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Top 5 Steps to a More Sustainable 2014


DougRuhlinLook Beyond Increasing Revenue And Focus On Your Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, Profit.

By Dough Ruhlin

Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions. You might want to drop a few pounds this year, but have you thought of resolutions for your business? You should be.

Look beyond increasing revenue and focus on your triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit. Becoming more sustainable should be a goal for 2014. You may think sustainability is a pipe dream, and out of reach of most, but the truth is, it’s not. The biggest problem with becoming more sustainable is many don’t know where to even begin.

First off, why become sustainable? For numerous reasons, not the least of which is that it will become more commonplace every day going forward. Soon, being sustainable will provide you with a real business advantage. Not only will you have the competitive advantage in your market as being seen as a “green leader,” but you’ll start noticing tangible cost saving benefits.

You’re reducing your demand for materials, which in turns saves you money, as well as allows you to advertise your low environmental impact. Today being sustainable provides those benefits I mentioned to the industry leaders who embrace the idea. Tomorrow, anyone who doesn’t make sustainable claims will be seen as a dinosaur.

Sounds great, right? Ready to jump in? Here are five things you can do pretty quickly – with relatively low cost – and which will help lay the foundation of your program of sustainable actions.

  1. Find and designate a sustainability champion within your organization. Like any initiative in your business, your sustainability program needs a champion, a cheerleader. Someone knowledgeable and enthusiastic, who can motivate all your employees. You’re going to need employee buy-in from all areas of your organization. Find out who this might be in your company, and give them the job.
  2. Have an energy audit done. While having one conducted by someone who is an expert in your business might be best, you can still have one done – usually at no cost – by your local energy utility service. You’ll likely find inefficiencies and places you can save energy, or at least you’ll be establishing a baseline for future improvements. You really can’t lose here.
  3. Investigate your suppliers. Snoop around! Which of your suppliers has a defined sustainability program? Hint – check out their websites as a place to start! Do any of your suppliers offer sustainable products? Be wary of vague greenwashing claims, but considering using more environmental friendly options. Start a dialog with your suppliers, ask them about their program and what they do or offer. Use them as a resource! If all things are equal, consider making future purchases from those with sustainability programs or products.
  4. Start recycling. Virtually anyone can begin a recycling program for little or no cost. It still boggles my mind, traveling across the United States, that there are areas of this country which recycling isn’t required. Go above and beyond, and start recycling! Buy a couple of recycling bins, and talk to your employees. Make recycling a normal part of your business. You can easily start with cans, bottles, paper and cardboard, and work up to a more elaborate recycling program. Start small, and begin to make a change within your organization!
  5. Get into environmental compliance. Look into your operation, and what regulations you need to comply with. Nothing can kill your sustainability program quicker than an environmental violation. Compliance is a baseline for your operations, and if you are truly sustainable, you should never have an issue with failing to comply with regulations. There may be regulations which you don’t even know are applicable, so the best way to determine your compliance level may be through an environmental audit. Follow all applicable rules and regulations, and you’ll have a great foundation to build your sustainability program on.

These are quick, very simple actions, but they’re guaranteed to help you begin your program towards becoming more sustainable. From there, you can grow your program into something more elaborate and make your program site, organization or industry specific.

For now, these five easy steps can get you started down the path for a more sustainable 2014. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be scratching my head for ideas because industries have taken these steps toward a cleaner, greener and more prosperous future.


Doug Ruhlin is the founder of Resource Management Associates. He has been providing environmental and sustainability consulting to the construction-materials industries for more than 20 years. He can be reached at 609-693-8301 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..