Increasing ROI by Improving Business Sustainability in a Cash-Strapped EconomyDuring times of economic uncertainty and staggering consumer confidence levels, companies seek alternative measures to increase business sustainability. Businesses incur additional costs to cover operational expenses; however, companies unintentionally waste their revenue on excess supplies and inefficient policies. Sustainable businesses generate additional revenue through targeting environmentally conscious customers, and�reducing consumption, reusing materials, and disposing of waste responsibly.
The State of Garbage
Business sustainability counteracts the materialistic nature of modern societies that creates an addiction to garbage and waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States department dedicated to municipal waste (MSW) management, businesses generate 45 percent of the total waste in the country. According to data taken from the "State of Garbage in America" survey in 2006, the country generates 413,014,732 tons of garbage per year; however, only 35.5 percent (146,601,768 tons) of the waste is recycled or reused. The remaining 64.5 percent (146, 601,768 tons) can be found in one of 1,800 landfills nationwide, which defeats business sustainability efforts.
Waste in Relation to Business Sustainability
In order to build business sustainability one must plan and allocate resources according to current needs. The type of waste businesses produce depends upon the industry; however, common categories include paper products, electronics and machinery, hazardous waste, non-renewable energy, as well as expired products. According to the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, office workers use 10,000 sheets of paper per year; however, only 66 percent of office paper is recycled and reused. It is pertinent to utilize recycled products within the business to increase resource efficiency.
While recycling rates remain steady for paper products, business sustainability struggles to control electronic waste (otherwise known as eWaste). With the rapid development and innovation of computers, printers, and other office machinery, businesses are constantly replacing outdated, slow, or broken equipment. Due to the chemical composition of the equipment, the items cannot be placed into landfills and require special handling to correctly dispose of the parts. Electronics are by nature nonrenewable investments; however, there are methods by which companies can recycle them.
Managing Business Waste
In an effort to increase business sustainability, businesses utilize a variety of techniques, including source reduction, recycling, composting, waste to energy incineration, and landfills. Most businesses attempt to recycle their materials; however, it requires internal and municipal coordination, which adds administrative costs, and diminishes savings. Businesses can offset the cost and improve sustainability efforts by using recycled products within their organization, such as printer paper.
Internal sustainability efforts are complemented by municipal services, who compost or incinerate materials to offset the expanding landfills. Current business sustainability efforts are band-aids to larger problems. Source reduction prevents waste from entering the ecosystem by reducing the number of resources businesses utilize. Source reduction enables businesses to increase sustainability by changing internal manufacturing and purchasing policies.
Increasing ROI Through Source Reduction
The costs to administer aggressive source reduction campaigns are offset by the long-term savings on operational expenses. Source reduction is based on the principle of a zero-waste ecosystem in which businesses use every resource that is purchased. Companies spend billions of dollars each year on products that are not used, expired, diminished, stolen, or liquidated. Every manufactured good has a set shelf life, including ink cartridges, pens, and paper. Additionally, discarding empty printer cartridges and broken electronics creates unnecessary hazardous waste. Cost reduction and business sustainability initiatives counteract these issues by obtaining extended warranties for electronics and utilizing printer cartridge refill services.
Reducing Waste in the Workplace
Cost reduction indicates most businesses spend large sums of money to buy office supplies in bulk. It is estimated that businesses waste one-third of these goods due to expiration or loss, which defeats any bulk discounts one would receive from vendors. Additionally, the supplies take up valuable warehouse space that could otherwise be reallocated. To effectively reduce waste, analyze company purchasing policies and contracts, noting areas of concern. Exceptions apply to these policies, as vendor agreements vary depending on their business sustainability practices.
Review company financial records, inventory databases, and purchase orders to determine the amount and rate of materials consumption. Monitor print and copy logs to verify the average number of pages printed per month and adjust toner and paper orders to reflect usage. Toner cartridges provide an estimated number of copies it can produce. When developing waste reduction plans, inventory the warehouse and sort them based on expiration date, using the oldest supplies first.
Implement Waste Reduction Programs
Cost reduction programs are key to increasing ROI and business sustainability. While every employee will not "go green" willingly, everyone is motivated by "the other" green - revenue. Form a committee at the corporate level and develop a sustainability plan, outlining goals and objectives of the operation while creating deadlines for major milestones. Once a basic plan is established, create a task force at the employee level, appointing two executives as the project managers.
The executive committee oversees the task force and communicates with the project managers, who work directly with business sustainability strategists. The task force will develop a mission statement that is aligned with corporate figures and creates a program outline that addresses the various goals and objectives. Task force members actively survey all of the waste generated by the company. By highlighting the problem employees realize the economic and environmental impact of the waste.
Through aggressive internal ad campaigns and memoranda the entire company�will become�aware of these issues. Business sustainability and cost reduction efforts increase profitability while positioning the organization as environmentally friendly.