Does going green really make good business sense?

If you’re like me, the whole notion of going green conjures up the image of a gathering of 60s hippies (remember them) with sandals and banners that read Save the Planet. Well, you may not be as outdated as I am, but you should understand my general trend, going green is for far-left radicals who demand that everyone reduce their carbon footprint this very instant. Mainly because climate change and global warming are serious problems, which everyone should address, or the planet will go to hell quickly, like right now!

Perhaps that’s the extreme vision of going green, and one that bears little resemblance to modern recycling, composting, and energy conservation practices to reduce our impact on the environment. The whole concept of going green has taken on an “individual” playing field in which each of us can reduce our dependence on our finite natural resources, many of which are non-renewable. Each of us can consume less, change our driving habits, recycle more items, and reduce our energy / electricity consumption. We can also plant more trees and / or support organizations that are trying to save the environment.

But what about companies or businesses? How do they fit into this ecological image?

Like an individual, companies can act or implement certain procedures that reduce their impact on the environment. This doesn’t really have to be a big deal (probably the wrong word to use) but rather simple actions that can make a significant difference. I was totally amazed when I read on a leading eco-guide website that roughly 50% (that’s half) of the trees harvested in North America are actually used for paper production. Imagine what all this cutting does to wildlife habitat and / or deforestation.

Even more surprising was the fact that it takes a tree to produce around two boxes of typing / faxing paper and if only 5% of businesses chose to send faxes by email (paperless faxing), they would save more than ONE million trees per year. Also, you need to factor in the total environmental cost of producing that paper in the first place; To make paper, it takes more than 1,000 different chemicals and countless kilowatt hours of energy.

To further complicate matters, one has to realize that in the United States (as well as other countries) producing energy often means burning more coal, which releases some nasty chemicals into the atmosphere, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. Producing more of these chemicals gives us more smog and acid rain. Oh.

One way that businesses, both large and small, can help the environment is to “go paperless” or develop a “paperless office” by relying on new technologies such as faxing and digital files. Computers and email have truly changed the corporate workplace and greatly reduced our dependence on paper. Records, files, communications, faxes … can now be stored electronically or digitally. This “paperless office” can be further enhanced with “cloud” services, where all your information is stored on remote third-party servers.

We also have virtual PBX (Private Branch Exchange) services where most, if not all, of our calls and business communications can be handled via computers and the web. This includes Internet or email faxing which can be completely paperless. As small a change as ditching the old traditional fax machine can go a long way toward making any business greener.

However, the question remains whether all this eco-friendly stuff is good for business. The answer has to be a resounding yes. Forget the environment for a moment, on a purely operational level, consuming less energy, going paperless, using digital files … will make your business more efficient and more economical to operate. Saving money is always good for business. It is also important to do things in the most modern and efficient way possible, especially if your company depends on quick communications with employees, clients or customers.

So, of course, we must not forget all the public relations benefit of going green. Emphasizing this green label on your products and services will definitely create more awareness and generate more business, especially among customers who are now demanding a greener alternative to many of the products / services they use or consume. Many companies are jumping on the “green train” for this reason alone – it’s just good for business.

While this may be perceived as a bit devious or even manipulative, if these companies can back up their claims with green actions, which really benefit the environment, in the end, their motives don’t really matter because we all win. Reducing our dependence on non-renewable resources and / or consuming less energy can only be seen as a good thing. Something good for the environment. It is good for business. Now where did I put those blessed sandals?

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