Magazine Article | June 20, 2007

The Guide To A Green — And Profitable — Business Model

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

Turn good intentions into practical business actions.

Integrated Solutions, July 2007

There is no company mantra that asks, “How can we destroy the Earth today?” But fundamentally, that’s what we’re doing when we don’t regularly pose the opposite question: “What steps can our organization, from the top down, take to improve our environment?” As business owners, we all want to believe we operate environmentally responsible companies. Yet there’s always going to be the issue of viability.

The basic obligation of all business models is to be profitable. It’s no different with a green business model. In fact, the foundation of environmental sustainability is economic sustainability. There is no way that a large company, especially one that must take shareholders into account, can invest itself any other way. You have to prove that exercising green practices can actually lead to profit – or, at the very least, self-sustainability.

A few plastic bins aren’t enough to satisfy today’s environmental needs. This is especially true with the growing amount of electronic waste (e-waste), much of which consists of old business devices, including outdated computers, retired printers, cell phones, PDAs, and bar code readers. One glance at today’s landfills, and minimizing the environmental footprint from a corporate standpoint is looking more and more like a long-overdue responsibility.

It can be done, though. Electronic device powerhouses such as HP, Dell, and IBM have all introduced asset recovery and disposal services divisions/programs within the last five years. Last year, Ryzex celebrated an important milestone for an operation our size – becoming a zero-waste company. That means nothing leaves our facility that isn’t being put to some other use. All materials are recycled. All food waste is composted. All end-of-life electronics are broken down for their spare parts. Our intentions were always there, but finding profitability in it took time.

Being 100% waste-free and making money on it can seem like a daunting task, especially in the face of small returns on recycled items. But consider the fact that you could be saving thousands on garbage removal costs. When you look at the bigger picture, there are opportunities to come out ahead.

Start with what you know. You can’t take on the world all at once. A sure way to experience frustration – and quickly burn up your profit margin – is to overextend your recycling and/or responsible disposal program(s). Put your focus on the one or two waste items that you produce the most of,  and get very efficient and profitable at recycling them. Next, get those materials from others (i.e., partners, vendors, employees, even clients) to make it a scalable venture.

Stay ahead of the game. Legislation regarding corporate environmental responsibility is sweeping across the globe. The RoHS (Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances) and WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directives in the EU (European Union) are already having major impact on the manufacture and everyday use of electronic devices. China has had to draft new regulations in order to combat their growing e-waste concerns. Such policies are still largely localized in the United States, but taking action sooner rather than later can save on costs to become compliant and/or prevent any penalties you could face for not following suit.

Get more than your money’s worth. Money can still be made after your original equipment investments, especially in the form of creative use – and reuse – of products. From refilling toner cartridges and recharging batteries to turning in old equipment to offset the costs of new devices, leveraging your current assets is a great way to add value you didn’t see before.

Don’t forget the ripple effects of instituting a company-wide recycling program. It can make for effective PR fodder and create unpaid media opportunities. You can also open doors that weren’t previously available, as more organizations are requiring proof of green practices in order to earn favored vendor status. These are benefits that could have a significant impact on your profitability long term – even if they don’t show up on the ledger in the early stages. 

Reducing the environmental footprint takes small steps. Making it profitable just takes a little work.