple as installing a bike rack or covering the cost of their public transportation. 

Takeaway: Less sick days will improve workflow and also increase work morale. A healthier staff will be more innovative, enthusiastic and dependable. 

How your business can start adopting eco-friendly business practices

Going green means increasing your sustainable practices step-by-step — there’s no need to transform overnight. Small incremental changes can help you fulfill social responsibilities and keep your employees motivated.

Here are just a few ways you can positively impact the environment and workplace: 

Go paperless

Today, it’s common to sign your name on a tablet screen rather than with pen and paper. 

Not only will you save money on paper products, printing ink and more, but you’ll also reduce the amount of time spent searching through stacks of paperwork since everything is online at your fingertips. 

Use sustainable products

These days there are various eco-friendly products you can use to run your business. Aside from the cleaning supplies mentioned above, you can use recyclable or compostable supplies such as mailers, kitchen supplies and reusable ink cartridges.

Don’t forget marketing swag — you can gift clients or employees with sustainable products such as water bottles, tote bags and hats made from recycled materials.

Replace light bulbs with CFL or LED lights

Initially, you might pay more for these lights than standard incandescent bulbs, but they will save you about $200 per bulb over time. Here is an in-depth comparison chart of how these light bulbs can save you money and energy. 

Reduce energy consumption

Aside from swapping out your light bulbs, you can install dimmers or motion sensor lights that turn off automatically. Turn off lights when you leave at night or set up timers to turn them off.

Turn computer monitors off at the end of the day and have computers and equipment go into sleep or standby mode when not in use.

Automate with smart devices

Today we have Internet-connected “smart” technologies that can be programmed to handle tasks automatically. 

For example, depending on your workspace, you could use a NEST thermostat to heat or cool your space (remaining in compliance with law and safety codes, of course). Setting a temperature schedule allows you to maintain the right temperatures year-round. And when the office is empty, a smart thermostat can help you save energy.

Buy energy-efficient appliances

Many office kitchens have fridges and microwaves. When it’s time to replace your appliance, consider buying an Energy Star-certified appliance. These are government-backed, energy-efficient products that help save businesses money while protecting the environment.

In 2019 alone, the Energy Star program helped Americans save nearly 500 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and avoid $39 billion in energy costs. 

Allow remote work

According to the EPA, a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. (That’s 10,141 pounds)

Depending on your business, you might have shifted to remote work during the height of the pandemic. If your business can still fully operate, consider shifting to a more permanent telecommuting situation.

Without commuting to the office, you and your employees reduce carbon emissions, and your office's energy consumption drops, creating less expense.

Consider upgrading to an electric vehicle

With electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids becoming more popular thanks to increasing fuel costs, business owners may prefer significant overall savings over gas-powered vehicles despite the higher purchase price.

Besides the savings on fuel, electric vehicles also tend to have fewer associated maintenance costs, and you might qualify for a federal tax incentive of up to $7,500.

Work with sustainable vendors

Part of becoming an eco-friendly business is creating an ecosystem that values sustainability. Do your due diligence to research companies and vendors that align with the green practices you want to achieve.

For example, if you’re a retailer, look for products sourced and manufactured sustainably. Avoid products with known toxins or harmful chemicals. Find out how products are made and if they’re made with recyclable materials.

Or, if you’re a restaurateur, you already know that locally-sourced products are often of better quality. Work with local vendors, so you both reduce your carbon footprints. Ask them about their operations and find out if they have sustainable practices.

Meet NEXT Insurance: a 100% online insurance provider

Your small business can start the benefits of going green today with minor changes to how you operate. One way is by collaborating with other companies that align with environmentally friendly practices.

NEXT Insurance is a dependable and paperless business insurance provider. We’re reinventing business insurance with a tech-first approach that saves you time and money.

We’re 100% online, so we can give you 24/7 DIY access to manage your coverage on your schedule. You can apply online, customize your insurance for your business, purchase and get a Certificate of Insurance in about 10 minutes.

Got questions? Our licensed, U.S.-based insurance professionals are ready with answers. 

Start your instant quote today

The small business benefits of going green (and how to get started)

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About the author
Kim Mercado is a content editor at NEXT's blog, where she writes and edits posts for small business owners. She is an experienced marketing professional and loves helping entrepreneurs solve their business challenges. You can find Kim trying new recipes and cheering the 49ers.
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