The true cost of going green

The true cost of going green

There is a lot of pressure on businesses these days to show that they are supporting local communities, charities and the environment. In 2015, a study concluded the the global economic value of bees is €265billion, and in an age where people study the economic value of the environment as a university subject, the idea of being environmentally friendly, for most people, is very appealing, however it's not as easy as just buying the ecopaper instead of the regular paper. A great example of a successful environmentally and ethically aware business is Innocent Smoothies who not only use recycled materials to create the bottles for their products, but also donate 10% of all profits to charity and publicly support many environmental campaigns, and still manage to thrive at a time when people are often struggling to afford any luxuries. Here are a few things to consider about owning a green business.

What do your customers want? - Some businesses will benefit hugely from going environmentally friendly as it's appealing to their customers and target audience, and the bragging rights to this status will boost their flow of clientele and therefore, providing the increase in profit outweighs the additional cost of ecofriendly materials, the company will see a rise in revenue. However, just because you believe in a particular value, it does not mean the majority of your customers will. An example of this could be a travel company that focusses on a richer clientele, who may gain a certain level of respect from going green, however when their customers turn up at the airport they will always prefer to be welcomed with a bottle of water instead of a the greener alternative of a recyclable paper cup filled from a larger bottle as when it comes to the choice between luxury and what's best for the environment, they would tend to put their comfort first. Sometimes you may have to make sacrifices against the values you stand for to keep your customers happy and to keep revenue flowing smoothly.

The price of materials - This depends largely on the type of business you run and the lengths to which you are prepared to take this ideology. A lot of offices these days opt for a paperless system however this does not necessarily mean that they are a green business. Electricity is also a resource, and unless you can guarantee that it comes from an environmentally friendly source, you cannot claim you are completely green. If, for example, you run a coffee shop there's a lot more materials to consider; the takeaway cups, the bags, the takeaway trays for the coffee cups, posters and printouts, in fact everything down to stickers you may use as promotional material can be obtained from green and ethically responsible sources, however they tend to cost a lot more than your standard materials. It's worth comparing the difference between your potential additional profit and the additional cost of materials, and if it's a loss you will have to question how important having a green business is to you.

Certification - There are a number of ways to certify your business as green from Greenseal to GBB which gives you the right to display to your target audience that you are officially a "green business", however most of these companies will charge either a one off or a membership fee for this. You can still partake in green practices and sponsor environmental programmes as a business without certification, you will just have to decide whether your clientele will still recognise and, more importantly, appreciate your efforts.

There is a general increase in the number of people turning to greener and more ethical alternatives so now could be a perfect time to consider what practices you follow that could be adapted to appeal to a quickly increasing market.

How to be a Better Communicator

How to be a Better Communicator

If you take a browse through the abundance of online articles that cover the traits that employers seek out the most, one that repeatedly and unsurprisingly makes an appearance is communication; both written and verbal. An employer can judge this prior to hiring somebody through exchanging emails, speaking on the phone, or in the interview room. Here are a few things you can focus on to improve your communication skills.

It's easy to forget, but listening is just as important as responding, if not more so. If you focus entirely on your response, you can easily misinterpret the question or misunderstand a vital point being made. It is important to make the other person or people in the conversation aware that you are paying attention to them and making them the centre of your regard.

We spend a lot of time quickly writing messages to our friends and family on mobile phones and computers and pushing send without even thinking. In a work environment, it is important to proof read all your messages for spelling, grammar, formatting, the correct use of formal language, use of the correct signature and it's even worth checking that you are sending the email to the correct recipient.

It is also important to maintain a positive and assertive attitude while at work. Problems will inevitably occur, but you can either shout about them or work decisively to solve them. If you portray yourself as a positive person, people will find you more approachable and you will encourage a more positive environment for you and your colleagues.

It also pays to think before you speak, in every circumstance. If you take a moment before speaking you can effectively consider the best way to communicate your message which will make you come across as a more intelligent person. If you respond immediately you rely too heavily on your initial reaction which may not be appropriate or professional.

To make yourself clearer when you are speaking, particularly to a larger audience, make sure you are speaking at a reasonable rate. Slowing down allows others to understand you better. Also, accentuating your words and clearly pronouncing everything goes a long way. If you mumble a lot naturally, try to avoid this, and also try to avoid using filler words like "umm" or "err" or phrases such as "you know" at the end of sentences. Be clear and concise. Sometimes it also helps to accompany your speaking with simple hand gestures to help emphasise particular points.

Maintaining positive body language makes you come across as a more professional and approachable person. Try not to cross your arms as it does not depict you as an accessible person, and try to maintain eye contact with your audience to ensure them that you are paying attention to what they are saying.

