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Tips for going “green” for your business

What is going “green” for your business? 

With the changing business landscape due to increased competition, increased consumer environmental awareness and the need to move towards sustainability; most businesses have started to look for different ways of doing business that are innovative to help them remain competitive. These innovations are mainly found in the sustainable business model or what is referred to as going “green”.  

Some notable companies in the USA such as IKEA, GEWal-Mart, among others are implementing sustainability programs that help them to introduce eco-efficiency in their business operations or supply chain while implementing renewable energy technologies, mostly solar and wind technologies on their facilities.

For instance, IKEA has a sustainability program to help them have a positive impact on people and the planet through energy efficiency and responsible sourcing. IKEA has also an objective to move towards 100% renewables and to source all their wood from more sustainable sources by 2020.

The sustainability concept helps businesses to target the triple bottom line (people, planet and profit) and this helps businesses to be involved in creating  social, economic, and environmental impacts at local, regional level or even global levels. 

So what is going green for your business? With the above background, sustainable business or also referred, as green business is an enterprise that has minimal negative impact on the global or local environment, community, social or economy i.e. a business that thrives to meet the triple bottom line.

What are main aspects of a sustainable business?

Traditionally the purpose of most businesses was driven largely with the intention of making profits and the other two dimensions of sustainability were  not as dominant as the economic model leading to the destruction of natural resources and causing devastating effects such as climate change.

However, these days with the rising awareness about sustainability and the need to fight climate change, businesses have started making decisions while factoring the concept of triple bottom line (i.e. profit, people and planet) in their business operations.

In addition, consumers are also aware about the idea of going green due to increased awareness brought about by social media and other forms of media.

Companies have realized that incorporating sustainability initiatives in their business strategy is not only good for customer retention, but also helps to attract new customers. The good thing about sustainability initiatives they are not just good for the bottom line but also for the growth of companies in a holistic way while considering environmental stewardship.

Even though there are costs and risks for greening your business, but when these strategies are implemented well they can help increase revenues in the long term. For instance, implementing a sustainable technology like commercial solar panels can involve huge capital costs and some companies may shy away from implementing such a technology because of unknown benefits or risks that a company may foresee.

However, a company that understands the intangible benefits (social and environmental) as well as the economic benefits to society and to the company itself—may see the need to adopt such a technology. In this regard, the intangible benefits of implementing a new technology such as commercial solar panels include environmental benefits (e.g. climate change mitigation), energy security, a more reliable grid with distributed generation, and a sense of self-reliance.

Therefore, implementing sustainability will involve costs as well as risks, but also there are both financial and intangible benefits for doing sustainable business. As Esty and Winston puts it in their book “Green to Gold, there is a downside (costs) and an upside (benefits)  when your company decides to go green or implement a sustainability program. Before designing a sustainability strategy, you might want to analyze your specific situation to determine  whether it fits with the goals and objectives of your business.

A good starting place can be a desktop analysis and there are various places where you can obtain this information, including the Internet, books or journals. Esty and Winston book (Green to Gold) can be a good source as it has great case studies that explains how smart companies utilize their Sustainability Strategy to innovate, create value and build competitive advantage. 

Also this book “Green to Gold”, Esty and Winston presents a framework for implementing sustainability that is associated with managing the downside and building the upside to ensure your program is profitable and working to attract and retain new customers.To learn more about implementing a sustainable business, you can purchase this book on Amazon.

In the book, Etsy and Winston offer great case studies from companies like Wal-Mart, GE and Chiquita (Banana) that are currently implementing sustainable business strategies.

Examples of companies going “green” 

Known companies like the Wal-Mart are already implementing sustainability initiative by targeting four areas that can help to improve your triple bottom line such as:

  1. Energy management through energy efficiency and implementation of renewable energy.

  2. Waste elimination or reduction.

  3. Sourcing greener products.

  4. Greening the supply chain or responsible sourcing.

When it comes to energy management, Wal-Mart has a goal to be supplied by 100% renewable energy, mostly from solar and wind. According to Wal-Mart, there are lots of ways to get to 100% renewables for its facilities around the world, including implementing solar and wind energy technologies where these energy resources are available.

According to Wal-Mart, its approach to 100% renewable energy is one that encourages up-scaling renewable energy around the world and buying power that will promote development of new renewable energy projects to demonstrate that doing what is right for the future doesn’t have to cost more today.

Today Wal-Mart has over 300 renewable energy projects in operation and some projects are still being developed. Wal-Mart has also formed partnerships with solar companies like Solar City to provide technical assistance in its adoption of solar energy.

As noted above, there are various entry points for starting your sustainability initiative that is energy efficiency and management, switching to renewables, waste reduction, producing or buying green products or greening your supply chain. Depending on your specific situation, you may want to analyse your situation to determine which program will be best for your business based on your business goals and budget.

Low Hanging fruit: Commercial solar panels for your business sustainability program

Today, commercial solar panels can be referred as a low hanging fruit for businesses aspiring to implement sustainability in their business.  This is because the price of solar panels has been dropping rapidly since 2009 while the government offers tax credits to increase the uptake of this technology.With the rising electricity costs and the decreasing costs of solar panels, solar power is becoming competitive for most businesses as well as for residential places.

Looking at some case studies, known companies like the Wal-Mart save anywhere from 5% of their overall energy bill to up to 50% depending on your business energy needs and your specific solar energy profile. You can learn more about some of these case studies at the EnergySage which is one of the online solar market places that offer commercial solar services. 

Therefore solar panels being a low hanging fruit to implement sustainable business, you can learn more how you can go solar. Solar energy can be used to start the process of going “green”, that is to green your energy infrastructure just like what IKEA and Wal-Mart have started doing. Solar energy is one of the cleanest and abundant sources of energy we have today.

However, solar is not only for big corporations like Wal-Mart but also businesses of all size. Based on your specific energy needs and your solar energy profile, you can determine whether solar panels are worth it or not for your business? This will depend on the costs, benefits and the budget involved.

Although, you don’t need any capital costs to invest in solar panels as today you can go solar with no money down and solar power purchase agreements that allow you to go solar with zero money down. In other words, there are various financing options available to switch to solar and when you use these market places to go solar, you are provided with all these options.

As noted earlier, many businesses want to know the investment costs and the return on investment (ROI) and nowadays getting this information is at the click of your mouse. Learn more in the following video about solar panel financing options available to you. 

With the onset of online solar market places you can be able to determine your solar energy profile and get an estimate for your ROI for your specific case. Online solar market places have been designed with this capability and they can tell you the amount of sunlight that is hitting your specific roof at any given time of the year pulling information from various databases as well as google maps. These online market places provide this service at no cost and all is required from you is typing your business address and creating an account with them.

Some of these online solar market places include the EnergySage and Pick My Solar.  These two market places are widely used and both of them have a community program component that can enable your business to attain other intangible solar benefits, which are good for your business sustainability such as community solar programs targeted to raise solar adoption awareness. 

If you are interested to start analyzing your costs and benefits for going solar, there are systems developed with the support of Department of Energy under the SunShot Initiative. The EnergySage is configured to analyze costs and benefits for both commercial and residential solar systems while the Geostellar system is configured for residential systems.

Since you may be interested in commercial solar, you can type your business address at the EnergySage system to check your solar energy profile as well as potential costs and savings your solar power system will have.

EnergySage solar market place is one of the online solar market places that is configured to generate solar energy profiles for commercial solar power systems. According to EnergySage, over 10,000 people use their online system each year to get multiple solar quotes from their network of over 300 pre-screened solar installers. Click Here to Get Your Quote Today!! 

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