In the News

Easy ways your small business can be sustainable while helping the bottom line

Small businesses often don’t have a lot of time to think about sustainability, but being more environmentally friendly can be a boon for your business in more ways than one. In today’s business climate, more consumers are taking a hard look at sustainable practices — meaning you can endear yourselves to potential buyers.

In today’s tight labor market, you can also appeal to younger workers, which studies show are deeply concerned about the environment.

Here are four easy ways to implement sustainability into your business.

Workers work from home

We’ve talked about how working for home can be a big plus for your business, but it can also be a boost to your sustainable practices. Allowing your employees to work from home will reduce vehicle pollution and energy costs within your office. It also appeals to younger employees, who expect flexible work arrangements.

Your workers will also be more productive. AT&T found its telecommuters worked more hours at home than its office workers. JD Edwards found that its workers were 20 to 25% more productive at home. Companies with full-time telecommuters save an average of $10,000 per employee per year on real estate costs as well, according to Global Workplace Analytics statistics. It makes sense: you don’t need as big of a space if you’re employees aren’t coming in every day.   

LED lights the way

Depending on the size of your office, the cost of installing LED lights can be a bit steep. But this is a long-term-term play, and it’s one that has proven its benefits to businesses time and time again. LED lights can cut energy consumption by as much as 80% if you’re using incandescent bulbs, they last longer, and, many times, they actually look much better.

The total cost of electricity after 25,000 hours at 12 cents per kilowatt hour is $30 for an LED light compared to $180 for an incandescent light. 

Turn it off!

You may not think about it, but leaving lights and computers on can incrementally increase your power costs. Encourage your employees to ensure all electronics and lights are turned off by the end of the day. This will cut energy consumption and save you some dough.

According to Energy Star, small businesses spend near $60 million per year on energy. Even the most basic energy-cutting measures can help your business take a chunk out of that number. 

Scratch paper

Do you really need to print off an agenda for everyone in a meeting? Or do you need to print off several emails? Offices are notorious for their use of paper, and you can see how the above examples can add up to a lot of paper over time. Give employees laptops instead of desktops so they can store files on their computers and bring them from place to place. That means less paper thrown away after one use.

U.S. organizations spend $80 per employee on paper annually, and that 50 to 70% of office spaces was used for filing and storing printed documents. That leaves plenty of potential for paperless companies. 

NAWBO Member Q&A: Amy Kuhlers

Amy Kuhlers, program manager with the Iowa Economic Development Authority, provides small business assistance. As part of her role, she serves on the boards of NAWBO, spearheading statewide outreach, and on the Iowa Rural Development Council helping with issues in Iowa’s rural communities. 

Outside of work, Kuhlers is a board member for the Iowa Pet Alliance Foundation and is co-owner of G & A Ventures, providing commercial kitchen and bakery equipment.

Can you take me through your personal background?

I was raised and spent much of my life in the small, north central Iowa town of Thornton, where my family owned and operated a county newspaper and later a printing company. I took a meandering educational route, graduating initially from North Iowa Area Community College – twice. After a few years, I earned an undergraduate degree in Entrepreneurial Management from Buena Vista University and later obtained a Master of Public Administration from Drake University.

I’ve had the opportunity to explore a variety of career paths, including technology sales, insurance, non-profit management and of course, work in the printing industry. However, working with entrepreneurs and being a resource for small businesses has been my primary passion, having spent almost 20 years engaged in this field.

What is your profession/business?

For the past five years I’ve been a program manager with the Iowa Economic Development Authority leading the IASourceLink program. IASourceLink is an online resource for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. The website provides technical and financial information, connections to Iowa resource providers through our Resource Navigator, licensing information through the Business License Information Center and personalized assistance through our Business Concierge services provided by partners at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Business Growth and Innovation.

What do you most enjoy about what you do?

Eliminating barriers businesses face by connecting owners and would-be entrepreneurs to the many small business service providers and resources available throughout Iowa. It’s said, “People don’t know what they don’t know,” and it’s true.  Individuals understand their skills and what they do best, but not necessarily how to build a business around those skills. We can help them with that first step.

If you could go back in time and tell yourself one piece of advice when you started your career, what would it be?

Break through walls! Never be afraid to push the limits of what you think you can do.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

If I had a superpower cape that allowed me to speak all languages and be a master at cross-cultural communication, that would be amazing. I think many of the issues we face today are the result of a lack of understanding among people and ethnicities.