You'd expect a company with a name like Nature Nate's Honey Co. to be a pretty green business. And according to CEO Nathan Sheets, the company, which produces 100 percent pure, raw and unfiltered honey, lives up to its eco-friendly name.
"We focus on the environment and the people within it," says Sheets. "Nature Nate's uses sustainable green business practices in our production facilities and offices, improves bee health and gives profits back to communities in need."
Native Trails is another company focused on the environment. The sustainable kitchen and bath manufacturer recently earned B Corp certification, a designation given to companies that meet certain social and environmental performance standards.
"Our company's actions exemplify our name," says the company's founder and CEO Naomi Neilson. "We strive to make a positive impact on the environment and the people in it."
Benefits of Running a Green Business
Neilson has found that her employees appreciate working for a green business that cares about the environment.
"Knowing that they're working for an eco-friendly office boosts employee morale and helps attract new talent, especially millennials," she says.
But even if your company's name doesn't sound green, there are benefits to running a green business. Mike Lash, founder of Denver Advertising, has also found that running a green business positively affects his workforce.
"The benefits of being socially and environmentally conscientious are apparent in our company, particularly with our ride-to-work initiative," says Lash. "Here in Denver, we have 300+ days of sunshine annually, so we reward our team members for riding their bikes to work by paying for their bike tune-ups. If they ride to work on certain days, we also buy them lunch."
The company's bike initiative greatly benefits the environment and employees, continues Lash.
"Biking is good for employee physical health. Additionally, by engaging in regular activity, employees have clearer heads, which reduces stress and helps with sleep cycles, creating a more optimistic and mindful attitude."
Running a green business can also benefit customer relations, adds Jason Hunt, owner of Hunt's Services, an air-conditioning, electrical and plumbing services company.
"Since we promote the use of high efficiency, natural, eco-friendly cleaning products, customers appreciate that we care about the environment and their health," says Hunt. "We also encourage the use of more energy-efficient appliances, which can lower customer energy costs by 50 to 80 percent."
Going green can also reduce water and electrical consumption for your company, adds Stephen Lewis, technical director for milliCare Floor & Textile Care, a Green Seal-certified system designed to use less power and water than conventional cleaning methods.
"Lowering utility bills improves the bottom line," he says.
Is Being a Green Business Right for Your Company?
Before you transition to a green business, it's a good idea to look at the consequences of doing so, advises Barry Breede, author of Transforming the Utility Pole and chief innovation and marketing officer at Koppers Utility & Industrial Products, which manufactures wood utility poles.
"Transitioning to a green business model is not something to do simply because it feels right from an environmental standpoint," says Breede. "Going eco-friendly can quickly become cost prohibitive. Operating a truly green business means making business decisions that create both environmental and economic value from your activities."
Breede suggests strategically examining the economic and environmental value of pursuing an initiative by aligning the initiative with your broader business strategies.
"If there is alignment," he says, "then odds are good it's an initiative that will create real value on multiple levels."
Once you've determined that running an eco-friendly office makes sense for your company, consider the following green business methods.
1. Start with an environmental audit.
"Consider consulting with an outside environmental auditing service," says Breede. "Such a firm may suggest a variety of changes, such as reducing electric bills by moving to an LED-based lighting system and migrating to reusable cups and containers."
2. Use recyclable materials.
The more recyclable materials you use, the eco-friendlier your office can be.
"We use 100-percent recyclable and BPA-free bottles for our honey," says Sheets. "The labels are biodegradable and our honey packets are 100 percent recyclable. Our shipping boxes are made with 100 percent recycled material and are 100 percent recyclable. Waste materials generated on-site are recycled, such as boxes, packaging materials, paper, bottles and caps."
3. Repurpose or redesign your products.
"Companies can see dramatic reductions in their internal operating costs by redesigning how their products are made or disposed of," says Breede. "In many instances, products that reach the end of their useful life cycle can be repurposed as raw material in the creation of a new product, saving considerable dollars previously allocated to the purchase of virgin material."
Operating a truly green business means making business decisions that create both environmental and economic value from your activities.
—Barry Breede, chief innovation and marketing officer, Koppers Utility & Industrial Products
"As a product manufacturer, the biggest impact we make is in the way our products are made, and the materials we use," she says. "We always look for materials that could be given a second life. We continuously reassess our product packaging methods to improve their sustainability quotient. For instance, we're currently considering a machine that shreds used cardboard into packaging material."
4. Place recycling bins throughout the office.
"As a green business, we realized that our employees want to recycle, but we had to make it convenient for them, so we placed recycling receptacles throughout the office,"says Lash. "Offering opportunities to throw something in a blue bin as opposed to a waste basket is most of the battle. I rarely, if ever, see anything in the waste bin that could be recycled, so I know it's working."
5. Encourage and reward environmentally conscious behavior.
At Lash's company, they encourage the use of environmentally-conscious packaging.
"If employees bring their lunches to work in glass containers or get to-go coffee in their own mugs, I'll buy them lunch the next day," says Lash.
6. Reduce paper use.
"We haven't shown a client a paper-proof of a concept in about seven years," says Lash. "This is significant, because in advertising, clients are used to seeing paper mock-ups of campaign ideas. By eliminating those presentations in physical form, we've saved a lot of paper."
Lash says his company has reduced the use of paper in the office by 80 percent.
"Our teams and clients use various software and cloud application digital repositories to communicate and update documents, instead of paper," he says.
Neilson's business also moved to a nearly paperless office.
"It was a big, uncomfortable process, but well worth it," she says. "Like many eco-friendly practices, going paperless had other benefits. We saved a lot of storage space formerly used for paper documents. We also became much more efficient overall."
7. Get everyone on board.
To run a green business and eco-friendly office, it's vital that everyone is dedicated to "greening the company," believes Neilson.
"We have a 'Green Team' of employees who brainstorm and help implement a lot of environmentally friendly changes in the workplace."
Neilson's employees also participate in team-building activities and initiatives related to improving the environment.
"We get together for trail and beach cleanups," says Neilson. "We also have an initiative called Native Trails Challenge. This involves competing for hiking miles that translate to donation dollars for local environmental nonprofits."
Read more articles on strategy.
Photo: Getty Images