How can businesses successfully go green?

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It’s not easy being green.

In spite of the adoption of more sustainable practices by many businesses, finding financially prudent ways to implement these initiatives, while also ensuring they are appealing to upper-level management, can be a challenge. As part of a series of informative and interactive events taking place at different community locations, Sustainable Waterloo Region held a panel titled Financing Sustainable Projects on March 7 at Wilfrid Laurier University.

While some analyzed the larger steps which need to be taken, Derek Satnik, the managing director at Mindscape Innovations, a local companies that aims to provide environmentally and technologically advanced homes and business, emphasized some of the smaller steps.

“Where can we start? We can start by understanding our own bills,” he began. “We can start by reading them properly. What do they really mean, where does our energy actually go?”

“Do all the smart, cheap stuff that everybody thinks is not exciting first, because it creates your budget to do the things you are excited about,” Satnik continued. Suggestions included changes as simple as having electronics operating on timers, dimmer lights or investing in water-efficient fixtures.

Once a business is able to move on to more expensive or more innovative projects, it’s important not only to focus on maintenance, but also to keep looking forward. One way in which initiatives can be implemented over time in a financially feasible manner is through the revolving door model of funding.

“And so that green fund revolves in a sense that as the projects that are spent earn back revenue or earn back offsets, then that fund gets replenished and then there’s money there to spend on more,” explained Benjamin Janzen, the Stewardship in Action Advisor for the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union. “So that’s essentially setting an internal structure for your organization that will be able to … do some sustainability.”

“It takes time to get to your ultimate level of a project where it’s actually institutionalized and it’s a life-cycle approach, and this can help with the revolving fund model,” added Laurier sustainability co-ordinator Claire Bennett.
Bennett was able to provide a unique perspective due to the immense size of the facilities which Laurier encompasses, compared to smaller organizations.
Having clear and open processes was also stressed by several of the panellists as an important aspect of creating and sustaining environmentally-friendly policies.

“Transparency is extremely important,” asserted Bennett. “Report as much as possible and engage yourself as much as possible.”

As the president at Quarry Integrated Communications, Ken Whyte was able to provide advice from the executive position.

According to Whyte, an argument presented in favour of sustainability “comes down to a combination of heart and head.”

He added, “I think the important thing is when you’re setting your … way forward to see your leadership, you’ve got to figure out what’s the lead argument within your organization.”

He also noted that it’s important to be aware of the variety of benefits that can accompany greener practices.

Whyte concluded, “We have to appreciate that there’s going to be some intangible things we’re going to roll the dice on, and say hey, yeah, I hope it works out.”

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