Since 1970, Earth Day has been celebrated annually on April 22 to help raise awareness of environmental issues and serve as a reminder to live more sustainably all year long. For small businesses, having a sustainability strategy may seem like a time-consuming or costly endeavor. However, running an environmentally conscious small business can help you conserve energy and reduce expenses as well as protect the planet.

Being environmentally conscious can also enhance your brand image. In today’s marketplace, a company’s focus on environmental responsibility is among the key factors that influence customer purchasing decisions. A Nielsen study showed half of all consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services from businesses that are committed to positive social and environmental impacts.

Add Green Goals to Your Business Strategy

The first step to reducing waste and becoming more sustainable is to set specific goals and determine how you will incorporate them into your day-to-day operations. Identify what is important to you and your team when it comes to becoming more eco-friendly, and examine areas where your business operations have the greatest impact on the environment. Focus on initiatives that fit your budget, and remember to check with your accountant to find out what tax credits or deductions may be available for small businesses with green initiatives.

Keep in mind that many small business owners use working capital funding to cover the costs of upgrading their facilities and improving processes. Summit Financial Resources offers working capital loans that involve using your accounts receivable and other assets as collateral. We can mix and match from a variety of product options, including invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing. Working capital loans can be used for any business expense, which means you can invest in more energy-efficient computers or employee incentives to reduce waste and reap the benefits now.

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Here are some simple, cost-effective choices your small business can make to be green on Earth Day and every day:

Shrink Your Paper Trail

Paper makes up about 35% of a typical company’s total waste, and the average office worker prints out 10,000 sheets of paper a year. Printing less is one of the simplest and most impactful ways to support the environment. Some small businesses go so far as to become paper-free, printing only when absolutely necessary. However, you can make an immediate dent in your company’s waste volume by changing a few basic processes:

  • Replace paper mailings to customers with electronic communications.
  • Distribute internal information via email, not on paper.
  • Save documents to an online storage system or a USB drive instead of printing hard copies.
  • Pay bills electronically or via e-bill programs.
  • Place paper recycling receptacles next to every trash can.
  • Reuse incoming shipping boxes for future outgoing shipments.

Encourage Alternatives to Driving

Limiting the number of vehicles on the road is an important step towards reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality. Encourage your employees to incorporate more earth-friendly practices into how they get to and from work each day. Consider starting a rideshare program and offering incentives to those who carpool. Help subsidize the cost of transit passes for workers who take public transportation or provide bike racks for cyclists. If possible, allow workers to telecommute when it is not essential that they be in the office.

Conserve Electricity

Small changes in lighting, heating, and air conditioning can make a huge difference in your energy consumption. For example, set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer, and encourage employees to bring personal fans and sweaters to stay comfortable.

Use natural light as much as possible and replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps that use one quarter of the energy and produce 90% less heat. Energy-efficient light bulbs last significantly longer than traditional bulbs, which helps the environment and your bottom line. Turn off lights when rooms are not in use, and ask employees to do the same. In places like bathrooms and supply areas, install motion sensors to automatically turn lights on and off.

Improve Computer Efficiency

Improve the efficiency of your company’s computer system by having your IT department set all monitors to energy-saving mode so they will “go to sleep” after 10 to 15 minutes of inactivity. Make sure employees shut down hard drives, monitors, and printers when they leave the office for the day, and unplug computers when they are not in use for a period of time. If you have been considering swapping desktop computers for more energy-efficient laptops or tablets, Earth Day may be the incentive you need.

Integrating sustainability concepts into your core business practices will improve efficiency and cut costs, allowing you to reinvest the savings back into your business. Just as important, it will earn the respect of your employees, vendors, and customers, and go a long way towards ensuring a healthier planet for future generations.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.