So called “sustainable buildings” are those structures designed, or renovated, to minimize their harmful impact on the environment – both internally, for the occupants, and externally – for the planet. Sustainable building encompasses a number of related measures ranging from using environmentally benign products (e.g., paints, wood treatments, recycled building materials), to ways to manage air quality (e.g., stove/oven vents, air filters) and from efficient fixtures and solar panels to improved insulation. In exchange for implementing said measures, building owners and occupants stand to reap much in benefits.
Benefits of Sustainable Buildings
Here are some examples of the benefits to be had in choosing sustainable building practices.
- Sustainable buildings are much less expensive to operate. For example, environmentally-improved building reduces the cost to both cool the building in summer and heat the building in winter, which can build up to impressive savings over time – sometimes bringing energy costs down to a pittance. Similarly, measures like automated thermostats and light sensors result in greater energy reductions, helping to cut costs for the building owners and/or occupants.
- Governments at the municipal, state, and even federal level have reason to encourage the usage of sustainable building. This means that building owners can often collect tax credits and other incentives which reduce the spending needed to make their buildings sustainable. Examples include federal tax credits for specific renovations, other tax credits in states such as New York and Maryland, plus grants and other tax incentives at the federal, state and municipal levels.
- Less pollution suspended in the air is an important benefit to certain sustainable building practices, such as the refusal to use paints with high concentrations of volatile organic compounds. Occupants have an easier time using buildings without having to breathe in such pollution. Furthermore, it ensures that said individuals have reduced risks for a number of serious medical conditions extending to and beyond breathing problems. For example, did you that there is strong evidence that the fumes from cooking with oil is linked to lung cancer?
- Of course, the reduction of wasteful practices also reduces a building’s impact on an over-burdened planet. Given the rising importance of environmentalism, trumpeting sustainable building practices can see building owners’ reputations soar, leading to improved relationships with their stakeholders. Increasingly, many environmentally-conscious home buyers actively seek to rent or purchase sustainable dwellings.
Sustainable building practices are both ethical and practical. Given the persuasiveness of the combination, the rising interest in sustainable buildings is not surprising.
According to a United National Global Compact Accenture Industry Study, 93 percent of industry CEOs believe that sustainability issues will be critical to the future success of their business. That study highlights the fact that sustainable businesses are becoming the new reality. We will now focus on four reasons why sustainability is so important for your business.
Good for the Environment
Sustainable businesses are good for the environment. Because of this fact your company should be concerned about sustainability strictly for ethical reasons. Caring about our planet should be enough motivation to adopt sustainable business practices.
Cuts Down on Energy and Waste Costs
According to an Ernst & Young study, “Six Growing Trends in Corporate Sustainability,” cost reduction was cited by 74% of the respondents as the principal driver of their company’s sustainability agenda. Sustainable businesses are able to cut down on energy and waste costs, which will in turn have a positive impact on the bottom line.
Helps Attract and Motivate Employees
The sustainability of your business practices can help with recruiting. While the minority of potential employees who don’t care about sustainability won’t care either way, the rest may – and it could be the tie-breaker that helps them choose to work with your organization. Sustainability can also help motivate your existing employees. In connection with this according to a nationwide study “What Workers Want in 2012,” conducted by Rutgers University and funded by The John and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, “Employees who feel they can make an impact on social and environmental issues while on the job are twice as satisfied with work as those who don’t.” Happy employees are productive employees. Happy employees are also more likely to stick around which will help increase your company’s retention rate.
Good for Your Reputation
Clients and investors are drawn to sustainable businesses. We already previously made reference to the 2011 Ernst and Young Study. In that study, 68% of all respondents felt that stakeholder expectation was an important factor in their company’s sustainability agenda. This is also highlighted by the following statement made in 2012 by Mary Wenzel, Director of Environmental Affairs: “Over 80 percent of our customers said it was important to them that we have an environmental commitment.”
That good reputation can also spread throughout the communities where your business locations are based. This could also potentially lead to positive media exposure. Since sustainability is the new reality, you can’t afford to overlook sustainable business practices.
With the way population is increasing and natural resources are depleting, something’s got to give. Luckily, it’s not too late yet to improve processes and make them earth-friendly. This is where sustainable businesses come in. Because of their capacity to endure and their minimal effect on the environment, they’ve become the ideal models for organizations to follow.
But sustainable businesses don’t just save the world — they also save money in the long run. Here are five sustainable practice that can help increase profitability.
- Using renewable energy: Solar, wind, and geothermal energy are just some of the viable options known as “green power,” which are referred to as such because of their sustainability. Businesses can enjoy lower energy costs because of the increased efficiency of these alternative energy sources.
- Administering regular maintenance: Buildings with no proper insulation lose a lot of heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. Resources go to waste and electricity bills reach sky-high when maintenance is neglected. But with proper care, heating/cooling systems become more energy-efficient regardless of the season.
- Going paperless: Paper is consumable, so a company that relies on it most the time needs to have constant supply. But with so many apps now that bring office activities (such as managing meetings and sending out memos) to mobile devices, businesses that go digital save on paper costs.
- Reducing waste: Businesses can reduce expenses with improved waste reduction. It’s good practice to invest in durable equipment, purchase products made from recycled materials, donate old electronics, etc. The goal is to waste as little as possible, both to save money and to decrease carbon footprint. Training employees to use resources wisely also goes a long way.
- Giving back: It may sound contradictory at first, but businesses actually save money when they give back to the community they’re in. This is because people are more inclined to support businesses that exhibit corporate social responsibility. That kind of customer loyalty is something no amount of advertising can buy.
Sustainability is more than a buzzword. For many businesses, it’s a mission statement. Why shouldn’t it be? Sustainability is all about taking care of Mother Earth and cutting down costs at the same time. Everyone wins.
Nevertheless, business needs are not the same. A sustainable practice that works for a one business may not work for another. The best approach is trial-and-error. Start with small steps, and if they work, take the big leap.