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Ways to Make Your Office More Sustainable: A Guide for Distributors

Ways to Make Your Office More Sustainable: A Guide for Distributors

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Ways to Make Your Office More Sustainable: A Guide for Distributors

19 Jan 2022

Aptean Staff Writer
Office workers meeting around table without social distancing

In the modern business setting, sustainability is no longer just a cool buzzword. The idea of sustainability and incorporating it into your business strategy is paramount. In addition to the environmental impact, choosing sustainable business practices is a huge part of corporate responsibility, a topic that becomes increasingly important as younger generations enter the consumer market and the workplace.

For 2022, we are going to be your guide into the future of sustainability and give you achievable strategies to incorporate sustainable practices into your own business culture. In the first of this essay series, we’ll walk you through every aspect of sustainable business practices, from the office to logistics to the supply chain.

First, we’ll explore what exactly sustainability is; then, in this essay, we’ll give you some actionable and inexpensive ways to make your office more sustainable. Not only will you reduce your environmental footprint, but you could also get some tax incentives, too.

What Is Sustainability in Business?

Harvard Business School refers to business sustainability as, “The effect companies have on the environment or society. A sustainable business strategy aims to positively impact one or both of those areas.” That sounds great—but how can your distribution business follow sustainable business practices without digging into the profits? The truth is most green business strategies are inexpensive—or even free—to implement. And in today’s socially conscious world, you cannot afford to have your company blacklisted for not following sustainable principles.

In addition, most countries have passed stringent regulations about environmental issues, starting with the framework set forth in the 1996 Kyoto Protocols and enhanced by the 2015 Paris Agreement. These regulations have set the standard to which companies have pledged to get to Zero Net Emissions (ZNE) by 2030. What this means for you is that it’s better to start adopting green business policies now, rather than waiting for local and national governments to start levying fines for non-compliance.

Check out the tips below to take the first steps toward a fully sustainable manufacturing business.

1. Reduce Energy Use

As a distributor, reducing energy use won’t just help you meet new green standards, it can help you improve your bottom line. In the office and in the warehouse, it’s easy to reduce energy consumption. If you own your own warehouse, chances are that your energy bills are a massive expense. If you can shave even 10% a month off your energy bills, how much would that save you per year? Let’s look at what you can do right now, and what you can do in future, to reduce energy in your office and warehouse space.

Right Now

1. Turn off lights and equipment when not in use. This should be common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people leave their lights, computers, printers, and other equipment running, even when nobody is in the space. The EPA estimates that this simple measure can save 50% on energy use.

2. Keep thermostats set at the right temperature. The EPA estimates that keeping temperatures regulated at 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 65-68 degrees in the winter during normal business hours is the most energy efficient. When offices are closed, set them to above 80 in summer and to 64 or lower in winter. Energy savings by setting thermostats just one degree higher or lower can add up to 2-3%.

3. Replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs or compact fluorescents. First, LEDs and compact fluorescents (CFLs) last longer than traditional light bulbs, even though the initial price point is a bit higher. Most LEDs last about 60,000 hours, as opposed to only 1,000 hours for traditional bulbs. They emit less heat, they contain no mercury, and they are highly efficient. Experts predict a 5% energy saving by making this simple switch.

4. Maintain and repair all equipment. Keeping equipment in good condition is common sense, but when your team is busy, it’s easy to forget. If possible, set up a maintenance schedule on both in-office and in-warehouse equipment, and put your employees in charge of it. It’s much cheaper to have someone come out and inspect and do minor repairs on an HVAC system than it is to replace one. With office equipment, you can often get a service agreement built into your contract, so take full advantage of it.

Future Changes

To truly retain a sustainable office space, you may have to put in some initial outlay. However, tax breaks and long-term savings will more than offset the charges.

For example, adding solar panels to your warehouse or office space will be expensive. However, EnergySage estimates that you will get 25-35 years of free electricity, which is the lifetime of the product. That’s a substantial savings that far outweighs the cost. Some states even offer grants that will help you cover the entire cost.

You might need to replace the roofing and insulation or upgrade your HVAC systems. Perhaps you need to replace outdated appliances with EnergyStar appliances. These appliances, while expensive, can cut down energy usage by 50% or more.  The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you can save 42% on energy bills every year by upgrading your HVAC, sealing roofing and windows properly and controlling indoor temperatures. How much can you save?

2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Sure, that phrase is so ubiquitous it’s become hokey. However, a sustainable office environment needs to set standards in every part of the work environment. Not only will recycling and reusing principles save you money, it’s better for the environment. Here are some easy ways to do it.

  • Encourage your team to recycle as often as is feasible. Use 100% recycled paper in your copiers and printers and discuss ways to reduce paper usage with your team.

  • Get rid of disposable cups, plates and flatware, and either have employees bring their own mugs and plates in, or simply purchase a set of dinnerware and cutlery for employees’ use.

  • Buy paperless notebooks, which are not just green, but notes are auto-uploaded to DropBox or Google Notes, which means they are always at hand.

  • Get rid of individual trash cans and keep one large can for office use. There might be some grousing at first, but it will help eliminate waste and encourage employees to move more. One company found that they reduced waste by 18% and upped recycling measures by 20%.

In addition to the environmental impact, reducing or eliminating paper usage offers huge tax incentives in most states, and the Federal government offers further tax breaks for green offices.

3. Encourage Environmentally-Friendly Commute and Office Options

The pandemic has forever changed the way we work. Many companies have eliminated office space altogether. For distributors, that may not be an option as you might still have warehouse space that you need to maintain.

But there are ways you can run an efficient distribution business and still uphold the principles of sustainability.

If employees can carpool, urge them to do so. Most states now offer money to people that ride-share and they can often get free toll credits and free gas cards. It’s also a great way to reduce the stress of commuting. You could also offer cash incentives to employees that use public transportation.

  • Offer remote work or hybrid work opportunities. In a post-COVID era, many companies have switched to fully remote offices. If that won’t work for you, look at hybrid or limited office days.

  • Switch from an office to a co-working space. Think about the money you’ll save on rent alone. If you don’t need a big office space of your own, consider a co-working environment. Most of them cost a fraction of what it would cost to rent and maintain an office.

  • Use green cleaning products. Pretty self-explanatory, but in addition to being better for the environment, they also won’t aggravate employees with allergies.

  • Have eco-friendly snacks and coffee on offer. Locally source your office snacks, or look for snacks with biodegradable packaging. Buy coffee that is shade grown, or that comes from a distributor using sustainable farming practices.

  • Add plants. Okay, you know from high school biology that plants add oxygen to the environment, but did you know that employees that work in an office with plants are 15% more productive? In addition, studies have shown that plants in an office reduce stress and have a calming effect on employees.

There are plenty of ways you can create a more sustainable organization. In the next few months, we’ll be exploring all of them. Be sure to check out our next installment on sustainability in packaging and the supply chain.

Did you know that using the right technology, like a distribution ERP system or electronic proof of delivery software, can eliminate paperwork, as well?

Want to know how you can make your distribution company more sustainable and more efficient? And how the Aptean technology solutions can help? Find out how, now.

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