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5 Ways to Finance Sustainability Initiatives (Hint: They Can Pay for Themselves)

Question: How much will a sustainability project cost, and what’s my return on investment going to be?

Among the questions organizational leaders face when thinking about implementing a new initiative or making an investment, some of the most pressing are usually: How much is this going to cost, and what’s my return on investment going to be? While there are many ways to finance sustainability projects, programs, and initiatives, here are five that may be a good place to start.

1. No-Cost Initiatives

To the extent personnel are available or are motivated on their own to take on a sustainability project, organizations can implement simple behavioral-change and awareness-raising programs without spending any money. This could be an existing staff communicating the importance of remembering to turn off lights when going home, or it could be management directing facilities personnel to optimize programmable thermostat settings. Many times, these no-cost initiatives can lead to cost savings, which can be reinvested to fund future sustainability projects and programs at your organization.

2. Existing Operating Budgets

Using discretionary operating dollars to pay for small upgrades or for an outsourced sustainability program from Benecras can propel your cost-savings and resource reduction efforts to the next level. The beauty of sustainability projects is that, done the right way, they can be more than just feel-good; they can have a positive economic ROI with a shorter payback than you might think. So before nixing a sustainability project, remember to consider possible cost savings from even a small project.

3. Grants and Incentives

For certain projects, organizations (especially public-sector institutions) are often eligible for government grants and incentives that can help finance transformative sustainability-focused facility upgrades. (See: Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency)

4. Performance Contracting

For some projects like LED lighting upgrades, organizations can work with utility providers to pay off capital outlays over time using savings generated from the upgrade. After the upgrade is installed, the organization’s utility bill stays the same as it was historically until the savings pay down its cost. After that, the savings stay with the company in perpetuity. (See: "Easy Access to Energy Improvement Funds in the Public Sector")

5. Loans

For some organizations like for-profit companies, the savings from some upgrades are so stark and the ROI so high that, just like other capital investments, using revolving credit or notes to finance them is an appropriate option.

Benecras can help you analyze a project and associated financing options or help you lay the foundations for a sustainable culture through a tailored outsourced sustainability program. (See our other post: “Sustainability Programs: What They Are & Why You Need One”) Contact us today!

Interested in reading more about some of our programs?

Benecras -- "Print Management: How Your Organization Can Turn Paper Into Profits"

Benecras -- "There's a Good Chance You're Wasting Money on Waste Removal"

There’s a Good Chance You’re Wasting Money on Waste Removal

How often do organizational leaders think about what they're spending on waste removal efforts like garbage and recycling handling? For most, it's not very often. As long as trash bags aren't piling up outside of dumpsters and garbage isn't overflowing in workspaces, everyday waste pickup is something that many take for granted. After all, trash pickup doesn’t cost very much, right? And if trash isn’t piling up, we must have the right number of dumpsters and the correct pickup frequency, right?

The answers to these questions might surprise you!

Partially empty dumpsters up may as well be filled with cash

When organizations like schools and businesses first set up waste pickup services, the hauler will usually suggest how many dumpsters they should have and how often the dumpsters should be picked up based on the type of organization, the number of people occupying the space, and so forth. However, the hauler’s incentives are often different than yours. In order to ensure customers don’t have trash accumulating between pickups, haulers are often incented to overestimate the organization’s needs while giving an option to tweak dumpster numbers and pickup frequency later. Many leaders—whether a business owner or a school administrator—end up setting and forgetting the hauler’s original suggestions, leaving precious dollars on the table in the process. Put differently, partially empty dumpsters being picked up may as well be filled with cash!

See also -- Democrat & Chronicle: "The business of trash: What goes into your bill?"

When it comes to helping organizations with waste removal, Benecras can help in more ways than one.

