Having a Small Business Environmental Policy is About Planning and People

It seems like almost every stream of conversation at some point in the last few years has touched on an environmental issue. The automotive industry is especially known for its impact on the planet. Topics range from the use of recycled materials by parts manufacturers to why buying an electric vehicle is less ‘green’ than just better driving practices. Each topic has both skeptics and advocates. While not everyone can agree on a method I believe we can all agree on the outcome – leaving a healthier planet for the next generation. This process can be hugely complex like setting global carbon caps on car manufacturing companies or, in my opinion, the solution can stem from something more grass-roots like changing habits within the small business community. SCA is only 1 business among the 29.7 million others in the US, but we’re making a difference and that’s what matters.

The first step my team and I conducted in our attempt to ‘save the plant’ was also the most arduous and time-consuming which incorporates the snooze inducing aspects of planning and documentation. The initial focus of creating a corporate environmental policy needs to be outlining the goals, methods and resources in a clear and precise way. While this might seem kind of daunting thankfully there are many resources that we found available using a quick Google search. We found helpful items such as example policy templates, countless websites of ‘green’ products and business recycling methods, and of course blog posts. These resources come in as a starting point which can then be tailored to your specific business and employee culture.

Here are some of the areas of policy change we made:

Awareness and Commitment We knew that employees and our appraisers would make us successful in this endeavor so we posted the new policy on our intranet site, our digital handbook, emailed it to all employees and appraisers, and came up with a series of blog articles to outline our progress. We made sure the company knew this was important on many levels.

Transport – Much of our business is based on in-person contact from our sales team to our appraisers. In total we came up with 9 ways to leverage more technology like video conferencing as opposed to on-site sales visits or promoting the usage of our owner app for obtaining photos as opposed to an appraisers driving hundreds of miles. We also encouraged and incentivized our Burbank office staff to car pool and gave some the option to work from home 1x per week.

Energy & Water Consumption – Like all offices we need power and water but how we use it and where we obtain it matters. I have committed SCA to replace aging bulbs with 100% LED lighting and we currently use all energy-star rated computer hardware.

Waste Generation and Management – Many people in our office bring lunch and everyone drinks water so we started providing reusable PETE water bottles and refillable water jugs as well as PLA food containers to cut plastic waste. We also provided cloth bags for employees to transport groceries and items into work. We implemented a 4 recycle bin system for glass, paper, plastic, and cans/tins.

Materials and Resources – Having over 100 employees means a lot of PC’s and monitors so we found a way to donate our out-of-warrantee monitors to local schools and found a AAA certified company that handles the lifecycle management of our computers. The office manager found sources for eco-friendly pens, copy paper, and other office items. environment-2948299_1920

Just believing in helping the environment while at work will not make generational change possible. The goal of a true corporate environmental policy should be to foster the habit changes while both at work and at home. In order to have a meaningful and lasting impact on environmental change people have to incorporate the objectives into their personal lives. Once our policy was outlined we realized the best way to promote conscious change within the workplace is to modify the organizational culture to that of ‘green’ thought mentality. Changing the company culture from the top down served to inspire the employees to follow by example. Once expectations were placed on the company management to generate policies that both inspire and incentivize participation we found it became easier to garner compliance. Creating a set of core values that included both personal accountability and good citizenship was the beginning of the turning our written policy into actions.

Previously, when insurance companies would send SCA an RFP (request for proposal) they would ask questions about workflow and pricing. Over the last few years those simple topics were replaced with items concerning data security and website firewalls. I’m happy to say that it appears the new hot button is environmental sustainability and I for one am glad to see our insurance partners taking the lead on this initiative. They have the market share and clout to make almost anything happen so it’s great that a better environment is their next frontier. We can all make a difference starting with the next piece of paper.

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