Photo: Calgary Zoo

Photo: Calgary Zoo

Benefits of Being Green: What Your Customers Can Teach You

By Virginia Dakiniewich,

These days green business is smart business. Going green provides bottom line cost savings, as well as competitive advantages in the marketplace. Going green allows a company to act proactively to address new environmental requirements from vendors and suppliers, while staying ahead of pending legislation. A solid environmental program also attracts the highest quality employees and keeps those that you already have happy and healthy. The key to the success of green companies is that they operate their businesses to meet their needs, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

Taking care of the environment provides a powerful marketing advantage. Well known retail stores such as The Body Shop are among many organizations that have used their environmental stand as a corporate asset and have grown because of it. Many people are even willing to pay a little more for products and services from green businesses.

Many economic benefits can be gained in the food industry through implementing environmental and social initiatives; many with little or no capital. In addition to cost benefits and competitive advantage, there are also benefits to choosing an environmentally sustainable strategy. Going green can lead to increased employee retention, community recognition, increased brand visibility, risk management and the knowledge that a company is demonstrating social responsibility.

One important benefit of implementing environment initiatives is increased customer loyalty. Over the past 25 years there has been a shift in the expectations and demands of consumers. The typical restaurant guest of today is more sophisticated and is more likely to be concerned about environmental issues such as recycling bottles, cans and paper at home as well as making greener lifestyle choices, such as organic food or fuel- efficient vehicles. However, the influence from customers occurs when their level of awareness increases and they come to expect environmental practices such as recycling. Despite first-time guests basing their decisions on location, amenities and service, customer loyalty may increase once they have experienced a food service outlet or restaurant which has demonstrated a level of environmental commitment.

The area of energy efficiency is another opportunity to be environmentally friendly. Saving energy cuts costs, while supporting policies to protect the environment strikes a positive chord with consumers and restaurant owners alike. Outfitting kitchens with energy efficient equipment can save up to $15,000 each year. A simple move to more efficient lighting could mean huge savings for your business. A minimal upfront cost can not only save in energy consumption, but also money. Similarly, low-flow toilets and spray valves have a minimal cost impact and are more eco-friendly.

Environmental sustainability is not a passing fad; it is here to stay. More and more chains are realizing that concept. As the market and basic economics operates, increased demand will cause increased supply until finally, greener business practices will become not only more accessible, but more affordable. In a competitive marketplace, when all other factors such as environment, price and taste are similar, consumers will gravitate to the brand they trust and a brand they know cares about doing the right thing.