  • Waste-Removal Optimization: We can lead your organization through a waste-hauling optimization study to help you zero-in on just how often you should be having your waste picked up and how many dumpsters should be used at your organization. We can then work with haulers to reduce pickups or price shop with competitors to see who can do it cheapest.
  • Waste Diversion Program: Interested in getting a recycling or composting program started at your campus or business? We can help! We can perform audits of existing programs, implement new processes, and explain changes to staff or students to help you achieve buy-in from stakeholders. Need help with compliance? We are currently assisting Matt’s El Rancho, an Austin-based restaurant, comply with Austin’s Zero Waste Ordinance.

Whether on a standalone basis or in a comprehensive Benecras Enterprise Program, we can help you take advantage of opportunities present in your organization’s current waste-removal process. And by pairing one of the above with another Benecras program, you can begin seeing compounded benefits of sustainability. Pair a print-reduction program with a waste-removal optimization study as an example. Reducing printing lower paper, ink, and printer costs, which saves money. With less paper to throw away or recycle, less money needs to be spent on waste pickups. This is just one example of sustainability’s virtuous money-, resource-, and environment-saving cycles.

See also -- McKinsey: "The business of sustainability"

See also -- Benecras: "Sustainability Programs: What They Are & Why You Need One"

We can help you take advantage of opportunities present in your organization’s current waste-removal process

Interested in learning more? Contact us today. We’re here to help you on projects large or small. And with personnel at the ready, we can get started right away.

Print Management: How Your Organization Can Turn Paper Into Profits

Printing and copying is a fundamental and useful tool for effective communication in most companies and organizations today. Recently we’ve seen more and more organizations – from schools and universities to law firms and corporations - adopt technologies that allow for printing to be at the fingertips of more people, and consequently, to occur more frequently. From computers to mobile devices, accessibility to printing has drastically escalated. Thus, this necessary organizational function has increased costs and operating expenses for most, while environmental impacts climb as well.

Through a Benecras Enterprise sustainability program, organizations are taking a holistic approach to addressing print management to save money. We have found that print management is a key sustainability area for organizations to address, and if done correctly, will yield positive results.

Print management is a key sustainability area for organizations to address, and if done correctly, will yield positive results.

If your organization has not done so already, we have found the following measures to be “Quick Print Management Wins”:

  • Colored Printing Policy - Limit and reduce the amount of printing and copying completed in color
  • Job Size Limitations - Create a limit on the number of prints and copies that can be made per print and/or copy order
  • Double-Sided Requirement - Require the use of double-sided, or duplex, printing and copying for printing users

How Does Benecras Help Organizations Address Print Management?

Through the Benecras Enterprise sustainability program, Benecras can help organizations address print management through the following detailed process:

1.    Benchmark, Benchmark, Benchmark

What can be measured can be managed. Gathering data at the onset of your print management program allows for a baseline assessment to better understand how much your organization currently spends on printing and copying costs. This allows for the development of long-term cost saving benchmarks.

2.    Create a Unified Goal

With any initiative, it’s important to create a unified vision with a core set of goals. After setting a print reduction goal, it’s important to quantify the potential cost and environmental savings of your print management program so you can communicate to stakeholders and track accordingly.

3.    Create a Budget

You’ve now conducted a printing and copying assessment, set long-term benchmarks, and created a long-range goal. Now it’s time to create an annual printing budget, which can then be allocated and distributed to the users across your organization. During this phase, Benecras strongly advises the use of a print management and tracking software (i.e. PaperCut).

4.    Update & Educate Stakeholders

Communicate consistently. It’s important to update and educate users regularly as to the progress and positive impact they are making through print management. This is also a great opportunity to remind users of and refer them to the goals that have been set.

5.    Celebrate Success

Now that you’ve executed a successful print management initiative, it’s important to acknowledge the great work your team and users have put into building a positive culture around print management. Let stakeholders know the impact they’ve made, and create incentives for continued progress.

6.    Repeat!

By repeating and continuously adopting a print management program, your organization can build a culture of sustainability that can yield long-term cost savings.

Ready to Address Print Management?

At Benecras, we’ve helped several organizations implement a print management initiative through the Benecras Enterprise program. Through our program, we can help you set a sustainability foundation at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time staff member. Interested in learning more about how Benecras can help your organization address sustainability and print management? Contact us today!

