Celebrating Earth Day 2011 with Guidance

Guidance_post 1.jpgWhile many of us have made environmental responsibility a part of our everyday lives whether at home or at work, today is the day we officially honor the earth. To celebrate Earth Day 2011, we checked in with Jon Provisor, co-owner and chief information officer with Guidance, an e-commerce solutions company with 60 professionals headquartered in Marina del Rey, Calif. Our conversation with Provisor, who spearheaded the company’s green initiatives, offered us insights on the role small businesses can play in sustainability efforts, the unexpected benefits of “going green” and specific steps you can take to make your business kinder and gentler toward the environment. 


Melissa Zieger: How is Guidance celebrating Earth Day?


Guidance_post2.jpgJohn Provisor:  At Guidance we celebrate differently every year. In the beginning, after we’d launched Guidance Green, an internal committee that drives sustainability and corporate responsibility initiatives, we got a booth at the Earth Day Fair in Manhattan Beach, Calif. This year we’re partnering by donating and  volunteering with Tree Musketeers, which organizes tree planting excursions led by children, and a program that the organization started, Partners for the Planet Network, which plants and cares for trees and works on repopulating forests.


MZ: What was the driving force behind Guidance’s focus on environmental sustainability?


Guidance_post4.jpgJP:  We were inspired by Bentley Prince Street, a commercial carpet manufacturer. We were bidding on a project for them and one of the things in the RFP was Mission Zero, which was the company’s plan to eliminate any negative impact it has on the environment, from manufacturing through recycling. As a manufacturing company with a lot to deal with in terms of negative impact – including growing their own cotton for carpets – we thought the company’s commitment was impressive. As a provider of e-commerce solutions, we’re more measurable in terms of negative impact. We began tracking everything from the refrigerator to the utility bills, commuting, air travel, outputs of computers and facilities. Once we determined our carbon output, we offset with solar energy and began focusing on internal business practices such as using energy efficient technology, double-sided printing and recycling everything possible.


MZ: For Guidance, what has been the biggest obstacle to adopting and implementing sustainable business practices?


JP:  Fortunately, everyone has been extremely receptive and passionate about supporting it. Internally there hasn’t been much resistance at all. In fact, many people have joined Guidance because of our socially conscious nature. It’s important to them to live and work that way, and it’s important to us. There is, however, a cost. We pay more for energy. There is an overhead associated with sustainability.


MZ: What has been the greatest reward?


Guidance_post3.jpgJP:  What inspired us was that we wanted to do our part toward preserving the planet, not just for today but for the future. The pleasant surprise has been that many of our clients share the same concerns about the health of the environment and are interested in working with us because of the passion we share.


MZ: How do you expect the role small businesses play in sustainability to evolve in the future?


JP: I am hopeful that someday small businesses will have a greater impact on environmental sustainability and responsibility than large ones. Since there are many more small businesses than large ones, I think that if more of them were to adopt sustainable practices our planet would be a better place. I believe it’s easier for small businesses to adopt new practices. At Guidance there wasn’t too much expense for us to get started. We simply convinced our waste management company to offer us recycling and then we started using blue bins.  It was more about communicating and getting our employees on board by providing things like a Guidance Green Declaration they signed to officially commit to taking specific actions. Creating practices and communicating in support of a new culture entails soft costs rather than hard costs.


MZ: What are the three most important things a small business that wants to become more environmentally responsible should do?


JP: First, get your employees involved and excited. Number two, start with the smallest changes and go from there. You don’t have to change the world this afternoon – every incremental change makes a big difference in the long run. And number three, get yourself out there and be a little bit vocal about it. Share your experiences with the community. One of the ways we do that is by making our Green Toolkit available on our Web site. It’s rewarding to be able to share what you did and how you did it. You don’t have to wait for Earth Day to celebrate your green successes. 

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