sustainability.

Greening Small Business

Green has gone mainstream and smart business owners are looking for ways to capitalise on this phenomenon.

An aerial view of sustainability shows us a principle with the power to preserve our world intact for our grandchildren even as we consume resources today. When we apply this principle to business, we get "corporate sustainability," which strives to balance the financial, social, and environmental aspects of an organisation.

A company's corporate sustainability strategy depends on such variables as its size and industry. Applications of sustainability can range from retro-fitting facilities with energy-efficient features to integrating recycled and/or biodegradable materials into product design and packaging. Other applications exist and many more are still at the conceptual stage.

Large green companies experience remarkable consumer loyalty and earn a fortune in media attention. But to small business, it may seem like big businesses are the only ones getting the buzz for going green.

Does sustainability offer any real advantages for small business? If so, how does the small business owner apply such a lofty ideal to daily operations? There are many methods but only one formula: leadership, an inquiring mind, and creativity. For those pioneers eagerly embracing sustainability, the payoffs of going green are significant and the risks are minimal.

Leadership is the key to successful implementation ofsustainability initiatives. For small business, going green is largely a voluntary action dependent upon the vision and conviction of one or a few individuals. One advantage is that small business is free to experiment with sustainability without the pressures of meeting compliance regulations or pacifying activist groups. Enterprising companies with a flair for promotion can earn immediate recognition from their customers, employees, community and the media for their efforts.

Good P.R. isn't the only payoff to going green. Companies should consider the cost savings available through energy efficiency.

Companies that want to start small can capture some of the market by adding a green product or service. Identifying opportunities can be a fun and creative process. Retailers, for example, can introduce an organic line or offer customers recycled bags. And, let's not forget our most valuable resources -- the human ones. Training employees on sustainability leads to material savings and increases efficiency, productivity, and loyalty in the workplace.

The moral of the story is that sustainability, while not for the faint of heart, is a strategy that small business can apply with phenomenal speed and success as long as the commitment is there. Smart businesses will embrace the changes and recognise the process as evolutionary. Stagnant businesses may give green a nod, but without commitment and consistency, it will never stick.

The business landscape in the 21st century offers some rich rewards to sustainability pioneers who can muster the courage to reach for the brass ring. The best part is that, in this game, we all win.

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