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NEW: Beth Walker

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SME owners want to go “green”, but often don’t know how or fear the expense. Don’t worry, here’s how.

A green primer

Going green is a hot topic for most people but many businesses owners are flying under the radar when it comes to environmental compliance.

Most businesses want to do “the right thing” but there are two big stumbling blocks: they don’t know how or what to do to be more environmentally friendly; and they often think that being “green” costs money.

Research I have done at Edith Cowan University shows that the vast majority of SMEs (96%) are concerned about the environment but many didn’t understand that their business practices potentially have an impact on their immediate environment.

Collectively, Australia’s 1.8 million business owners make an enormous impact on the ecological footprint of society, both on their immediate local environment as well as in a global sense.

The good news is that these blocks can be overcome and governments at all levels are being to put up info on their websites, here are two.

http://www.business.gov.au/Business+Entry+Point/ and click on environmental management

http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/www/html/1517-home-page.asp

The second block, regarding the bottom line, can also be overcome with some simple strategies. The first place to start is to understand the three fundamental tenets of environmental behaviour and management, the 21st century 3Rs:

Reduce
Reuse
Recycle

Different industries will do it differently. But here are some really easy and inexpensive examples to get any business started on a green track.

Reduce:

  • Turn off (rather than leave on standby) all non-essential electrical appliances at night, including computers, monitors and air-conditioners.
  • Set all photocopiers to duplex and economy/draft modes.
  • Replace ordinary light bulbs with fluorescent energy-savers when they need changing.
  • Don’t print emails unless absolutely necessary.

Reuse:

  • Packaging is one of the easiest things to reuse, and is a great way to save money. Buy refills of products rather than new.

Recycle:

  • Make sure you have recycling bins for different products. These can simply be a cardboard box for paper and a small plastic bin for bottles/cans, and put them close to desks and sinks.
  • Invest in washing-up detergent and replace disposables cups with ordinary cups or mugs and encourage staff to bring in their own from home.
  • Check out if any of your “waste” is something that can actually make you money. Remember, recycling is also a growing industry.

It still comes down to the individual business owners to take control but a good start is to think about good environmental management practices as having the potential to increase rather than reduce the bottom line. That is good business sense in anyone’s book.

 

Dr Beth Walker is the director of the Small and Medium Enterprise Research Centre (SMERC) and an Associate Professor in the School of Management at Edith Cowan University.

 

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