Recently I was talking to my daughter, an Iowa State materials engineering student, about her internship options. She was interested in a particular engineering design firm because they specialize in sustainable designs. I was surprised to hear that this was one of her major considerations. A quick Google search showed that going green is one way to attract and retain talent, especially Millennials. One study showed that 64% of Millennials consider a business’ social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.
There are many additional advantages for companies that go green:
- Money savings - Green initiatives often save a company money through lower costs and through tax credits for green initiatives.
- Reputation - Going green reflects well on your brand. Studies show that many consumers prefer to buy products and services from businesses that share their values, including their concern for the environment.
- Health - Going green helps protect the health of your community. Pollution can kill. An estimated 4.6 million people die each year worldwide from air pollution, including indoor pollution. This is more than the number of people killed in car accidents.
All financial considerations aside, businesses are made of people. Don’t we owe it to our employees and their children to do all that we can to protect their futures?
The Beginning of Our Sustainability Journey
A few months ago, we transformed our Philanthropy Committee into a Philanthropy and Sustainability Committee. When we first thought about moving towards being a more sustainable business, there were so many possible changes we could undertake that it felt a little overwhelming. But we are a company of engineers. Solving problems is what we do. Why not apply the approaches we use on projects every day to this challenge of sustainability?
Our first step was to gather ideas about areas we can improve on and how to improve. We set up a questionnaire for ISE employees to share ideas for improvements. We got a lot of great ideas. We cannot possibly implement them all right away. So we created a rating system that takes into account three factors:
- How easy is it to implement the idea?
- What will be the impact on the environment?
- Do we have the support we need from management and employees to implement the idea?
You’ll notice that cost isn’t on our list of factors. Through our investigation, we’ll try to determine a return on investment for the more costly options. An idea with little to no return on investment will likely not have the support it needs to be pursued.
Since we wanted to start with the easiest ideas first, we weighed that factor the heaviest. Some of the ideas were so easy, we’ve already started implementing them. For many of the others, we need to do more research, determine a roll out strategy, and gain needed support.
What We’ve Done So Far - Baby Steps
Some of the easy steps we’ve taken already include:
- Eliminating single use water bottles at company meeting lunches
- Composting paper plates, napkins, and food scraps from our company meeting lunches. Employees are also invited to bring their own silverware instead of using plastic.
- Collecting plastic shopping bags to be reused at a local food bank
- Sharing information at our company meetings to help employees choose more sustainable actions. We also have a Sustainability Lunch and Learn scheduled for January.
Some of the larger impact, more challenging ideas we want to investigate include how to transition the company to sustainable power, undertaking a company wide composting program, and alternatives for reducing electricity usage for lighting. These will require research and discussions with management. Tune in for progress updates in a few months!
Regardless of the outcome of the larger initiatives we hope to tackle, we believe that every initiative we try will raise awareness and give our colleagues the knowledge to make choices that are better for the environment.
Do you want to do more?
- Cutting down on food waste is one of the most impactful things you can do to help reduce climate change, according to a CNN quiz on climate change.
- You can save energy and save money by lowering your thermostat by a few degrees this winter. Wearing an extra layer of clothing will keep you nice and warm.
- Learn about the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act - This policy will reduce America’s carbon emissions by 40% in the first 12 years.
- Find a local climate action group. Public support is critical to help move forward planet and climate friendly legislation.
Are you passionate about sustainability? Has your company implemented changes for going green? Join in the conversation below on your company's journey to a greener world.