November 23, 2012

Business Basics

Sustainability is Good Business:

The Big Benefits of “Going Green”

By Steve Trash®

Going green to make green is red hot right now. 

In fact, recent studies have shown that sustainability-oriented companies have a better stock performance, lower volatility and a higher return on assets than other similar companies. In short, the “sustainable” or “green” companies are making more “green” than the companies that have not jumped on board.

Restaurants large and small, chain and independent alike are among the businesses that can implement sustainable business practices in several ways.

Now you might be thinking, “That sounds great! I want some sustainability for my restaurant. How soon can I get it shipped to me?”

Unfortunately, sustainability is not a clever new accounting software, a sparkly new app or a cool new kitchen gadget. It is a philosophy, and a very powerful one, at that.

Sustainability is a commitment, from upper management to the front line, to switch from only focusing on short-term profit to something even larger and longer lasting—a focus on maximizing the health of people, the planet and profits.

As you may remember from science class, the planet we live on is one big, interconnected biological system. So sustainability means we use this systems’ resources (air, water, land, energy, raw materials) in a manner that will not hinder (no pollution or overuse) future generations’ ability to use these resources. With 7 billion people currently living on the planet and all of them wanting to be rich, get rich or get richer we must start use the resources we have in much smarter ways.

There are four great reasons restaurants should integrate sustainability into your business.

*Sustainability can reduce business risk. For businesses, risk is omnipresent. A sustainability approach that encompasses people, the planet and profit can reduce some of those risks, such as: 

            Litigation –Unfortunately every business is at risk for lawsuits. Are you using chemicals in your business that could end up in the food you serve, the local air, groundwater or soil? Finding ways to eliminate the use of these materials can align your business with the environment and reduce risk.

            Cleanup – Accidents happen. By using safer or more environmentally aligned safety measures for your business, you can eliminate the need for cleanup, and thus eliminate that cost. Brainstorming ways to eliminate accidents and subsequent cleanup costs before they even happen is smart and sustainable.

            • Environmental Regulations—Environmental laws are in place to protect the public (people) and the environment (planet) from hazards. Instead of asking, “How do we comply?” ask a much different question. Ask yourself, “What if there was no need for compliance?” What if we could point our company at the target of low- or no-waste, low- or no-emissions, low- or no-energy use? What if we exceed the compliance standard so much that it becomes irrelevant?” No legal costs. No compliance costs. No problem. Okay… fewer problems.

*Sustainability can cut your costs. This is sustainability’s low-hanging fruit, and it’s not difficult to take on. Focusing on what you take, make and waste in your restaurants can be a successful sustainable strategy for the environment and for your company. What if you could reduce your energy costs by using a sustainable resource or a more efficient process? What if you could reduce your waste disposal costs by creating less waste through recycling or pre-cycling? What if you could use less water? What if you could use the sun to pre-heat the water you need? What if you could reduce your water, energy and waste?

*Sustainability can build your brand. Your restaurant survives and thrives because your customers choose to do business with you. If you lose the respect, trust or loyalty of your customers, you’re finished. Consumers today hold companies (your brand) to a much higher standard than ever before. They expect and reward companies that hold themselves responsible for the people the company affects and the planet it takes resources from. A sustainability focus ensures that you earn a profit while keeping your eyes on the positive treatment of people and the planet. Short-term profit margin focus only is no longer acceptable to customers, and they can let the entire world know with one mouse click. The more your company acts like a decent local and global citizen, the more your customers appreciate it and the more loyal they are to your brand.

*Sustainability can grow your revenue. From a business perspective, this is the most fascinating area of “being green.” New products and services are developed every day, but what if business used its problem-solving skills with sustainability as a guide? Viewing the market through the business lenses of sustainability allows you to see the market in a way you’ve never seen it before and capitalize on what you see. Because it is a paradigm shift, you may be able to see solutions that others who are focused only on short-term profit can’t see.

Let’s say many of your customers are worried that chemicals you use in your food prep and dishwashing areas might find their way into the food and drink they order in your restaurant. You can solve the problem by using non-toxic cleaners. It is a small but important step toward creating a sustainable foodservice establishment—and that is ultimately good business for the planet, your customers and your bottom line, too.

Consultant Steve Trash® is a member of the National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association who speaks on the importance of sustainability. For more information, visit www.SteveTrash.net.

Sidebar:

The “Greening” of Las Olas

Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif., is a charming beach community on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. There, on a lot with a great ocean view, Las Olas Mexican Restaurant caters to customers in a way that—as consultant Steve Trash would say—takes people, the planet and profit into account.

“We were recycling before green was the ‘in thing’—we’ve been recycling cardboard, cans and glass for at least 20 and maybe as long as 30 years,” General Manager Nick Fierro says.

The restaurant also recycles its cooking oil, which is then used to fuel local school buses; uses eco-friendly paper products and plastic cups made from sugar cane instead of Styrofoam; and hasn’t used bleach in cleaning products for the past five years. Recently, Las Olas took advantage of its existing low-voltage wiring and installed LED lights throughout the patio and outside their building.

The goal was energy-savings and improved ambiance. “Before installing the LED lights from Wellbrite, you couldn’t see the details of the restaurant from the highway and there were a lot of dark corners in the patio,” Fierro says.

So how have all of these “green” business practices actually impacted business? While Fierro can’t say how much the bottom line has benefited from sustainability efforts, he believes it has made some impact.

“I don’t know if it is what brings customers back time and time again, but I know they appreciate it,” he says. “Our customers, our employees and their families know we do those things and they appreciate the fact that we care for the environment. We are on the beach so it is something

November 23, 2012