How to convince your boss to go green

G Magazine

Is your workplace as eco-aware as you’d like it to be? G presents a commonsense approach to persuading your boss that going green will not only help the environment, but also the bottom line.

Green boss

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Emissions-intensive industries such as mining and manufacturing are grappling with what a carbon price might mean for them. But what about the day-to-day environmental impact of all kinds of businesses – what about where you work? How do you convince a harried, time-poor business owner or manager that it’s worth adopting environment-friendly measures?

Use business-speak

Appeal to business logic first, which is all about cost savings and risk management. Be positive in your approach: talk about opportunities, not difficulties. And the better prepared you are, the more convincing your case with be. Management are usually sceptical of what they perceive as “causes” so you need to be armed with some calculations that demonstrate savings and case studies that show your ideas are realistic.

Be ready to present to your boss, for example, what the business currently spends on energy and where it could make savings. Choosing computer settings such as sleep mode or computer software that optimises the way the networks run are easy but effective ways to achieve this. Remember, it’s OK to start small.

Do the sums on green power. Shop around for a scheme that adds only a little to your quarterly bill – then work out a few energy-saving ploys (installing energy-efficient light bulbs, making the most of natural light and ensuring appliances and lights are switched off at the end of the day and over weekends), and you’ve got a watertight case for supporting renewable energy.

Green means savings

Resources such as the Green Office Guide (available at www.environment.gov.au) will help you do the sums. For example, a $4,000 photocopier left on for seven years will cost $1,500 in electricity, $24,000 in paper and $15,000 in toner (and it will produce up to 80 tonnes of carbon dioxide). By switching to an energy-efficient machine, using recycled paper, refilling toner cartridges, copying double-sided and using a power-save setting when an item is not in use, the business can save 80 per cent of the power and halve paper and toner costs during its lifetime. Apply that sort of thrifty thinking to every aspect of the business and you have a solid case for going green.

Green means healthy and happy staff

Your boss can’t deny that what’s good for the environment is also good for the employees – which means it’s also good for business. Attracting and retaining good, happy workers means a productive workplace. The following green moves will directly benefit staff:

• Providing secure bicycle parking and shower facilities to encourage those who want to cycle to work.
• Facilitating car-pooling.
• Switching to greener and less toxic cleaning products.
• Allowing staff to telecommute and offering flexible or staggered hours. If some staff would rather work four longer days than five shorter ones, that means fewer cars on the road.

Green means better goods and services

A report commissioned by Shell released in 2006 predicted a global market worth trillions in sustainability related goods and services. So let your boss know that being green can be profitable! Loans are often more readily available and at better interest rates for green projects. For example, Federal Government grants of $50,000 to $500,000 are available to businesses wanting to go green.

Green is good risk management

Given that general trends for energy and water use are on the increase, while fossil fuels and water supplies become scarcer, regulations are only likely to become tighter. Many big names (BP, Ford, Unilever) already have well-established sustainability arms. The bigger the company, the more seriously it needs to anticipate both regulatory changes and changes in public attitudes. But it’s important for small companies too.

Green is great marketing

Environmental credentials are something to tell your customers about. It says the business is keeping up with trends and is innovative. The business is also likely to attract new customers, since consumers increasingly make purchasing decisions based on ethics and the environment. Building a reputation as a good corporate citizen helps you win and keep customers, build morale among your staff and gain the respect of the wider community.

Green is for leaders

Is the business a follower or a leader? What is the competition up to when it comes to sustainable business practices? Going green is an opportunity to differentiate the business as green and stand out from the crowd.

For inspiration and information

As one size does not fit all when it comes to greening a business. If you think your boss can take a challenge, you could always leave one of these on his/her desk (after absorbing it yourself, of course):

- The Corporation: An entertaining and unsettling documentary from Canada.
- The Ecology of Commerce, by Paul Hawken: This book changed the mind and life of Ray Anderson, chairman of the world's largest carpet manufacturer, Interface. After reading it, he committed to making the company's operations sustainable by 2020.
- An Inconvenient Truth: An Oscar-winning documentary that centres on Al Gore's global campaign to raise awareness of climate change.

- ABC Green at Work
- Department of Climate Change
- Earth Hour
- Energy Smart
- The Green Office Guide
- "Growing the Green Collar Economy" report by the Australian Conservation Foundation
- SustainAbility
- Total Environment Centre
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development
- World Resources Institute

Programs like Grow Me The Money can make it easier for bosses to make the green leap. The initiative is a government-funded program in Victoria for companies wanting to develop a more sustainable business – both economically and ecologically.

If the dangling carrot approach doesn’t work, there’s always the stick as a last resort. As the UK’s Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change pointed out in 2006, business costs will escalate dramatically if we continue to do nothing about climate change. It puts the cost of action now at about one per cent of GDP compared to at least five to 20 per cent the cost of inaction. Put it to your boss that tightening up your act now, at your own pace, will be cheaper and less disruptive for the business than doing it if you’re forced to because of new regulations or a changing market.

ALISON HAYNES is a freelance writer based in the Illawarra region of NSW, who, as her own boss, is thoroughly convinced of the need for green business practices.