Green is the colour to make your business grow

Going green is vital for modern businesses that want to improve their profile, save costs and protect the environment, writes Jim Woods, business adviser for Carlow County Council’s Local Enterprise Office

Jim Woods, business adviser, LEO Carlow: The Green for Micro programme is offered nationwide to help prepare small businesses for the low-carbon, more resource-efficient economy of the future

While green and sustainability agendas have been with us for some time, most SMEs viewed them as nice to have rather than essentials.

How things change. A combination of factors, including spiralling energy, production and waste costs, ever-increasing regulation and a tangible reluctance among customers to support those who do not demonstrate their green credentials have left small businesses with no option other than to address their performance.

Businesses are under constant pressure from existing and potential customers to demonstrate that their offerings are meaningfully green and sustainable. Customers are increasingly unwilling to spend their cash on any offering that is not clearly shown to be environmentally friendly.

Yet when it comes to a business going green, the benefits far outweigh any negatives. The time and money taken to establish new green offerings pay back dividends over the years, both financially and knowing the business is kind to the planet.

Going green fosters positive feelings from customers, and employees feel better working for a green business. Involving workers in business-wide green initiatives boosts morale and employees feel that their health is cared for. Happy employees perform better and are less likely to move on.

The Green for Micro programme, an initiative from the Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) with support from Enterprise Ireland, is offered nationwide to help prepare small businesses for the low-carbon, more resource-efficient economy of the future.

The programme is suitable for micro-enterprises with up to ten employees, but it is particularly suited to businesses in construction and the built environment, retail, manufacturing, textiles and fashion, food, electronics, plastics and packaging.

Green for Micro is a free programme designed to help small businesses decarbonise and become more sustainable. Doing so is not just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense.

It’s an opportunity for businesses to change how they operate and to benefit significantly from them. It’s the future of how organisations do business, and if they can make those changes now, they’ll see the benefits down the road.

The benefits include increased cost savings, improved resource efficiency, reduced environmental footprint and greenhouse gas emissions, opportunities for higher and added value on products and services, increased customer access, improved corporate image, and increased resilience to climate change impacts.

The Green for Micro programme provides businesses with advice and technical support, covering topics such as resource efficiency, understanding their carbon footprint and implementing an environmental management system. Companies explore the steps they can take to reduce costs and lower their greenhouse gas emissions.

To understand the benefits, you must understand the concept of going green. When a business makes a concerted effort to reduce its negative environmental impact, that is going green. This may be as basic as taking measures to reduce utility costs, starting recycling and reusing procedural programmes, to buying green products and services in the service of the business.

Many businesses, particularly those that are forward-thinking and fully engaging with green principles, now adopt the ‘triple bottom line’ which involves the company measuring success via its impact on people and the planet as well as profit.

The ‘triple bottom line’ principle is based on the acknowledgement that all three must thrive for a business to be successful and resilient in the market.

The concept becomes much more attractive as more internationally recognised businesses go green. In fact, it’s becoming a status symbol to be an environmentally friendly business and something that contributes far beyond the bottom line.

Businesses that go green make customers feel that they are trustworthy. Word-of-mouth is the most valuable form of advertising and green businesses cannot buy such publicity.

This not only bolsters their existing market base, but extends it – people who may never have heard of a business may pay attention to it, as it demonstrates eco-friendly qualities.

Going green is vital for modern businesses who want to improve their profile, save costs and protect the environment. Any business that does not seriously engage with the green agenda does so at its peril.

To find out more about the Green for Micro programme, contact your LEO or go to LocalEnterprise.ie/Green for more information and to apply.