The phrase "going green' is rapidly becoming a cliché in business.
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But despite its overuse, the green movement continues to gain ground in the minds of American consumers. So for the social entrepreneur, going green is a must – regardless of the cause you support.
Why is it important for every social entrepreneur to integrate environmental awareness into their business practices? There are lots of reasons, but perhaps the most important one is consistency. If you promote awareness and support for a non-green cause (e.g. homelessness) while refusing to implement even the most basic measures to be more environmentally responsible, sooner or later people are going to question your commitment to the cause you feel most passionate about.
Here's why: Social entrepreneurs are unique creatures – the perfect combination of the American dream and the American desire to give something back to the community. As a social entrepreneur, your employees, customers, investors, and other stakeholders admire your commitment to make the world a better place and assume your commitment reaches beyond the cause you are most passionate about. From their perspective, a refusal to apply increasingly common green practices in the business can smack of hypocrisy – the "kryptonite" of social entrepreneurism.
Fortunately, the process of going green doesn't have to be complicated and can actually end up saving money for your company. You don't have to install a complicated solar energy array to be environmentally-conscious. Instead, focus on getting the ball rolling with a few, simple green practices.
Recycling is one of the simplest and most immediate things you can do to promote environmental awareness in your company. Paper, cans, cardboard . . . Most communities have recycling programs capable of handling these types of materials. But in a small business, there are plenty of other recycling opportunities begging for attention. Ink cartridges. Outdated hardware. Industrial fluids. The list goes on and on. And once your recycling initiatives gain steam, save time for the final step of the process – communicating your efforts to your customers.
Product & Supply Selection
In many cases, environmentally-sound product choices are available from vendors, suppliers, and distributors. Subsequently, your conversations with suppliers should start to include a discussion of green alternatives in the product line. If the green product is of similar quality and can be purchased at a similar price point, you really have no reason to choose the non-green option. In addition to helping the environment, your company benefits from the product's packaging and design – which undoubtedly highlight its environmental advantages.
Conserving energy is a no-brainer for a small business. With energy prices skyrocketing, every ounce of effort you put into energy conservation has a direct impact on your company's bottom line. However, the idea of energy conservation is also popular with consumers, and if you can effectively communicate your conservation efforts, you will not only increase your business, but also cement your social entrepreneurial image in their minds.