We talk about “going green” a lot at Padosa (it’s our biggest tag, after all) but rarely do we examine exactly how hard that can be to accomplish. Running a sustainable business takes a great deal of resources, cooperative employees, technical know-how, and, well, money. Are you adequately prepared to do what it takes to go green or does the prospect or so much change discourage you? This article takes a look at some of the barriers companies face as they try to go green and offers some resources and advice on how to beat them.
In a Gallup poll of small business owners, 70% believe that customers are unwilling to pay more for green products. That’s up from 37% in 2007.
Unawareness of Resources
There are many resources available to guide companies in sustainable direction. Unfortunately, many business owners do not take advantage of them. A survey conducted by the National Small Business Association shows 30% are unaware of local utility assistance programs. An impressive two-thirds of respondents would be more willing to use alternate energy if given more help. Support could come in the form of grants, technical assistance, or even better access to information.
One resource that 15% of America’s workforce does not have access to is direct deposit of their paychecks. Many small business owners incorrectly think it will cost them more money to use an automated payment system. However, the PayItGreen Alliance found that on average, companies that use direct deposit instead of paper checks save, on average $176 per employee per year.
Lack of Cash Flow
This is perhaps the biggest obstacle. One-third of small business owners in the Gallup poll admitted the economy affected their plans to be environmentally friendly. 60% have not invested in energy-efficient programs in the last eighteen months. 52% of those owners cite lack of cash flow as the main reason, says the National Small Business Association.
One sector that especially struggles with this is the restaurant industry. Eateries are big contributors to pollution. Allbusiness.com argues that for local, independent eateries, investing in resources and technology is fiscally impossible.
23% of business owners actively try to work with green companies, says the National Small Business Association. Three quarters of owners surveyed by Gallup have switched to more environmentally friendly and energy-saving products and recycled goods. To learn about how your business can make changes, read this Padosa story on energy audits.
Perception vs. realty
While 70% of owners believe their customers won’t purchase green goods, those customers may think otherwise. Mintel released a report that found 36% of adults claimed to buy green products in 2008, up from 12% in 2006. What’s more, when it comes to big-ticket items, like cars, 84% said they would consider green factors before their next purchase.
There is hope for independent restaurateurs. The Green Restaurant Association was founded to create a sustainable industry. Their web site offers guidelines for owners to make their eateries certified green. The Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest created this handy resource packet, Going Greener (this is a .pdf file). Some of the tips include running exhaust systems at lower fan speeds, using convection ovens versus conventional gas ovens, saving energy, and serving only fountain drinks to reduce packaging.
Adobe Rose Inn
One small business success story is the Adobe Rose Inn, an Arizona bed and breakfast. On going green, Owner Marion Hook has said, “We know that the money we’ll save long-term by making even small changes, such as using cisterns, florescent light bulbs and solar tubes, will far outweigh the short-term costs.”
Hook and her co-owner, husband Jim use only biodegradable, plant-based, non-toxic cleaning products. They ask guests when they would like linens changed, instead of automatically changing them every day. They harvest rain water to water their garden and heat the pool only with sunlight
Another small business green success story is Pakpour Engineering, a five-person firm in California. Principal Joubin Pakpour supplies commuter checks to help his employees may for public transportation. The office kitchen is stocked with flatware to discourage the use of plastic forks and spoons. In one year, the firm used almost 70 fewer pounds of paper simply by printing on both sides.
These forward-thinking, yet relatively simple approaches to sustainability are something other businesses can and should copy. Do any of these stories sound like your own experience? What challenges do you face in going green? What strategies are you implementing to make the struggle easier? Let us know in the comments!