All organizations have operational activities that affect the environment. A sustainable business practices plan will include processes and activities that are conducive to protecting the environment. If small businesses implement the following best practices, they will be on their way toward achieving sustainability goals, cutting operating costs and strengthening their public image in an increasingly competitive green market.

Reduce Waste and Resources

Every business uses resources to yield products or services; therefore, every business should try to reduce waste by implementing sustainable business practices to preserve these natural resources. By discussing these practices publicly, you can help portray your business as environmentally responsible.

A common concern for many small business owners is their bottom line. Although some environmentally friendly initiatives require more up-front costs, green efforts can pay off down the road, potentially reducing long-term operating costs, improving your public image and your business's future position in a competitive market of green businesses.

Look at your operational activities to unveil possible environmental concerns and try to reduce your carbon footprint. In some instances, doing so may be required under federal, state or local regulations. Adjust processes to reduce transportation needs or electricity usage, implement a recycling program or use more recycled products. Look into the most energy-efficient and waste-reducing technologies that you could use in production.

Go-Green Initiatives to Strengthen Bottom Lines

Businesses deploy a range of go-green efforts to support a healthy environment and, in turn, reap rewards for their business. For example, Starbucks has been designing and building "green" stores to reduce their operating costs and environmental impact, according to the University of San Francisco. The company purchased cabinetry made from 90 percent post-industrial material and incorporated low-flow water valves. Starbucks is also adjusting the temperature of their air-conditioned stores from the standard 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Being environmentally responsible helps them create a reputable public image and keeps their company on top of go-green efforts that could positively affect their competitive position in the long term.

Small businesses can reap these benefits as well. Simple changes, such as switching your current incandescent light bulbs to compact florescent lamps (CFL) or light-emitting diodes (LED) can benefit both your business and the environment by reducing operating costs and conserving energy — a win-win situation.

This awareness will help you draft a sustainable business practices plan to help your business cut costs, become more environmentally responsible and build a positive business image — factors that strengthen your business and help you stay competitive down the road.

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