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Recession Doesn't Dim Green Focus For SMBs

Despite the recession we're mired in this Earth Day, the majority of business owners say environmental issues are just as important as the economy and more than a third focus more on the environment now than ever before. And thanks to new technologies, going green is more achievable than ever before.

Despite the recession we're mired in this Earth Day, the majority of business owners say environmental issues are just as important as the economy and more than a third focus more on the environment now than ever before. And thanks to new technologies, going green is more achievable than ever before.63% of small business owners say that environmental issues rank the same as the economy among their topmost concerns. That's according to a survey released by online payroll service PayCycle. Looking further into the data reveals that environmental concerns, far from falling by the wayside in a down economy, persist as priorities for business owners. When asked, 84% said they consider themselves at least occasional environmentalists, 88% believe it is important for their business to be green, and 34% were actively taking steps to reduce their environmental impact. Contrast that with a slim 5% who claimed no concern about the environment.

In a statement about the survey findings, PayCycle president and CEO, Jim Heeger, said, "The numbers tell us that most small business owners are concerned about the environment. Even though the economy impacts their wallets, they know the planet is just as important in the long term and they are willing to do what they can to make a difference,"

Of course, advances in technology now allow small and midsize businesses to take advantage of a host of options to reduce waste and environmental impact. Simply moving processes online to reduce paper can be a significant shift. In fact, the PayCycle survery found that 80% of small business owners are shifting to online business services specifically to reduce reliance on paper. Bolstering the PayCycle findings, a recent Gartner study found that 90% of businesses surveyed planned green IT projects to boost efficiency and reduce costs.

Payroll, in particular, is a business process ripe for a move online and can save your business significant dollars. According to the findings of the 2009 PayitGreen study, U.S. businesses saved $6.7 billion between 1998 and 2008 by switching from paper paychecks to direct deposits; that calculates to an average annual savings of $176.55 per employee. The financial ROI alone makes direct deposit worth considering, but there are also quantifiable environmental impacts. According to the survey, each employee using direct deposit reduces environmental impact annually by:

  • 1 pound of paper
  • 4 gallons of wastewater
  • 1 pound greenhouse gases

Projecting that impact out to an organization of 300 employees with twice-monthly pay periods making the move to direct deposit and the reductions compound significantly to reach:

  • 121 pounds of paper
  • 1,159 gallons of wastewater
  • 45 gallons of gas
  • 346 pounds of greenhouse gases

Conveniently, offers an online calculator that allows you to see how switching to direct deposit could reduce your company's environmental footprint.

Paychecks are but one contributor to paper use. Another one is the printers in your office. Despite the mirage of the paperless office, we all still use them and every sheet -- no matter how much recycled paper content -- still has an environmental cost. Lexmark, the printer manufacturer, has offered these 10 tips for greener printing that can reduce not only paper costs, but also energy and ink or toner use for your business:

  1. Use two-sided printing to save paper
  2. Use software like the Lexmark Toolbar to print only the Web pages you need
  3. Share printers in the home or office through wireless networking technology
  4. Look for the longest available printer warranty to extend its life cycle
  5. Improve printer efficiency by switching the device off after use
  6. Print in draft mode to reduce the amount of ink used
  7. Use Lexmark high-yield cartridges for a higher yield of ink or toner, resulting in fewer cartridges to manufacture and recycle
  8. Take advantage of Lexmark's free cartridge recycling service
  9. Recycle your printed pages and use paper with recycled content
  10. Return the printer to a dedicated collection point

Of course, the same technology that makes online services possible also consumes energy. That puts an onus on business owners and employees to guard against wasting energy and proactively seek ways to slash power consumption.

Retrevo, the electronic matchmaking service, has compiled this series of 22 tips for greener use of electronic gadgets (click thru for detail on each):

  1. Measure Your Energy Use
  2. Trade in Your Old TV
  3. Use the Low Power Mode on Your TV
  4. Buy a New "Greener," LCD TV
  5. Repair Before Replacing
  6. Sell Your Used Gadgets
  7. Reduce Phantom Power with a Power Strip
  8. Use a Smart Power Strip
  9. Mute or Turn Off Your TV
  10. Eliminate Standby Power
  11. Look for "Green" Ratings
  12. Recycle Gadgets and Gear
  13. Charge Your Gadgets With Renewable Energy
  14. Save Trees, Use the Internet
  15. Turn Off Your Computer When Not Using It
  16. Use Computer Power Management
  17. Disconnect External Drives
  18. Save More Trees Read E-Books
  19. Recycle CDs and DVDs
  20. Avoid Overnight Shipping
  21. Use a Programmable Thermostat
  22. Buy Greener Brands

Focusing on specific business processes is important to reducing environmental impact and "going green," but there's also a strategic aspect that encompasses your entire business. According to Glen Bachman, author of "The Green Business Guide," taking your business green can reap the following benefits:

  • Direct Cost Savings: Reducing energy, water, and other material use saves the organization money. In some instances, waste can become a profit center by selling residual materials for the beneficial use of others.
  • Managed Risks: The most obvious risks are those that result from disruptions in energy and commodity supplies. However, in addition to those concerns, there are risks associated with regulatory changes and the evolving landscape of consumer preferences. Anticipating changes in regulations and the marketplace enables enterprises to position themselves favorably from the perspectives of regulators, the supply chain, and customers
  • Efficient Operations: Your examination may focus on reducing environmental impact. However, one of the strategies for accomplishing that objective is to eliminate the causes of product and service rejections. The effect is to increase the quality of goods and services and streamline internal processes.
  • Quality Product: As expectations are met or exceeded, quality improves, reinforcing the validity of the management adage that "the things that get measured are the things that get done." High quality translates into customer satisfaction.
  • Attracted and Retained Customers: Creating quality products and services is the minimum effort needed to retain customers. Increasingly, all other considerations being equal, buyers take the ecological performance of suppliers into account when choosing to purchase from one enterprise or from its competitors. Enterprises that successfully communicate their positive ecological performance can strengthen their position in the marketplace.
  • Enhanced Brand Value and Reputation: The savvy enterprise uses ecological reporting as more than a sales advantage; it tells its eco-friendly story to build the reputation of the organization.
  • Ecological Benefits: As enterprises become more efficient in their use of resources, they can reduce their footprint. Expanding into ecological effectiveness, by creating and using innovative eco-responsible products and services helps regenerate and build a healthier planet.
  • High Worker Morale: Increasingly, today's workers want to be employed in enterprises that are aligned with their personal values -- including ecological responsibility. The most sought after workers want to be challenged to perform to be their best. This culture of principled alignment, challenge and ecological innovation builds morale.
  • Attracted and Retained Talent: High morale, an emphasis on innovation that leads to quality products, a compelling brand, a strong market position, managed risks, and minimized operating costs make for sound enterprises. These stable and innovating organizations attract talent and usually are successful in retaining capable workers.
  • Indirect Cost Savings: Access to capital and the cost of money also can be reduced for eco-friendly enterprises because their financial ratios - especially gross profit and net profit percentages - look favorable when lending institutions compare the financial performance of a green enterprise to competitors that have narrower margins.
  • Competitive Advantage: When an organization surpasses the ecological performance of its competitors, it can achieve distinct competitive advantage by becoming a recognized leader in the industry.
  • Increased Profitability: All of these benefits contribute to a more robust bottom line. Cost-effectiveness, market leadership, and an engaged pool of talented workers all contribute to an enterprise's profitability.

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