What does it really mean to be a green business? Sure, many businesses are talking the green talk, but are they really walking the green walk? Defining green business” is key to recognizing companies that truly have the environment in mind.
Green” is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days to refer to all types of things. From consumer goods to television specials to vehicles to lifestyle choices. Everyone’s talking green.
In a similar way green business definitions are just as broad. But when it comes to corporations, what does it really mean to be a green business? Sure, many businesses are talking the green talk, but are they really walking the green walk? Defining green business” is key to recognizing companies that truly have the environment in mind.
At the very core, green businesses choose to operate in an earth-friendly fashion. They work to adapt their policies, practices, and principles so that they produce a positive result for the environment–whether they’re trying to solve an environmental or societal problem, or they’re just attempting to produce a product that has a smaller footprint.
Green businesses produce green products
Let’s start by looking at how a business might change their manufacturing operations in order to build eco-friendly products. Many today talk about the triple bottom line” which is a phrase that was coined by john Elkington in 1994. Today, it is one of the benchmarks used to measure whether a business has adopted sound environmental policies and practices.
Essentially, the triple bottom line takes ecological and social performance seriously, building it into a three-part organization model that functions along three axes: people, planet, and profit. In other words, rather than considering only profit in measuring a business’ success, the triple bottom line gets companies thinking beyond money to social and environmental factors as well.
In practical terms, this may mean that a green business should consider the following environmental and society strategies:
- Water conservation: Green businesses understand that our fresh water supplies are limited and that careful conservation is required. At all steps in the manufacturing and distribution process, efforts should be made to reduce the consumption of water and the company should strive to produce products that consume less water during their lifespan as well.
- Energy conservation: In addition to concerns about water, another green business opportunity is energy conservation. Sustainable businesses recognize that climate change will have a profound impact on our world at all levels, including business success. Those green businesses that build energy conservation into their long-term plans will not only save money, they will protect themselves against the risk of rising energy costs, and will demonstrate to their constituents their interest in taking climate change seriously (which garners support). Again, for manufacturers, this will mean both energy savings on the factory floor as well as an emphasis on producing products that require less energy.
- Solid waste reduction and recycling: From start to finish, the quantity of waste produced during the manufacturing process should be limited. Processes the minimize waste from the start and that have plans in place for recycling and reusing any waste that is in fact created should be the cornerstone of any green business. And as always, the finished product should also reduce waste production.
- Pollution prevention: Finally, green businesses practices will also include pollution prevention. Many manufacturing processes use toxic ingredients and/or spew toxic effluent and waste into the environment (be it air pollution, water pollution, or ground pollution). A green business will work to reduce toxins going into their products, mitigate toxins at the end of the process, and create a product that functions toxin-free as well.
A really green business may wish to go above and beyond by working to give back to the environment by devising and producing products that actually help the environment. Whether a green business chooses to manufacture highly-efficient solar panels or engineer a new water filtration method, the world needs more products that will not only have less of an impact, they will actually improve the planet.
Green businesses conduct eco-friendly operations
But what if your company isn’t a direct manufacturer? How do you go about incorporating green business practices into your operations? Generally speaking, a green business that operates out of an office or distribution center will use the same principles as already outlined, but the practical applications will be slightly different. For instance:
- Energy conservation: A green office building will be constructed to as to minimize the energy consumed by its occupants. There will be energy efficient heating and cooling systems, low-energy lighting, and policies in place for purchasing energy efficient electronics and appliances and using them with the lowest possible energy. Additionally, company fleets can incorporate green business practices by empowering purchasers to look only for the most fuel efficient vehicles–whether they be delivery trucks or executive limousines.
- Solid waste reduction and recycling: Here again, a green business will apply resource reduction strategies to minimize the waste that is created. This could mean reducing packaging waste or ordering in bulk. It will also mean an office with policies to reduce and handle waste properly. Employees will be encouraged to use less paper and fewer disposables (cleaning products, kitchen waste, etc). And comprehensive recycling programs will be put in place.
- Water conservation: A green business will also work to reduce water consumption. From toilets to faucets to showers to clean-up, water reduction measures will be put in place.
- Pollution prevention: Here, a green business will work to reduce pollution by practicing eco-friendly landscaping methods, using green janitorial supplies, and perhaps even purchasing carbon offsets to mitigate any greenhouse gas pollution they create.
2 Green business profiles
Let’s look quickly at two green businesses that are making a difference for the planet.
Milk Paint Company
Entrepreneur Charles Thibeau wanted to create his own Colonial-style furniture made with old-fashioned techniques so he turned to milk paint. Devising a formula that consists primarily of lime, milk, clay, and earth pigments–all natural, readily-available ingredients–he came up with a product that can be used on walls, exteriors, and furniture.
After much demand for his creations, he decided this would be a good business venture and founded the Old-Fashioned Milk Paint Company. Their products are not only made of sustainable, renewable ingredients (conventional paints are often made with petroleum byproducts which are not renewable), they contain no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemical preservatives, pigments, or fungicides, all toxic ingredients common in conventional paints. It’s a truly green business that’s producing truly green products.
Recognizing that millions of toothbrushes are thrown away in American homes every year, Eric Hudson decided to do something about the problem. So, he created a company called Recycline that would produce eco-friendly products, including the Preserve Toothbrush. Made with a handle constructed of 100 percent recycled plastic, this toothbrush is not only practical, it is green. This is especially true since Preserve Toothbrushes and everything else in their product line can be recycled with #5 plastics! That’s a true expression of the triple bottom line in action.
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