Sustainability Programs: What They Are & Why You Need One

Whether on social media, on TV, or just walking down the street, it is not uncommon to hear folks talking about the hot topic of “sustainability.” But definitions of sustainability can vary widely depending on who you are talking to. Many definitions are filled with catchy buzzwords, while others are impractical in their idealism. For those just wanting to understand how sustainability might apply to them in the real world, such definitions can make it seem daunting or make people wonder if it is even worth trying.

We at Benecras prefer to abide by a simple definition of sustainability—one to which the every-man and -woman can relate. Our definition is: identifying opportunities to save money, resources, and time in the areas of energy, water, waste, and printing all while being conscious of the environment. To us, this definition better answers some valid questions about sustainability like, “What can sustainability do for my organization?” or “Is investing in sustainability really worth it?” Benecras is of the mind that having a sustainability program can and will yield real benefits for any organization—both in the near term and long run.

Sustainability: identifying opportunities to save money, resources, and time in the areas of energy, water, waste, and printing all while being conscious of the environment.

So why does your organization need a sustainability program, and what can it really do for you? We tackle these questions below.

Sustainability programs can:

  • Save Money: Every kilowatt-hour of electricity not used and every page not printed is money saved for your organization. One of the core ideas of sustainability is to get the 3same or better results using fewer resources to do it. Many business owners are already familiar with this concept in how they conduct their business; however, it is common for people to overlook the savings they might be able to achieve through simple behavior changes or by investing in cost-effective upgrades. With any investment, getting a positive return is one of the objectives. Sustainability is no different. Investing in sustainability can mean more money in the pockets of shareholders or more money in the hands of schools to pay teachers or invest in supplies. Companies and schools have had great success saving money through sustainability. You could be next!

See also -- Kroger Saves 38% on Electricity Since Year 2000

See also -- School District Sustainability: Saving 'Green' By Going Green

  • Engage People: Sustainability engages your stakeholders. It makes them feel invested in your organization—like they have a personal stake in its success. When students, staff, or employees are asked and trained to be conscious of resource usage or are coming up with ways to do so on their own, your school or business is encouraging a culture of ownership. Suddenly, your people or students are thinking about sustainability, which creates a virtuous cycle that builds on itself and carries momentum of its own (Business News Daily: How to Increase Employee Engagement in Sustainability). Some companies have created entirely new revenue streams from materials once viewed as waste all because an employee spoke up, while schools can get students involved in extra-curricular activities and integrate sustainability as a real-life example in the classroom. Moreover, a sustainable culture has positive effects outside your organization. Students or employees will take this mindset home with them or to other organizations, which raises your organization’s standing in the community. People feeling invested in a cause can encourage innovation, critical thinking, and information retention while creating hands-on learning opportunities that ultimately work to achieve your school or business’s core mission.

  • Help the Environment: Sustainability programs help reduce negative impacts on the environment. All of us have a carbon footprint, and even seemingly small changes can have a big impact on reducing negative effects on the world around us. As the word sustainability might suggest, sustainability initiatives focus on helping us sustain or better our quality of life. If the environment in which we live is deteriorating and can no longer provide life’s core needs, it may be difficult to sustain or better our quality of life going forward.

Saving Money + Engaging People + Helping the Environment = Better Outcomes for Your Organization

The bottom line is that when you combine the above, organizational outcomes are better. Operating sustainably means organizations are better able to achieve their core missions. Whether that is educating students, making a profit, or saving the planet, sustainability is a net positive.

Operating sustainably means organizations are better able to achieve their core missions.

So where does Benecras fit in? Many organizations do not have the means or expertise to hire a full-time sustainability manager to tap into the benefits above. That is the gap Benecras fills. By hiring us to implement and manage your sustainability initiatives, client partners get the benefits above without straining current staff or hiring more employees. We can help you accomplish your goals and lay the foundations for a sustainable organization and culture at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-time staff member. Interested in learning more about how Benecras can help? Contact us today!