Making your small business green seems to be all the rage these days. But with most hot trends, the truth can sometimes get cloudy. Bill Corbett, Jr. helps sort out some of the misconceptions small business owners in particular might have about going green.
Corbett, after earning a master’s degree in environmental management, spent the past 23 years coaching green building developers, product manufacturers and municipalities and recycling companies through his firm, Corbett Public Relations. He says, "There are many misconceptions and I have learned over the years, and it continues to surprise people that the opposite of what they believe is actually the truth.”
Here are a few of the most common misconceptions Corbett's clients deal with:
Going green is too expensive
The greatest misconception about green building in particular is that it is more expensive than traditional construction, says Corbett. “In truth it may cost a little more up front, but the return-on-investment is faster than with traditional building. New methods are also more durable and healthy.”
For example, OceanSafe produces buildings out of steel structural-insulated panels, which create building envelopes that are highly energy efficient (keep the cool inside in hot weather and keep the heat in during cold weather), and are also hurricane and earthquake resistant. By working with materials like this, owners reap tremendous savings over the long term–especially when you add in tax incentives for using these materials–and live in safer, healthier homes, says Corbett. “When you add it all up, it’s a win-win for everyone,” he says.
Your customers expect you to go green
Green is good, but perceptions don't always match reality, says Corbett. “Consumers want to buy from green companies but only if the price for a product or service is close,” he says. “Surveys will say that people say that they want to buy green but in reality, they shop for price. They will pay a little more if there is a benefit. Today many consumers will pick American-made over green when given the option.”
Another challenge companies face is that, at least according to a recent survey, most consumers don’t trust the eco-friendly claims companies make about their products anyway. “Consumers are more leery of green claims these days,” says Corbett. “If a business claims to be green and can’t prove it, this could be a PR and marketing problem."
Going green is too overwhelming
When they first hear about going green, most small business owners get overwhelmed because they think that means they need to install expensive solar panels or make some other major capital investment. But the truth is that any business can begin enjoying the benefits of going green simply by conducting an energy audit of their business or home office, says Corbett. “Just adding better insulation, changing out older light bulbs for newer, efficient ones can result in almost immediate cost savings,” he says.
Rethinking the kinds of equipment you use in your office can also offer big results for small efforts. He points to one client, The Workplace Group, an office furniture, office space design and copier sales firm on Long Island, NY, that helps companies choose office equipment and lighting fixtures that automatically shut down after they aren’t used for a period of time–something that can save a business thousands of dollars a year.
The only reason to go green is to save or make money
Business owners tend to overlook the benefits that going green can have beyond the bottom line–especially when it comes to attracting young talent. “Young people want to work in a green, healthy office, especially ones that are designed differently to allow for collaboration,” says Corbett. “Builders and office space designers that work with businesses recognize that green and energy efficient building and layouts are important because natural light and open layouts allow for employees to be more productive, happier and healthier.”
Learn more in OPEN Forum's Going Green 2012 series.
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