Small Business Rise Up! Sustainability Isn’t Just For The Giants

Posted by Brian Solano on October 30, 2019

EC-Blog-Headshot-BSolano
In the summer of 2012, my newest venture was green in nearly every sense of the word. I had a small budget and a big vision to make healthcare work better. With a burgeoning family at home, I knew I had to carefully consider every last expenditure so as not to collapse my new software company and thus, my other vision of one day living on a beach in Maui.

Then I did something crazy, or at the very least a little unorthodox. I decided to invest heavily in building a sustainability program that rivaled any of the Silicon Valley giants. I goaled for EverCheck to be carbon-neutral, to provide alternative transportation options to staff, and to be considered a model in sustainability for small- to mid-sized businesses. This, of course, would require some serious capital.

I believe the private sector has enormous influence, even more so than the public sector. We can choose how to invest our resources - in good, forward-thinking products, companies, and vendors. We have the ability to influence our employees and customers by leading by example. I believe it’s not in anyone’s best interest to sit back and expect the government to take a leadership stance on something as important as climate change and its imminent impacts. Instead, we need to be the example and do the same that we would expect from them.

I knew it was going to be difficult to justify this kind of
investment, but I also knew it was the right thing to do.
The only way I wanted to see EverCheck succeed was
to do it responsibly, ethically, and in a way that did
no harm to our planet.

 

Here’s our story.

 

Start somewhere

EC-Illustration-CarbonOffset@2xTypically, startups are scrappy and operate lean.
We were no exception. But we treated our sustainability efforts the same way we treated other necessary expenditures. We needed to provide technology, internet, and physical infrastructure for our business and employees, and we believed that we also needed to pay attention to our business impact and balance it accordingly.

We started by simply purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates through organizations like Terrapass and 3 Degrees as a way to provide carbon offsets for our offices. For those unfamiliar, these certificates add clean energy like wind and solar to the grid in equal parts to what we consume. Shortly thereafter, we added offsets for the energy from our servers and data centers, air travel for business, and even employee commutes to and from the office. Eventually, we attained complete carbon neutrality
as an organization.

We started small and simple, then continued to expand our efforts as we grew.

 

Keep building

Once full-scale offsets were in place, we shifted focus. We began looking at other corporate behaviors, and we realized there was still so much room for improvement.

We were able to offer remote work options so that our employees could stay off the road a few days a week. Not only does our team cut back their carbon footprint, they relish in the flexibility and autonomy that comes with remote work.

We eliminated any environmentally toxic products, and we replaced our cleaning agents and insecticides with eco-friendly alternatives. Our people could breathe easier, both literally and figuratively.

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We choose sustainability-minded corporate swag like branded reusable straws and water bottles to further our cause. This way, our mission doesn’t stay confined, but spreads and helps others make better decisions (like saying no to that plastic straw).

Now, we’re looking at how we can eliminate purchasing products shipped in or containing plastic altogether. There’s a fantastic movement right now to eliminate single-use plastics, which is important because our oceans are facing imminent threat due to plastics. Companies are capitalizing on this and offering better alternatives. The toilet paper provider we plan to use, for instance, ships toilet paper made from recycled paper without the use of any plastics. There are dozens of examples where we’re able to eliminate plastics and this is our focus for the next phase of sustainability.

 

Get your team on board

Any executive who operates across multiple geographical locations will admit it can be difficult to rally your team behind a singular mission. For us, the trick is building conscientiousness, both environmental and personal, into our employee benefits model.

Each week, we have fresh, organic juices and seasonal produce delivered to the office. It’s a mad dash to the refrigerator every time the delivery person shows up. And when the vendor we work with said they could only deliver the juices in plastic bottles, we challenged them. If you want our business, you have to play by our rules, and this means delivering juices in glass bottles.

Transportation is another big initiative of ours. We provide free public transportation to our urban teams. Our Jacksonville Beach office has beach cruisers the team can use to get around throughout the day in lieu of their vehicles. This, plus the remote work options and carbon offsets, mean we’re operating net negative when it comes to carbon emissions.

EC-Teams-Volunteering

Engage your people in your mission in
ways that are meaningful to them.

We use working hours to give back. Our Boulder team plants trees; our Jacksonville team cleans up the beach. Allowing this type of volunteerism during working hours sends a clear message: we value your time, our business, and our planet. Let’s do good together.

Engage your people in your mission in ways that are meaningful to them. Get them involved in the decision-making process about how to evolve it. The more involved they become, the more invested they become not only in your sustainability efforts but also in the company itself.

 

Closing the loop

Everything I’ve discussed so far costs money. Like any business, we had to justify the expense of these efforts. I had to make sure our sustainability program closed the loop. What I mean is that eventually, all of these efforts have to contribute to the bottom line success of the company.

A solid sustainability program leads to better hiring. In a 2018 survey, nearly 70% of respondents said they were more likely to choose to work at a company with a strong environmental agenda. A similar percentage said that a company having a strong sustainability plan would affect their decision to stay with the company long-term. These are the kind of numbers we want on our side, especially for a small- to mid-sized software company that operates outside the whimsy of Silicon Valley.

Having a strong sense of purpose lends itself to stronger employee morale and engagement. Employees are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs if they work for a company that’s perceived to be environmentally friendly, according to one study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Higher engagement is ultimately better for the bottom line.

Our collective mission allows us to focus on
environmental sustainability without compromising
the sustainability of our business model.
The return is real.

 

Looking toward the future of corporate sustainability

I see corporate sustainability as a flywheel. There’s momentum now because we’re seeing the value when it comes to hiring and retention. There’s also momentum building in the sense that companies want to work with others with similar values.

We’re already seeing a shift in the sales process where we don’t have to laud our sustainability efforts with the hope of someone on the evaluation committee caring about that sort of thing. Prospective clients are more proactive than ever before. They want to know what we’re doing to be environmentally responsible. The preference now is to work with like-minded, conscientious organizations.

I think in the future, clients, vendors and enterprise
will all be connected and in sync in their efforts,
driving the sustainability flywheel forward and
accelerating its positive impact on our
communities and the world!

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I live in Maui, by the way. Not quite on the beach, but close enough. EverCheck has been named one of the best companies to work for by Outside Magazine every year since 2016. We’re in the process of becoming a B-Corp. Our clients are some of the most forward-thinking and environmentally conscious players in healthcare. And together, we’re setting a higher standard for what it means for corporations to be environmental stewards.

This story is a call to action. Please join us.

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Here's an additional resource that you may find helpful: A Step-By-Step Guide To Going Carbon Neutral. Visit evercheck.com/sustainability to learn more about the impacts of corporate sustainability at EverCheck. 

About the author: Brian Solano is a CEO on a mission to prove that corporate sustainability is not only good for the bottom line, but crucial to the success of future generations. As a father of three, an outdoor enthusiast, and an adventure photographer, he has a unique perspective on the responsibility of businesses to leave the world a better place than they found it. Connect with Brian on LinkedIn.

 

Posted in: EverCheck Culture