Good news, everyone. Clean power is not just becoming the ethical choice of many businesses, but also the smart one. No new coal plants1 were added to the grid in 2016. Solar now generates 26 percent of all the new electric capacity going into the grid, driving down prices overall. Now it’s not just the corporate giants who can use all clean power — more small businesses are making the switch to renewables. They can stabilize their energy bill and significantly reduce operational costs by having a maintenance-free power system.
More importantly however, it helps them stand out in their neighborhoods. By freely advertising that their businesses run on 100 percent clean power, they can draw in a more diverse set of customers. Additionally, they can curb employee turnover rates by attracting the kind of worker who feels proud about coming to work everyday for an ethically-minded employer. In short, running on clean power is not only the right choice for the planet — it just makes good business sense.
Small Business Have a Big Impact
Think about how change happens.
Most people think it occurs on a global scale, but the real change happens on a personal level. It's the collective power of individuals who make a difference in their own families, communities and social circles.
When thinking about companies that are socially minded and sustainably focused, most people picture Apple, Google and Nike — big name companies with a lot of capital and wide spheres of influence. In reality, the impact small businesses can have on changing people’s perspectives is even greater. It brings that change to the forefront of everyday people’s lives instead of it hovering in the back of their mind as an abstract concept.
Let’s say one morning a customer walks into their local bagel shop and sees a new sticker on the main window or front door that says the business is now being powered by renewable energy. They know and trust the owners of this bagel shop because they sponsored the little league last year and donate leftover food to the shelters in the inner city. Or, perhaps it’s just because they make really good bagels. The customer couldn’t imagine this neighborhood without them. If this bagel shop can make the switch to clean power, then maybe they can too. Maybe, it’s worth looking into. Small businesses set an example that the rest of the community can follow, and they do this by simply existing and operating as they always have. No need to be preachy or overbearing.
Small business owner Jon Medlinsky certainly agrees. He is one of three co-owners of the restaurant Martha in Philadelphia and sees the overwhelming value of being fully engaged with a local community. “I wanted to create a system that benefits all of the participants — the employees, customers, purveyors, the neighbors, the owners — and make a sustainable ecosystem out of this business.”
What about the bottom line? Isn’t it expensive to install a solar system? Well, one of the great things about renewable energy is it that it is technology based. As technology advances and improves, it gets cheaper. Unlike a finite resource where you’re gradually moving towards a scarcer resource in high demand, clean energy can only get cheaper because the source never runs out. Thanks to improvements in technology, prices for solar installations have dropped 80 percent since 20082.
Solar installation isn’t the only choice for clean power, however. If the business operates in a deregulated energy market — Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts to name a few — then there’s often the option to switch energy suppliers from the default utility. Going with a company that buys RECs from wind farms to offset your energy usage is a great way to show commitment to the renewable energy market without investing in an entire system upgrade. You can use a handy tool3 that identifies what energy choices are available to residential and commercial customers by state.
Attract More Customers and Better Employees
Switching a businesses to clean power has other benefits.
First, it’s an easy way to attract a whole new customer base. By advertising that their business runs on renewable energy, it allows small businesses to distinguish themselves from competitors. It may very well be the push for a new customer to try out the business if they see that they align with their core values. These new customers will then often willingly evangelize their good experience to friends and neighbors, add a check-in on facebook or yelp, or spread the word in other ways.
Attracting the right people to a business is also important. You want good, consistent, and loyal regulars just as much as you probably want excellent employees. A recent survey of eligible workers over the age of 18 said that it was extremely important to work for an ethical company. In fact, 82 percent of the respondents said that they would turn down a higher paying job at a different company if that company was considered unethical. This represents a huge opportunity for small businesses to attract good employees by showing their commitment to renewable energy. They’ll feel better about going to work every day and want to stay with the company longer.
This translates to money saved on turnover and training costs. When considering all the extra resources that go into the employment cycle – interview, hiring, training, etc. – retention suddenly becomes a huge component to the financial health of a company. It’s estimated that turnover can cost businesses 30-50 percent of an entry level employee’s salary to replace them and 150 percent4 of a mid-level employee’s salary. The more incentive they have to stay, the better the bottom line looks.
Plus, where good people go, others follow. Your best employees can refer people from their social networks to work for your company, which speeds up the interview process and makes it more likely that you’ll get a qualified candidate to fill an open position. Good workers. Happy employees. Good business. It’s all starting to make sense, isn’t it?
Feeling inspired to make a change? Grow your business by making the switch to renewable energy. It’s easier than you think!