Small but green
Small businesses make up a large part of the business environment in America, representing over 99.7% of all employer firms and employing over half of all private sector jobs according to the Small Business Administration. Small businesses are just about everywhere you look, from consulting firms to taco stands. So, with such a substantial footprint in America, how green are these small businesses? In reality, probably not very green since small businesses don’t have the capital to invest in green or sustainable technologies. In many cases, small businesses are working hard to meet payroll and try to expand the business. After all, most small businesses are the first step to bigger things for their owners. But are there options for a small business to “go green” and is it worth it?
Today I attended a Green Biz Workshop sponsored by ACCION Texas-Louisiana at their Lending Center on Poplar. The workshop was in partnership with CPS Energy and UTSA’s Institute for Economic Development and provided information and resources for a group of small business owners who took advantage of the free workshop to learn more about how to go green. While some might think building a green business might be too expensive, in reality, based on the opportunities it’s almost too expensive not to go green.
First of all, small businesses can tap into a variety of resources and programs to help change their business to a more energy efficient and sustainable workplace. From behavioral changes like setting a policy of turning off lights and equipment to outfitting the business with solar panels, a small business can cut the energy costs by substantial amounts that can be redirected to business expansion and offering new products and services.
CPS Energy has a resource page on their site focused on commercial customers and how those customers can save energy and costs. First of all, there are several rebates that businesses can qualify for just by making changes to their environment. Couple with that cash incentives and financing options and you have the start of a program that can help not only the business but the energy environment overall. Another option to consider is participation in CPS Energy’s Distributed Generation program where a business can install solar panels and sell power back to CPS at 27 cents per kilowatt-hour (KWH).
UTSA’s IED provides information and resources for small businesses to help them assess and retrofit their businesses with more energy efficient options. By tapping into an ACCION/CPS fund, businesses can request an energy audit and assessment to find out how to improve the businesses energy footprint. The good part about working with small businesses is that typically, due to the flexibility of their working model, small businesses can implement programs much more quickly.
Another component that UTSA’s IED can do is to help businesses investigate offering green or environmentally friendly products and services, which are increasing in consumer appeal. By leveraging green suppliers small businesses can enter the green market, estimated in 2007 as having over $104 billion in potential. While it might seem daunting, by leveraging expertise and advise by IED a business can find what type of green opportunities might exist within their business model. One example I’ve seen has been delis and coffee shops offering eco-friendly recycled plastic cold cups made from 50% recycled plastic.
What really impressed me was the resources provided by ACCION Texas-Louisiana for small businesses. ACCION is designed to help small businesses get started by offering micro-lending products to the business and training resources to help the business succeed. It’s a pretty darn good model if you think of it. By investing in the training and education of the business, ACCION is more likely to see repayment of their loan, possibly even sooner than expected. ACCION can also serve as a networking hub for small businesses to help increase their business potential and reach.
These type of efforts and partnerships are what is needed to help improve the chances of small businesses in America today. After all, with that type of economic impact don’t you think we’d want to seem them succeed?