Over the past few years, there has been a huge movement towards green/sustainable business. Going green is appealing to a company for long-term profit-saving, to employees and clients for supporting key values and beliefs, and most importantly, to the environment for reducing carbon footprints. There are many ways a company can “go green”, but how can an entire industry move into a sustainable path?
The Internal Green Approach
The answer involves taking small steps. We can become sustainable internally and externally. Internal sustainability is often somewhat daunting, harder to implement and more expensive in the short run. It is a process that may involve a large upfront expenditure to achieve long-term savings, and requires the support of all of the employees. However, internal sustainability can be broken down into small achievable improvements. For easy to implement ideas, see the list below (Get Up and Get Started). Sustainable internal processes and procedures certainly make a huge difference in company operations and its carbon footprint; however, it is not the only way to be a green company.
The External Green Approach
Companies in the market research industry need to work together to make large-scale changes. Banding together as companies is the best external sustainable approach. These changes can be easily adopted and can speak to a greater good. According to an article titled “How Your Company Can Help Shape Environmental Policy,” this year’s State of Green Business Forum agrees, “Companies can have a big impact, with a small number of voices able to swing major legislation.” A large benefit of moving towards a green / sustainable industry is that it is easy thanks to the correlation between technology and going green.
Technology is moving us into a greener world without much effort. Specifically speaking of the Market Research industry, technology has helped us reduce the number of trees cut down and ink cartridges wasted, simply by offering us the internet as a platform for surveys. Online surveys have become the norm rather than the exception. They reduce costs, materials and waste by incredible amounts. Similarly, other research methodologies have adapted to this technologically advanced green platform.
Take for example intercept surveys, traditionally conducted with paper and pen, can now be conducted via iPads, iPhones and others smart devices. Faxed surveys can be returned directly to a computer through software (no paper involved) where they can be automatically read and scanned. Additionally, many market research companies are looking to the internet for data mining and virtual focus groups. Focus groups can now be set in a virtual interactive setting where participants can interact from their home (saving the emissions of driving to a facility location). These groups may even provide richer findings for certain industries and projects as they can include video and pictures of products and concepts in users’ own home. These can also be supplemented with postings on social media sites.
Let’s Make This Official
The industry is making a great leap towards a more sustainable future, with the help of technology. I applaud this effort, but plead our industry to develop standardized changes to ensure the security and forward movement of this trend. These changes need to include internal standards. There could be an industry stamp of green certification in place for market research. The companies awarded this certification would follow a certain set of practices and be able to display their green certification. This certification could work as it does in other industries in terms of attracting bright young talent who value sustainability, and equally important, clients who value the green movement.
We may have a long way to go, but I encourage everyone to take as many small steps as possible to make this a reality. This includes supporting industry changes, but also refers to making small, simple changes to internal company green plans. An article titled “State of Green Business 2011: What’s in and What’s Not” sums it up beautifully. “Greening your business model is no longer a burden. On the contrary, it can open up a wide range of economically profitable avenues while sustaining our planet.”
Get Up and Get Started
A few green tips that everyone can follow to help us reach this goal:
1. Encourage employees to respect this sustainability both as a company value and something that they can embrace in their own life.
- Offer incentives for following best practices – as simple as buying lunch or letting them pick an office supply of their choice
2. Take control of the issues that can be easily managed.
- Recycle the basics
- Turn off lights when not in use
- Limit excess water usage
- Encourage less food waste
- Print documents only when you really need to, and print double-sided documents or re-use paper when printing unofficial documents
- Turn off equipment when not in use
- Use green cleaning products
3. Offer simple incentives for employees who carpool or use public transportation.
4. Spruce up the office with some live plants.
5. Take an environmental interest in suppliers and vendors.
- Do they have green practices?
6. Use the internet as a resource, there many suggestions from employers, employees, and businesses of all sizes.
Megan Holstine, Research Analyst