According to Oxford, sustainability is “the property of being environmentally sustainable; the degree to which a process or enterprise is able to be maintained or continued while avoiding the long-term depletion of natural resources.” 1 The concept of business or corporate sustainability actually dates back to the early 1970’s, with the publication of the book The Limits to Growth.2 Its authors discussed the interdependent components that make up the world we all live in: economic, political, natural and social, and described how growth and progress would deplete our planet absent corrective action. Despite the passage of time, the issues raised in this book remain relevant today and, even more so in today’s global economy. While some of the verbiage has changed and gotten slightly more complicated, with phrases like CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), Green initiatives and ESG criteria (Environmental, Social and Governance), the underlying principle remains the same: how to allow for progress while maintaining global equilibrium and preserving our planet. 3
Businesses, whether large or small, can and must help. In fact, it turns out that implementing sustainability efforts is not only better for the planet but can also improve a company’s bottom line. Studies show that investors do not want to do business with companies that ignore sustainability. Therefore, investing in sustainability is actually an investment in your business. According to McKinsey, “taking action in these areas may help companies . . . distinguish themselves from competitors – positioning them to create more value.” Their research has shown that “strong performance on ESG issues can improve top-line growth, reduce costs, minimize regulatory and legal interventions, improve employee productivity, and focus investment and capital expenditures.” Simply put, companies that do not commit to sustainability efforts may leave value on the table. 4
Macondo Networks, a woman-owned small business, has identified and implemented certain practices to help reduce waste and increase efficiency and environmental awareness:
- Eliminate the use of Styrofoam packing peanuts and other shipping materials that have a negative environmental impact. At Macondo Networks, we have replaced packing peanuts with Kraft paper. In addition, we cut down boxes to a more exact size, minimizing the amount of paper needed for filling and reducing the amount of space our product takes up in the carrier.
- Reuse shipping boxes and pallets by making gently used boxes available to members of the community for their personal use, like moving into a new home or sending students off to college. There are also many people who use pallets for various gardening or building projects.
- Recycle electronics: electronic boards, ethernet cables, handset cables, hard drives, memory chips and processors all get recycled rather than having them end up in a landfill.
- Increase energy efficiency by replacing all lights in the office and warehouse with LED lights. Our current office space also has plenty of natural light, allowing us to cut down on energy usage during the day.
- Reduce paperwork and paper billing. Switch to online systems, rather than paper billing and banking. Although not all companies we work with have access to online billing and electronic transfer of funds, we have been able to reduce the amount of paper checks we mail out by almost 95%. We also encourage the use of email receipts. This not only cuts down on paper waste, but it also has the added benefit of increasing our physical storage space.
- Repair and Refurbish equipment. At Macondo Networks, our repair and refurbishing team repairs and/or restores phones, headsets, and system components to like new quality with the latest parts and firmware, extending the life and productivity of this telecommunications equipment.
- Buy-Back Program. Macondo Networks will buy back used equipment for payment or credit against future purchases. Equipment that cannot be repaired or refurbished will be recycled in compliance with environmental regulations.
- Compostable, Double-Use Shipping Bags. We are currently experimenting with using new light- weight shipping bags that are not only compostable but can be re-used a second time by the person who receives the original shipment. These bags are specifically designed for a second use and significantly cutting down on material ending up in a landfill.
By engaging in each one of these practices, Macondo Networks is helping to reduce its carbon footprint and the depletion of natural resources. If all small businesses take these relatively simple steps, together we can combine efforts and make a significant impact on building and maintaining a sustainable future.