Setting your business apart through actions that positively impact your community, environment, employees and your bottom line.
We’re going to make a bold and admittedly risky statement: Our industry isn’t unique.
Recycling is not a new concept, and its younger siblings reuse and refurbishing are also well known, and gaining an ever-growing fan base. While this explains our interest in the industry, we realize that alone won't make us stand out.
So, what does?
Well, the buzz word has been corporate social responsibility (CSR), which is practices that serve outward interests in society on behalf of a company. More recently, sustainability has been its close cousin, with the goal of adopting business practices that will ensure the company’s future existence and success.
For ER2, we’ve found both to be more similar than unalike, and we’ve blended and simplified them in our vision statement: Be Responsible. And we immediately realized that being involves doing. Our promise to our partners, team members, environment and community is illustrated in our responsible practices that keep everything that comes through our doors out of landfills, whether they are resold or recycled. This is an exercise in sustainability but also socially responsible. In fact, it's also reflected in our unique business model, which has set us apart from our competitors in that our services often come at low or no cost to our partners.
We also realized that we must act outwardly as stewards and servants to others, which explains our commitment to provide schools and nonprofits with vitally important technology to educate, communicate and facilitate a promising future for our kids. It was a natural fit for us, having thousands of electronics process through our capable hands; we knew that we had a unique opportunity to serve schools struggling with a budget to meet technology demands.
So, while it makes us feel good to do good — CSR — what positive impact does it bring our company or any others for that matter to enable sustainability? The reasons aren’t all selfless, but that’s no less reason to explore what your company can do to step up, stand up and stand out.
Particularly if you’re in a competitive industry where good talent is hard to come by, having a meaningful and relevant corporate social responsibility program ingrained in your company’s culture is attractive to prospective employees. Aaron Solomon, head of Training and Content Development at SAP Anywhere explained that companies that show that they take care of their staff, community, and environment find it easier to attract top talent.
More candidates than ever now consider social responsibility and sustainable business practices
when evaluating which businesses they want to work for. With millennials poised to take over for baby boomers, their criteria in working for and doing business with companies involves activities that make an impact, are transparent, and also involve their customers in improving society. Add the fact that they are also far more tech savvy than their boomer counterparts, and can do more research on a company’s practices in a short period of time, it’s easier for them to compare similar companies to make employment or purchasing decisions.
Which brings us to the next point. People have always liked to hang out with the cool guy, the “in” crowd. As sustainability becomes a necessary part of doing business, those who do it best will tend to attract customers who may not perhaps excel at it, but by the virtue of their association with you, will receive a boost just by doing business with you. When a customer can choose where they cast their dollar vote, why not spend it where they know they’re doing good? Generally, they become loyal and spread the word for you, which boosts your bottom line as well as your credibility.
By its nature, sustainability seeks to improve business practices to make the company’s footprint a little smaller, while improving its viability now and for the future. ER2 is also a proponent of Lean business concepts, which seek to eliminate waste through continuous improvement. On either side of that coin, there is opportunity to spend less, generate more productivity and realize more revenue using less. It is sustainability’s twin at times. Truly, any company that can take a hard look at “how things are usually done” can realize ways to do things better, more efficiently, and with a better end result to employees and customers.
A few examples, ranging from the obvious to the more obscure, help illustrate the superiority of sustainability:
Practical cost savings - Simply by changing out how you light your facility can save you serious energy costs. If you’re big like Walmart, that can mean millions of dollars each year in savings. Even if you aren’t so big, every penny counts and hundreds of dollars in savings on these types of expenses can mean more investment into your business’ growth.
Reviewing processes for efficiency: how much time and motion is wasted by employees needing to travel from place to place in order to complete a task? Simple measures like reordering workstations and placing tools or products closer to the employees can increase productivity.
Innovation and creativity increases in business cultures that focus on employee genius.
Sustainability can’t be, well, sustained without continually innovative practices. This isn’t limited to management, but will also include everyone who draws a paycheck.
Loyalty - this applies to employees as well as customers. As you seek input from employees, and in turn continue to invest time in training them on ever-evolving practices to make your company more sustainable, the engagement increases morale and a feeling of truly being an investment that will provide a return for the company. Customers also prefer to do business with companies that have happy employees. (Case in point: have you ever eaten at a restaurant where the wait staff is consistently grumpy? Your answer is probably “just once.”)
This is by no means an exhaustive list...we’ve found so many great cost savings and innovations through our employee genius, that will have to be its own blog. We’re blessed to be in an industry that by its nature creates opportunities for companies, employees, partners and the environment to benefit. As we continue to learn the lessons that engaging in sustainable and socially responsible actions teach us, we become stronger for it, and are excited to see how others benefit in turn.