For Earth Day Northwest 2020, DWT, alongside our sponsoring partners, participated in a virtual conference discussing the challenges and opportunities for regional resiliency in the Pacific Northwest post-COVID-19. DWT has been recognized over the years for taking steps to adopt sustainable office practices and finding ways to contribute to preserving our planet. And we aren't the only ones.
Many companies, regardless of sector or size, have embraced a sustainable development agenda – one focused on maintaining economic advancement and progress without depleting our world's natural resources. We recognize that no effort is too small. Everyone can take steps to reduce our ecological footprint, and we encourage your family business to do the same.
There are many ways a family business can approach the goals of sustainable development. We recommend that you sit down with your family and employees to reflect on how your business operates. Consider small ways that your family business can participate in the sustainability agenda.
In the time of COVID-19, with businesses having to make adjustments to their operations, we are given an opportunity to be creative, think outside the box, and implement small changes that could have positive long-term impacts to our planet. For example, any family owned business can create a recycling plan at no cost. Different disposable bins labeled "Recycle," "Plastic," and "Other" can be set out for employees and customers alike.
Also consider how much printing your family business utilizes. A small step, such as printing double-sided rather than single-sided, not only helps the environment, but it can be a money-saver as well. Other small changes may include investing in a hand drying system in your workplace bathrooms rather than using paper towels (Note: wait until the COVID-19 era ends before utilizing electric blower hand-drying systems as restrooms are a hotspot for contagion), or switching to recyclable products rather than plastic.
At DWT, we stock our break rooms with reusable cups, utensils, and plates for our lawyers and staff to use as well as a dishwasher to ensure cleanliness, health, and safety. We also purchase commonly used food items such as sugar in bulk, replacing individually packaged items. Note, however, that utilizing individually packaged items is recommended during the COVID-19 era.
Your family business may consider tabulating the products and supplies that are purchased on a weekly basis, noting how many of those products and supplies are being thrown away after use. If your family business is in the food industry, for example, forging partnerships with local homeless shelters or food banks can be of great benefit.
You can donate to these nonprofit organizations any good, safe food that your family business would otherwise throw away. Be sure to contact the nonprofit in advance to confirm what items they are willing to accept during COVID-19. Your family business may also be able to utilize a tax benefit from donations to charitable organizations.
Source reduction can also save your family business a significant expense. If your family restaurant relies on large supplies of vegetables or dairy products, a local farmer or co-op may offer you a better or equal price. Produce may be delivered to your restaurant faster and fresher.
In the big picture, buying locally can reduce the use of chemical preservatives that are needed to transport produce. The transportation time between a local farm and your family owned restaurant is likely lower, which in return may reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. Even if you choose to source your supplies from large national or regional vendors, you may select those that emphasize sustainability in their business operations and policies.
Reflecting on current operations can be a worthy exercise in how a family business can make decisions that support sustainability and are economically favorable. Finding small ways your family business can be part of the sustainability agenda is also a great way to bring your team together. You could encourage carpools for your employees, once COVID-19 is over, or attendance at green, environmentally friendly, socially distanced, or online/digital workshops and events.
At DWT, our sustainability efforts don't just rely on the voices of leaders in our firm or community, but we encourage all members of the DWT team to share their thoughts and ideas on how they and others can contribute to a more sustainable environment. Changes can be made gradually. No effort is too small.