And lastly, don't forget to smile. People who authentically smile are immediately likeable and if people like you they will pay closer attention to the words you are saying, and smiling will help you to build stronger relationships with your colleagues and clients.

Social Media & You

Social Media & You

These days, everybody has a Facebook page and an online presence of sorts. Most businesses also have a social media presence which comes with substantial advantages. Some businesses prosper a lot more with the internet than others, however, especially if you have a new business, it pays to have a positive representation online.

One of the most important benefits is connecting with your customers and shareholders. For a small and new businesses this is especially helpful as it makes more people aware of their existence and location, and allows friends and loyal customers to share information such as offers, events, promotions, business reviews and comments, although these can be both positive and negative, and can essentially allow the business to prosper and grow in ways that were not possible before. For larger and longer established companies, it allows their customers access to news and current progress which is not considerable enough to make it into news outlets.

Social Networking sites also allow your business to have an augmented voice that before their existences, would have been much quieter. It has become much easier to express the values of your company, to show people the projects that you support, to shine a new light on your business that before was unseen. You can promote articles that reinforce your principles and remind your audience why you are providing the right product for them. This can help to refine your target audience and to reach out to the people you believe will benefit the most from your product. You can connect with ease to other business within your community to expand your clientele through collaboration and support.

It takes a mere matter of seconds to make a post that conveys a message, which saves more time to focus on your business, providing you don't get distracted by the social media itself. If you have a gas leak and have had to close the cafe for the day, you can tell your customers before they've even left home. If you have a promotion on, it's free to tell your online audience.

Social networking for businesses does however also come with negatives. If you have an upset customer, they also have more of a voice and more power to express their dissatisfaction to your audience which can potentially damage your reputation or your business. Some review sites will not allow you to take down bad comments, even if unjustly and unfairly made against you. Customers can often rate you on a system and if a customer has a personal vendetta against your business it can have serious ramifications to your online presence and therefore have a knock on effect to your customers and overall income.

Also, tourists and new residents will often only judge a place based on it's online ratings which is an unfair and over simplified representation of everything you do, however people will still insist that the top rated attraction in an area is the only one worth seeing.

In the rare circumstance that there is any public scandal related to your business then absolutely anybody has the ability to anonymously vilify and slander you online. People tend to be more confrontational on the internet because they can hide behind their computer monitors.

Overall, a strong internet presence tends to be a positive thing and with a little bit of attention, it can provide a lot of extra benefits and income for your business.

Shorter Working Day Debate

Shorter Working Day Debate

There are many articles online regarding a trend in Sweden to shorten the standard working day. The results have been somewhat ambiguous with some substantial benefits and also some substantial problems emerging as a result of this. Initially, the concept was introduced in an attempt to increase productivity and to improve the general quality of life by making people happier. The idea is that if people are in a better mood, they will get more done in a shorter amount of time.

Some companies have claimed that staying focussed on one particular task for eight hours is a difficult task, and that by shortening the time that their staff have to endure their concentration they have increased their productivity as well as reducing staff turnover and improving the happiness of the employees. An app developer - Filimundus, has reduced the working hours but also reduced meetings and distractions to allow their staff to concentrate more without interruption and has reported an increase in productivity because of this. The CEO also stated that staff had a greater control over their private lives with the additional time to spend doing what they enjoyed.

Some experts also claim that by shortening working hours it will improve staff health and, with a long term perspective, will make working until retirement age an easier task to accomplish as employees, particularly in labour intensive professions, would be less fatigued and maintain more energy for a longer time. These people argue that shorter working days creates a more sustainable labour market.

However, there has also been an experiment where the working hours of 68 nurses in an old people's home were reduced to the new working day in an attempt to improve staff satisfaction, health and patient care, and while initially this seemed successful, in the longer term it ended up costing the city considerably as they had to employ an additional 17 staff to cover the reduced hours of the original team, which, when looked at on a larger perspective, can potentially lower the costs of unemployment for the government, but not enough to cover the difference.

Dr Aram Seddigh, who recently completed his doctorate at Stockholm University's Stress Research Institute believes that the model can work for some businesses but not for others. He stated that the "sixhour work day would be most effective in organisations - such as hospitals - where you work for six hours and then you just leave [the workplace] and go home. It might be less effective for organisations where the borders between work and private life are not so clear" and suggests that employees with a set amount of work to complete each week might experience higher levels of stress as they try to fit in the same amount of productivity into a shorter time frame.

It seems that this the cost of improving staff welfare and productivity is too high for people with an economic mindset, but in the long term, the benefits could have a substantial positive effect on the work force.