How can we make eco-friendly business decisions that also benefit risk management goals? This is a question a lot of companies are asking lately, for several reasons. Many companies feel a responsibility to minimize their contribution to global warming; others may have more selfish reasons such as gaining a more positive perspective from consumers or cutting costs.

Whatever the motivation, here are some eco-friendly business practices that also contribute to a safer, more cost-effective, lower-risk work environment.

Minimize Paper Trails and Digitize Files

This first practice may seem obvious to some, but many businesses are still stuck in the habit of printing and writing on paper. Paper adds up quickly and causes a big impact on both the environment and your bottom line. According to the EPA, the world produces 300 million tons of paper every year. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. A 2016 statistic showed that the average office worker used 10,000 sheets of paper every year, and 45% of paper printed in an office ended up in the trash by the end of the day. If the massive cost of paper isn’t enough to convince you, reportedly more than 70% of businesses would fail within a period of 3 weeks if they suffered a loss of paper-based records due to an unforeseen event.

Not only is paper wasteful, but it’s also a liability. Paper usage requires a proper disposal policy, either manually shredding the paper or hiring a third-party to do so, exposing your company to unnecessary risk. Information sent via electronic means is easier to ensure stays protected as well, limiting the audience to select individuals.

When printing is necessary, consider using recycled paper, implementing double-sided printing, print in grayscale, and use energy-efficient printers.

Promote Remote working

Working remotely has a positive impact on reducing carbon emissions by eliminating commuting. There is also less of a demand for fossil fuels, which cause a multitude of environmental concerns when collecting and refining oil. This also causes less wear and tear on vehicles and makes them last longer, creating less landfill waste in the long run.

What’s the direct impact on your organization though? A study by Stanford University found that the company they researched saved around $2,000 per employee that worked remotely. While the price will vary by organization, it stands to reason that you will also save money due to less office waste, such as disposable utensils in the break room or wasted time from lunch commutes or speaking in person to coworkers. In addition, there is significantly less energy usage that the company is responsible for in both heating/cooling costs and device energy consumption.

Your organization can also cut costs on security. Without a central office or a reduced office requirement, security can be reduced to cover smaller areas. Company devices aren’t being transported back and forth, reducing the likelihood of theft and data loss. There is also a larger focus on digital security as companies have to ensure remote workers are on a secure environment. This added attention to detail greatly reduces future cybersecurity risk. 

Shut Down Unused Electronics

This is a simple approach that has minimal impact on day-to-day operations. Simply having employees power off electronics that aren’t being used offers both environmental and security benefits. Powering off or putting to sleep devices saves a significant amount of energy when considering all employee devices, especially outside of work hours.

From a security standpoint, putting a computer to sleep or powering it off will require a password to be re-entered when it is turned back on, ensuring only verified users are accessing company files. In addition, if there happens to be a virus on a system, it cannot do anything when the device is fully powered off. This prevents your computer from being accessed in the middle of the night.

Manage Waste Disposal

More relevant to some organizations than others, waste disposal is an important focus for both risk management and environmental protection. Waste disposal can range from pharmaceutical waste, biohazardous materials, or even some components of electronics. Improper disposal of waste damages plants and wildlife and even endangers human health.

Waste disposal poses a large risk to organizations that need to worry about compliance with laws and regulations that dictate proper waste handling, such as by the EPA. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act can issue fines up to $93,000.

Create a Green Culture

Organizations are encouraged to establish a committee or responsible party for training and reminding employees about green practices, and establishing these into existing policies were relevant. In regards to the points mentioned above, for example, these would be integrated into IT policies, business management, remote working, etc. This party should track monetary savings from policies implemented as well.

Use Risk Management Software

Our last tip is to utilize risk management software! A traditional risk assessment process involves a manual process of driving from site to site, using paper checklists, and talking to individuals knowledgeable in assessment areas. Not only does this create an unnecessary footprint on the environment, but it’s less efficient and less accurate. Utilize software to reduce assessment efforts by an average of 74%.

In addition to protecting the environment and cost savings, all practices for operating on an eco-friendly platform help with reputational risk, a large concern of risk management. Start assessing your organization to see areas where you can improve and benefit from eco-friendly practices.

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