A sustainable business minimizes negative impacts and enhances positive impacts on the environment, economy, and society. Sustainable businesses also recognize that being sustainable means operating in such a way to meet our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Not only is it an ethical choice to pursue sustainability, but there is also a good business case for becoming more sustainable. At the very least, being more sustainable can help reduce costs, and it helps make your business more resilient to some environmental changes.
If your business is looking to become more sustainable, below are three actions your business can start with to build the foundation.
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A key component of sustainability involves protecting the environment and public health. Because ensuring such protection is the main purpose of environmental laws and regulations, complying with these requirements helps your business do its part. However, it is important to understand that different types of businesses may be subject to specific laws and regulations. Additionally, different counties in Nevada may enforce different ordinances and regulations when it comes to topics like waste and recycling, water usage, and other environmental issues. Also, for businesses operating in multiple states, regulations may differ between states.
Creating a basic environmental compliance program or performing a regular audit of this program is a great way to determine if your business is meeting applicable requirements. A good starting point for many small and medium businesses is to use the Business Environmental Program (BEP). BEP offers free assistance and resources to Nevada businesses regarding topics such as hazardous waste management, air quality assistance, sustainability, and energy efficiency. Other resources include:
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Businesses impact communities and resources. At the same time, communities and resource supply impact businesses. Developing a sustainability vision with these relationships and impacts in mind will help your business become more sustainable, reduce your ecological footprint, and build resiliency to major changes. When creating a sustainability vision, consider your business’s core values, its envisioned future, and its relationships with its community and environment. Examples could include elements such as building sustainability into all products or services, decoupling environmental impacts from business growth, increasing social impact as the business grows, sourcing responsibly, and reducing waste.
Once your business has developed a sustainability vision, you can start setting measurable goals to achieve that vision. However, to set your goals, develop a baseline for your business’s current operations and practices regarding topics like waste, recycling, energy usage, water consumption, and carbon emissions. After performing an audit and understanding your baseline data, you can set “SMART” goals to improve upon the baseline. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Once your goals are set, you can begin to build a sustainability plan with specific strategies and tactics to achieve those goals. Finally, as your business develops and implements this plan, it is important to have management support at multiple levels - especially at the top level. Upper management’s support is crucial for the long-term success of a company-wide sustainability initiative.
To help with your sustainability planning, use our Business Sustainability Audit page.
Creating a green team is one way to embed sustainability in your business operations and to implement your business’s sustainability plan. A green team is a group of dedicated individuals who are motivated to advance sustainability efforts within a business. They collaborate to collect and communicate baseline information (e.g., audits), develop and establish goals, find and implement solutions, as well as engage and educate other employees. A green team should be diverse and include individuals that are passionate about sustainability. A successful green team should include knowledgeable representatives from each major department. The size of a green team will depend on the overall size of the business.
A green team can suggest changes in operations to increase sustainability while assisting in the organization of sustainability-related trainings, lunch-and-learns, and guest speakers. Providing educational opportunities to team members and coworkers is key to increasing and retaining participation, not only from within the green team, but also at the business level. Taking the time to appreciate and recognize members for their work is also important to help engage, educate, inspire, and keep the momentum going.
Not sure where your green team should start? Visit our Library of Sustainability Resources for Business.