The modern business world demands a great deal from its entrepreneurs. This is a unique time in the history of civilization, and modern professionals are expected to have a very long view when it comes to the planning and execution of their business strategies. It’s simply not enough to put profit first and forget all else. While you need to make a living and your investors or shareholders are right to expect a return for their efforts, the businesses that thrive are also socially and morally responsible. The very few that have opportunities and resources must support the masses that have almost nothing, or else the whole thing falls apart. One simple way that a business owner can serve this higher purpose is by working to reduce waste within his company. It’s a small step, but when entrepreneurs move the needle governments and consumers listen. Here are five ways small businesses can reduce waste.
First off, it’s time to embrace the paperless office workflow. Sure, printers are inexpensive, but who needs to waste all of that paper? Even recycled paper stock makes a dent in our supply of natural resources, and technology has truly made this obsolete in the vast majority of situations. Have every employee think long and hard before printing anything. Get your computers all networked together, and use cloud storage to transfer and share documents. Even presentations can be moved digitally, leaving very few situations where the use of ink and paper is ever required.
If you do have to utilize these expendable assets, always recycle responsibly when you are done. Aging computers cannot be thrown away, but should either be donated to needy schools or social programs, or delivered to companies that specialize in disposing hardware effectively. You should be using rechargeable batteries, but don’t forget to recycle your old standard batteries when they die. The same goes for empty ink cartridges, and any dangerous chemicals, cleaning products or used oil if you work in manufacturing.
Next, think about how your employees get to and from work. This is obviously out of your control, but you can offer up incentives that help your entire business reduce its carbon footprint. Create a rideshare program and give out rewards for employees who take advantage. Offer up discount commuter cards that help pay for bus, train and subway fare, and even offer bonuses for employees that can walk or ride bicycles to work. These tiny changes will add up to huge waste reduction in the long run.
Now it’s time to turn your attention to the office kitchen. If you provide catered lunches, the amount of food that’s wasted is entirely in your hands. Make sure you keep tabs on the efforts of the catering company, to insure that food waste is minimized, and that any leftover food is given to needy organizations. Skip the plastic bottles of water in the fridge, and give out reusable bottles you can keep next to the water cooler. The same goes for the coffee machine. If everyone has their own mug, you’ll trim waste in major ways. Finally, make sure the kitchen is stocked with actual plates and utensils, so no one is forced to use plastic or paper.
Finally, reassess how necessarily employee travel is. It is true that ‘face time’ can be incredibly important in the business world, but modern technology now allows us to have the same exposure through video conferencing. Perhaps you can cut down on those wasteful commuter flights and do some of that business electronically instead. This is a core focus of the World Transformation Movement, as well as organizations that promote green and efficient entrepreneurism. In most cases you’ll lose nothing at all and actually save time, money and resources for the company in the process.