You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

Creating a Green Office Think in terms of financial payback when considering and implementing your eco-friendly office.

By Bill Roth

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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 to conservation.

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.

Bill is President of NCCT , a consulting firm that helps companies grow green revenue. His newest book, The Secret Green Sauce , profiles best practices being used by successful green businesses. He has previously held roles as senior vice president of PG&E Energy Services, president of Cleantech America (a solar power plant development company) and COO of Texaco Ovonics Hydrogen Solutions (which launched the first hydrogen-fueled Prius).

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Side Hustle

He Took His Side Hustle Full-Time After Being Laid Off From Meta in 2023 — Now He Earns About $200,000 a Year: 'Sweet, Sweet Irony'

When Scott Goodfriend moved from Los Angeles to New York City, he became "obsessed" with the city's culinary offerings — and saw a business opportunity.

Data & Recovery

Better Communicate Data with Your Team for $20 with Microsoft Visio

Visio features a wide range of diagramming tools that can support projects across all industries.

Growing a Business

How To Leverage Social Media to Optimize PR Success and Increase Your Brand Awareness

Entrepreneurs can establish authority and trust in their industries through the strategic use of social media, leveraging platforms for podcast appearances, guest posts, and consistent, quality content that aligns with their brand's mission.

Science & Technology

AI Will Radically Transform the Workplace — Here's How HR Teams Can Prepare for It

HR intrapreneurs are emerging as key drivers of AI reskilling, thoughtful organizational restructuring and ethical integration, shaping an inclusive future where technology enhances both efficiency and employee development.

Business News

Some Costco Stores Are Now Selling a Frozen Item That Looks Just Like a Trader Joe's Fan Favorite

The Frozen Kimbap is a Trader Joe's cult favorite, and now a version can be found at Costco, too.