In my job as a communications expert for an energy efficiency nonprofit, I get a lot of questions about payback: How long will it take for this or that energy upgrade to pay for itself through energy cost savings? This is an important question for any business trying to be fiscally responsible in this shaky economy.
But the straightforward financial return on investment of sustainability measures is only part of the reason businesses should be committed to reducing their environmental footprints today. There are a host of compelling long-term benefits that businesses reap once they embark on sustainability initiatives –and many of these benefits are ones they often didn’t initially bank on. Here’s a look at four “fringe benefits” of green business:
1. Opportunities for great publicity. Face it: As “green business” becomes more ingrained and trumpeted in the business world, more bloggers and mainstream media are covering it and looking to feature real-world examples. Companies that take on ambitious sustainability endeavors – whether it’s going “carbon neutral” or starting an ambitious recycling initiative – can earn positive PR. Green start-ups  also generate great coverage. On the flipside, all this coverage of green practices today also means companies that ignore their environmental impact or engage in “greenwashing” are more likely to attract bad publicity.
2. Better employee engagement. Young adults today are paying more attention to the social and environmental responsibility  of their employers or prospective employers. It’s cool to work for a company trying to change the world. Green practices are a way to engage employees in a good cause and help them feel more connected to the business. Read this recent blog post by Taiga Company, a green business consultant, on how to bolster employee engagement by tying it to the company’s energy efficiency initiatives.
3. Healthier, more comfortable workplaces. Reducing a company’s carbon footprint often goes hand-in-hand with improving the workplace environment. New high-efficiency furnaces, for instance, burn cleaner than older inefficient ones. Replacing gas-guzzling SUVs with a fleet of hybrid vehicles exposes your employees to less carbon emissions on a daily basis. Using less-toxic materials in your products means everyone will be healthier.
4. Time saved in the long run. Sure, putting together a full-blown sustainability plan – as I recommend businesses do  – and putting together the research to do it takes time, commitment, money and thought. But once those plans reach fruition, the outcomes often save the company time. New equipment requires less maintenance than older equipment. Less waste means less time collecting and hauling it away.