| Creating a Green Office |
By Bill Roth
September 18, 2008
Think in terms of financial payback when considering and implementing your eco-friendly office.
The sustainable or green action item with the highest potential for
gaining CFO acceptance is conservation. Why? Because conservation is about
savings and paybacks, which CFOs can relate to their calculations of cash
flows and paybacks. It makes sense to start in your office when it comes
But even with this potential affinity from such a key senior officer, most
businesses still confront the question: how to conserve or adopt a
sustainable business strategy? If you're struggling with that issue in
your business, you are among the majority. Florida International
University recently conducted an international survey of companies and
found that 50 percent of companies don't have a green strategy or are in
the early stages of drafting one. Only 21 percent of the companies
surveyed were considered to be in the category of immediate or advanced
sustainability. Now is the perfect time to get a green edge because 80
percent of the world's businesses are still trying to figure out how
sustainability applies to them.
The typical first action to take in the greening of an office is to figure
out how to use less electricity and possibly do something with all that
stuff in everyone's waste paper basket. What many offices end up doing is
replacing energy-draining incandescent light bulbs with compact
fluorescent light bulbs because they produce an approximately four-month
financial payback in electricity cost savings. And there's typically an
effort to recycle, but this often produces marginal results.
The businesses that are aggressively adopting sustainability in the office
take a "systems thinking" approach that recognizes greening the office
cuts across the organizational structure. It requires cultural change, and
results must be financially measured just like all other activities within
the company. It also requires recognizing that the office is not an
island, but part of a supply chain involving stakeholders, keeping in mind
that one oft-forgotten stakeholder is the customer.
The most important question to keep in mind is: How can your business's
procedures help curb your customers' emissions? Not only is going green in
your business marketable, but it could also soon be law in many states.
For example, California is working on legislation that would require
reduced carbon dioxide emissions and the state is also exploring the
impacts of shopping malls, housing density and availability of mass
transportation on the generation of carbon dioxide.
This systems thinking approach recognizes that lasting change engages
everyone involved in the greening movement in your office, and is based on
the same highly disciplined performance monitoring that's applied to the
reporting of financial performance. This broader perspective expands the
range of scope to include suppliers, work associates, management, waste
handlers and customers. It implies that focusing on the low-hanging
fruit--easy greening measures such as energy-efficient lighting or
recycling what's in the waste basket--can only produce limited results.
Success in greening the office requires the same cultural commitment,
engineering design, management, leadership and performance monitoring as
applied to the business's core operating criteria.