A survey conducted this month by online payroll service SurePayroll found that three out of four small business owners have embraced green initiatives, from recycling to telecommuting.
The motive behind small businesses going green is clear: help the environment, even if the ROI is not significant. Of businesses that consider themselves green, the majority (71 percent) choose to implement green practices simply because they want to be environmentally conscious, while the rest choose to do so to save money.
Out of all of the green businesses, half noticed an ROI of around 5 to 10 percent, while the other half have yet to see one. Yet the lack of significant ROI has not deterred small businesses from implementing such practices.
"The biggest challenge for small-business owners is typically cutting costs, so it's refreshing to see that most small-business owners are going green simply for the good of the environment," said SurePayroll President Michael Alter. "As the foundation of the economy, small businesses can do well to set an example for larger corporations and even homeowners."
Ironically, the 25 percent of surveyed business owners who don't consider themselves green, in fact, are environmentally conscious at least in one aspect: the mere fact that they use direct deposit. (Annually, SurePayroll processes 75 percent of its customer payrolls through direct deposit—more than $3.75 billion in payroll payments.)
A study by the 2009 PayItGreen Alliance, a nonprofit that represents 11,000 financial institutions, showed that if one U.S. employee paid bi-monthly used direct deposit, they would save one pound of paper per year, eliminate the release of four gallons of wastewater, eliminate the release of one pound of greenhouse gases and save a business approximately $176.
According to Alter, implementing company-wide direct deposit is often the first and easiest step to creating a significant positive impact for the environment. The Consumer Federation of America revealed in 2008 that 76 percent of employees who don't have access to direct deposit say they would use it if they had the option.
Beside direct deposit, the SurePayroll survey found that small businesses help the environment by:
• Recycling—93 percent
• Giving employees reusable office mugs—79 percent
• Using environmentally friendly office supplies—75 percent
• Limiting use of electricity/energy—68 percent
Even though some small businesses underestimate the environmental impact of switching to direct deposit, the majority still think any type of initiative is worthwhile. On a broader scale, survey respondents indicated city-wide green projects are great for both the environment and the small-business community, though they said they don't know enough about what President Obama plans to do to tackle environmental issues. Small-business owners are divided when it comes to deciding what environmental policy change would most benefit small business.The top concerns are investing in clean/green technology to create more jobs, and providing incentives for energy conservation to help reduce monthly energy bills.
"Even if their specific concerns vary, the fact that so many small-business owners have taken a genuine interest in going green both locally and nationally is inspiring," said Alter. "It's another example of just how important small businesses are to the well-being of our country."