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Six ways sustainability can add to your bottom line

Here are six ways to help you add real value to your business, using free resources or low-cost programs that many businesses may not yet have discovered.

Since the global financial crisis, everyone is watching the bottom line. The good news is that ‘going green’ can produce ongoing savings in business costs, as well as providing new business opportunities and intangible benefits like more satisfied employees.

Becoming sustainable is a growing trend. Offices are full of recycling bins and reusable coffee cups. We are printing duplex on recycled paper, participating in Earth Day and turning off the lights as we leave the building.

A 2010 survey by Netbalance found that SMEs – around 95 percent of businesses in Australia – are willing to act on sustainability but often can’t find the information they need to take action to implement greener business practices.

Here are six ways to help you add real value to your business, using free resources or low-cost programs that many businesses may not yet have discovered.

1.Make the most of free information and guides

Want practical information on how to improve the bottom line while reducing environmental impact? John Dee’s book “Sustainable  growth” was developed for small and medium sized businesses, and is free online from Sensis. For hospitality businesses, the free “Sustainability Toolkit – Hospitality” from the NSW Business Chamber provides advice and information on energy and water efficiency measures, how to reduce and avoid waste, sustainable procurement, ecotourism, and relevant legislation.

2. Do your own assessment

There are a number of free self-assessment tools available to small Australian businesses. Check out the Sustainability Victoria website for a simple, interactive benchmarking tool, the 5 Star Sustainability Tool, and best practice guides and online checklists for energy efficiency, materials efficiency and life cycle management . You can self-rate the environmental efficiency of your building using the online NABERS rating calculators at the National Australian Built Environment Rating System website. And at EcoBiz Queensland  you’ll find free self-assessment tools, training and information, including  industry sector guides for retail, wholesale, hospitality, personal services and education.

3. Access low-cost and subsidised programs

The Energy Efficiency for Small Business Program and Sustainability Advantage Program are subsidised low-cost programs available from the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage. Subsidised energy audits are available through the Department’s Energy Saver program.  Or join VECCI’s Grow Me The Money online 12-step sustainability program; three packages, priced from $249 to $2,567 (members receive a discount). If you’d like to see the real-life benefits sustainability can provide to small business, make sure you check out the VECCI success stories.

4. Build a green supply chain

Talk to your suppliers and identify suppliers of re-usable, energy-efficient products and sustainable feedstocks. The Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association (PACIA) recently published an 8 step guide to sustainable supply chains, with a process to identify opportunities for cost and risk reduction and new opportunities by engaging supply chain partners. Become a member of ECO-buy to access advice on green purchasing and a sustainable procurement assessment tool, consultancy services, workshops and training, and online resources.

5. Talk to your neighbours – share the load!

Get in touch with neighbouring businesses. You may be able to trade resources, commodities, or reduce, re-use and recycle wastes, including e-wastes– just like large eco-industrial parks.

6. Use your sustainability credentials as a marketing edge

Promote your business as green. Sustainability offers intangible benefits, like community goodwill and customer loyalty, which you can capitalise on to shape the future for your business. Check out the recent report and webcast from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which describe valuation methods for intangible sustainability benefits – useful if you are developing a business plan to support a loan application, or if you are looking to sell your business.

Tools like these make it easy to find new ways to reduce costs, engage employees and become more resource efficient – and build a more resilient company with a prosperous future.

 

Sarah Kinghttp://www.dynamicbusiness.com.au
Sarah leads CSIRO initiatives in sustainable manufacturing and innovation within the Future Manufacturing Flagship . The goal of her work is to incubate cross disciplinary projects for the benefit of Australian manufacturers. Sarah has worked with both public and private sectors in Australia and New Zealand in forestry, agriculture, IT, manufacturing and R&D. Read more of Sarah’s thoughts on sustainability at www.sustainabilityroar.com/ .