Ready to Reduce Your Footprint? Start by Taking These 5 Steps

For resource-intensive organizations, conservation and environmental initiatives are more than feel-good activities. Environmental stewardship can ease regulatory and compliance burdens, reduce effort and waste, and increase profit margins. Yet, many companies still struggle to justify green efforts.

Implementing an environmental initiative in your business can be more than just an exercise in sustainability. The program can contain pragmatic efforts to achieve specific business goals, from reducing compliance requirements to enhancing product quality.

Whether your organization’s environmental initiatives have stalled, or you haven’t started one yet, here are five suggestions to help you get the ball rolling:

  1. Initiate an environmental management system. These kinds of systems are pivotal to measuring and validating your company’s efforts and success rates. Completing the total system takes time, but putting the core framework in place isn’t difficult.

    A key first step is to assign an environmental manager to gather information from operations management regarding potential process improvements that will result in environmental benefits. Once you identify these goals, prioritize them according to which are most beneficial.

  2. Pick the low-hanging fruit. Look for projects where a small change will save money in terms of energy, materials waste, and other obvious investment returns. When starting out, remember that changes don’t have to be sweeping to make a positive impact on your environmental footprint, and in many cases, it is easier to implement and gain financial support from the boardroom for small adjustments. When you can show results from smaller initiatives, gaining support for larger initiatives later will come easier.

    For this same reason, start out by focusing on projects with a short timeline, where impacts are measurable in six months or less. Demonstrating a positive impact on the bottom line early on will excite upper management to continue and fund your efforts.

  3. Consider your people. If your employees have reported environmental, quality, or safety issues that could stand to be improved, give these matters serious consideration. You will not only improve the work environment, lower risk, and prevent potential regulatory citations, but your workers will benefit by becoming active participants in meaningful company changes. Environmental programs are only as good as the employees who support and implement them.
  4. Set clear parameters. Early on, top management should reach consensus on what they want to achieve. Environmental initiatives almost always involve resource allocation, and it’s easier to make progress with advance support.

    For example, it might not be practical to have a key production staffer pulled off the line for two weeks to implement changes, so you may need to cross-train another project leader.

  5. Keep an eye out. Remember that maintaining a sustainable operation requires constant vigilance. Over time, improvements can slip through the cracks as small deficiencies stack up. Monitor activities where problems could creep in and negatively impact sustainability objectives. Eliminating detrimental trends is much easier when you catch them early.

It is sometimes difficult to see the benefits of an environmental initiative early on. But taking these five steps will help show your company that going green is not only responsible, it can also have a positive impact on the bottom line.

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