There is a lot of talk about corporate responsibility and the environment

There is a lot of talk about corporate responsibility and the environment. Individuals are tiring of the onus being placed on them to change the world. Have shorter showers, water your garden less, switch to green power, change your light globes, car pool, take reusable bags to the supermarket, and recycle. All of these are necessary but pale in comparison to the damage being done by big business and industry.

But what about small business?

Somewhere in between large corporations and the individual, lies small business. Australia, a country of about 21 million people, incredibly has over 2 million small businesses. In the US approximately 99.9% of all business is small. The ecological impact of these cannot be ignored.

It is easy to assume that large corporations are, by the nature of their large profits, less ethical but is this actually the case? Large corporations have large reputations to protect. Often it is more cost effective for big business to invest in environmental impact minimisation than to clean up the mess afterwards. They also have the capital to invest in changing technologies to not only utilise the green machine but to actually profit from it, directly through carbon trading and indirectly through marketing with a social conscience.

So where does small business fit in and what can be done? The answer is very little or a lot. It depends on your business model, your business goals and your values. The advantage that small business has over a large multinational is fewer layers of bureaucracy and more transparency. Big business generally has a board of directors that need to be convinced, then a feasibility study conducted before changes can be implemented. As a small business owner you can conceive it and implement it virtually simultaneously.

Here are some of the things you can do:

– Recycle. Seems simple enough but you may have to find different depots for your various waste such as paper, plastic, printer cartridges, batteries, computers and other electronic parts.

– Switch to paperless billing. It is resource intensive to print and deliver paper. It is also time consuming and unreliable.

– Switch to a Green Power company that derives its energy from renewable sources that do not pollute.

– Reduce water consumption by ensuring your business has dual flush toilets and water efficient taps.

– Choose energy efficient vehicles for your business.

– Choose sustainable suppliers. Research suppliers whose ethos includes environmental sustainability. The potential for eco-conscious small businesses to support each other is large and underestimated.

– Donate to charities. Really any charity is a positive step but a charity that is aligned with your business practice or goals serves to reinforce those values.

– Become Carbon Neutral. This does not simply mean paying for an offset for bad business practice or paying for the right to pollute, this means establishing the carbon footprint of your business, then reducing emissions as far as possible. Once a minimal emissions target has been met the residual emissions can be neutralised by the acquisition of offsets.

The changes that you make may depend on your local economic landscape but have the potential to impact locally and globally. Small business is more important than ever and has a responsibility to future generations.

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