A Secret to Green Business Success

On any big corporation’s web site these days, you’ll likely find their page devoted to environmental sustainability. It typically describes what initiatives the corporation has to lower its carbon emissions, recycle more, or save energy or water. It provides numbers and data that explain how much progress the company has made to reduce its environmental footprint.

eco footprint

Small businesses may feel like such data gathering and number crunching is too time-consuming or not worth the effort. They probably don’t have budgets, after all, to hire sustainability consultants.

But for most businesses, it’s worth spending a little time measuring green progress: Small businesses can greatly enhance their sustainability progress – while adding credibility to their green marketing – by using data to better measure and track their sustainability performance.

While it does take time to measure and track your green progress, it doesn’t have to be an all-consuming process.

Here are three key steps:

Find Your Baseline

You need to know your starting point to know whether you’ve made any progress. How many kilowatts of electricity do you use each year? How many miles do your company autos travel each year (and what’s their gas mileage).

Do a thorough review of your current environmental footprint. You can find much of the information about your energy use, for instance, by reviewing your electric and gas bills. This will likely probably help you identify opportunities for improvement.

You can keep track on a monthly or quarterly basis using an Excel spreadsheet. Local organizations can also help. Check to see if there’s a sustainability networking group, such as a BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies) chapter in your community.

Some utility companies will also provide free or low-cost energy and water audits that give you a breakdown of your current usage.

Set Goals

Once you know your current footprint, you can identify ways to lower it. Consider writing a sustainability plan, even if just a short one, that lays out your goals. Writing a plan allows you to think through your sustainability priorities and formalize them.

You might even consider publishing that plan on your web site, if you think your customers will care.

Keep Track Of Your Progress

Keep a spreadsheet that documents your company’s green progress. If a goal is to reduce electricity use by, say, 10%, write down your monthly kilowatt usage (which is typically displayed on your utility bills). This will make it easy come year-end for you to see whether you’ve met your goals.

After you’ve collected all this great information about your environmental footprint – and know how much progress you’ve made in reducing it – you have something to brag about. Use that information to engage your customers around your green initiatives. You’ll have numbers to back it up, after all.

Eco Footprint Photo via Shutterstock


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

2 Reactions
  1. Great advice. Green America also has some great resources.

  2. Such simple straight talking advice,and an article which SME’s will find workable and cost affective.
    Great article

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