For more than 20 years, Conservation International (CI) has worked with businesses. When I meet with business people across this country and around the world, it is clear that they are thinking and talking about sustainability now more than ever.
I always remind them that conservation is about the pragmatic, positive actions you can take to preserve the Earth’s resources – actions that make both ecological and economic sense.
I know that the small business owner inherently understands the "big picture" aspect of conservation: the interconnectedness of nature and business.
It’s simple: nature provides the food we eat and fresh flowing water, yet 75 percent of wild marine fisheries are over-exploited and more than one BILLION people lack access to safe drinking water. We cannot continue to draw down Earth’s essential resources at the current rate and ensure economic growth. In fact, unless we protect nature, ALL businesses – small and large - will not thrive.
Small businesses are actively searching for innovative answers to energy use, water provisions and ways to operate smarter, greener and more responsibly. That’s why I am so optimistic about the future. Here is a series of practical steps that will help the Earth in a big way – and boost your company’s ROI, motivate your employees and engage your customers:
Make small changes to your workplace – Going “green” makes smart business sense. Simple steps like using energy-saving light bulbs, emailing documents instead of printing them out and setting printers and copiers to print double-sided help shrink your company’s ecological footprint. They can also save you money; energy-efficient light bulbs pay for themselves by lowering electricity bills, and paper costs can be cut nearly in half. Encouraging employees to shut down their computers at night and on weekends also saves significant amounts of energy. It really is a simple way to start.
Inspire your employees – By working together, we create the kind of cumulative change that really makes a difference. By example, a business owner can inspire and motivate employees and customers to live green. Post a list of 10 simple things employees can do to reduce energy and save water at work and home – such as driving less, eating greener, and recycling batteries – and watch smarter decisions take root. Encourage carpooling and bicycling to work by permitting flex hours and, in turn, employees may be eligible for financial incentives for these initiatives. These efforts may also attract the best and brightest talent who increasingly want to work for companies that demonstrate ecological values.
Make a donation – People can make an impact by donating in any amount they are comfortable with. Just $15 can protect an acre of tropical forest, which slows the production of greenhouse gases, sustains life by providing homes for thousands of species of plants and animals and supports the health and livelihood of millions of people with fresh air, clean water and increased protection from storms. Visit our site to learn more about tropical forests and make a donation to protect an acre today. Or learn other ways you can give.
Stay informed – CI works collaboratively with companies of all sizes to make conservation part of smart business plans. Our Center for Environmental Leadership in Business was created almost ten years ago to partner with business and environmental leaders to create innovative business solutions that help to sustain healthy ecosystems. We encourage you to visit our website, download our interactive digital magazine or subscribe to our news digest so you can keep up with events. There are other good resources online, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR small business program. I urge you to keep abreast of these developments so you can take steps that will benefit the world at large and your business.
Join Team Earth – In September, we launched Team Earth, a ground-breaking cross-sector partnership designed to rally action for the issues that impact all seven billion people on the planet. Bringing together companies, schools and individuals to harness the power of social networking and global outreach, we’re showing that “we” is greater than “me.” As a team we can show the world how to live smarter, greener, more responsible lives. Please join Team Earth and see how you can help out and take action now.
Investing in the Earth is just that – an investment in the tangible benefits (both goods and services) that people receive from nature – and such actions pay off in multiple ways: the future sustainability of our planet; a direct improvement in millions of lives by providing people with fresh water, shelter and other tangible benefits; and more-efficient, money-saving business practices. Companies like FedEx are investing in local communities – helping conserve and reforest areas that were impacted by devastating earthquakes in China – and other efforts around the world as part of their sustainability business practices. But you do not have to be a big business to make a huge impact. The collective power of individuals and small businesses truly are making a difference in the future health of our planet. Are you in?
Peter Seligmann is Chairman and CEO of Conservation International.
Source: “Small Businesses Ride Wave of Green IT”
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