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In addition to touting green products, many businesses are finding cost savings through greening their business operations. Principle targets of opportunity include energy efficiency, reduced water use, and decreased production of waste products.

Despite the hype about "Green is Good For Business," it is not always easy for companies to rethink their operations and obtain these cost savings. Luckily, help is out there in the form of case studies, check lists, and consultants.

Self-Audit Tools

  • DMA Environmental Planning Tool & Policy Generator: developed by the Direct Marketing Association, this tool focuses on ways to improve a business's financial performance, environmental performance and social responsibility...the so-called "Triple Bottom Line." The focus is on marketing activities, including maintenance of accurate mailing lists, paper procurement policies, printing & packaging, and recycling at work and in the community.

  • Facility Energy Audit. Many utility companies offer free energy audits, either in-person or via online calculators, for their business customers. In addition, some public utility commissions offer energy audits specially geared for small businesses (e.g., Efficiency Maine). Typical items considered include lighting and automated lighting, water heating, windows and doors, and heat/air conditioning systems.

  • Tips for a Greener Business touches on the categories of purchasing, energy and water efficiency, office waste recycling, and employee transportation.
Free 30 Day Trial -MarketWatch Hulbert Interactive

Voluntary Certification Programs

  • ISO 14001: The International Standards Organization (ISO) has developed standards for environmental management systems to enhance sustainability of business operations. Firms wishing to qualify for ISO 14001 certification must demonstrate that their environmental management systems conform to the ISO requirements. Certification is carried out by independent auditors and may be costly for small businesses. Even without formal certification, firms can obtain the environmental and cost benefits of having a good environmental management system. However, a growing number of companies are requiring ISO 14001 certification from their subcontractors and vendors.

  • Food Alliance: certification programs for farmers, ranchers, and food handlers, with onsite inspection by third-party auditors every three years. The certification criteria include no use of hormone and antibiotic treatments (other than for treatment of illness), and "best management practices" for livestock treatment, reduced pesticide use, soil and water management, and wildlife habitat enhancement. The site has a helpful farm self-assessment tool. Cost of certification is a percent of annual gross sales, starting at the greater of 0.5% or $400.

  • Green Seal is a non-profit organization that offers labeling guidelines and a certification process for manufacturers who wish to display the Green Seal. Their assessment takes into account environmental impacts for the lifecycle of a product.

  • Green-e is a certification process offered by the Center for Resource Solutions for renewable energy and carbon offset products, including Renewable Energy Certificates, Utility Green Pricing Programs, and Competitive Market Electricity Products. To qualify for certification, energy companies must demonstrate that their renewable energy is new capacity (added since 1997) and beyond what is mandatory by law.

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Case Examples

  • Innovations Review: Making Green the New Business as Usual. 2008. Environmental Defense Fund. Approaches being tried at a set of firms to improve environmental performance, including energy efficiency, rooftop solar panels, co-generation of electricity using process heat, changes to product and packaging design, fleet efficiency, and telecommuting.
  • Zero Landfill Facilities. In a new push to reduce landfill waste and disposal fees, and to recoup value from scrap metal, waste paper, plastics and other products, some firms are working toward "landfill free" manufacturing facilities. Subaru of Indiana has been a "zero landfill waste" facility since 2004

Corporate Green Policies

A growing number of firms are developing environmental or green policies, and including them on their corporate websites. These policies not only clarify thinking within an organization, but can demonstrate the company's environmental commitment to consumers.

For example, Google's Commitment to Sustainable Computing focuses on energy and water efficiency, and recycling of electronic equipment. In November 2007, Google also announced plans to invest in alternative energy, including electricity from solar thermal, wind power, and geothermal sources. The initiative is named RE<C, which stands for Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal.

Marriot International has announced a series of "greening initiatives," including key cards made from recycled plastic, pillows of fiberfill made from recycled PET bottles, coreless toilet paper rolls, and recycled paper products.

Additional examples of corporate green policies:

Definition of Green Jobs: 

"work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development (R&D), administrative, and service activities that contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality.

...this includes jobs that help to protect ecosystems and biodiversity; reduce energy, materials, and water consumption through high efficiency strategies; de-carbonize the economy; and minimize or altogether avoid generation of all forms of waste and pollution." --UNEP Green Jobs Report

Google: Powering a Clean Energy Revolution.

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