A few years ago, it seemed like every business was touting efforts to "go green," promoting their use of renewable energy, non-polluting manufacturing processes, and increased energy efficiency. Some companies still do this--NBC features a Green Week every year--but you don't see as much marketing around companies going green anymore. This has led some to question whether it's all just a fad whose time has passed.

Definitely not. Look closer and you'll see that big companies are still placing an emphasis on going green. This evolution is perhaps now so common that highlighting it with special promotions doesn't set you apart. Restaurants such as Chipotle and Starbucks pride themselves on using sustainable, organic ingredients, while the most valuable company in the world, Apple, just committed nearly $1 billion to solar power. Then of course there's almost anything Elon Musk does, whether it be solar power, electric cars, or battery storage. If you're going to brag about going green, it may come across as ludicrous unless you're going to top these high profile companies (or you are overcoming a long history of not being very environmentally sound). Ultimately, companies like these have embraced more environmentally-friendly practices for many reasons.

It saves money in the long term.

Overhauling more traditional, less earth-friendly practices costs some money up front. No one denies that. However, in the long-term, the savings can be immense. For example, LED lights still cost more than incandescent bulbs. However, LED lights also last 40 times longer and use about one tenth of the energy. When you consider the savings on your energy bill and the fewer lights you'll have to replace, LED lights clearly are the cheaper option over the period of several years.

The same goes for using renewable energy. Alternative sources such as wind and geothermal are expensive now, but they keep getting cheaper as technology advances. The price of fossil fuels (especially oil) has come down over the last several months, but longer-term their price is expected to go up. The price of solar is now competitive with that of fossil fuels, and it may be cheaper than coal in the coming years. Committing to renewable energy today can help reduce your bill tomorrow.

Consumers recognize green companies.

A side effect of the glut of companies promoting their greenness a few years ago was that consumers sometimes became skeptical of these claims. That partly explains why there's less marketing curtained around environmental efforts these days; it's simply not effective anymore. Instead, consumers have learned to some extent how to evaluate how green a company is on their own.

We live in an age of unprecedented information. Consumers can go online and learn about the supply chain, energy use, and emissions of a company with relative ease. Surveys consistently show that more than half of consumers prefer to buy from companies that are environmentally friendly. With the transparency of the modern world, that means your company has to actually be green, not just seem green.

Going green can stimulate innovation.

Every company has to fight stagnation from time to time. It can be easy to get locked into a way of doing things and never question whether your process is really the most effective or efficient solution. One underrated benefit of going green is that it forces you to evaluate every aspect of your business and identify new, more efficient means of production. It can become addictive to look for (and find) money-saving innovations.

Going green doesn't just mean using renewable energy or more efficient light bulbs. Companies can reduce their energy usage and emissions drastically through simple things like optimizing delivery routes, streamlining the manufacturing process, and using less bulky packaging. A full audit of your energy usage and emissions can reveal these opportunities to cut costs and operate more efficiently.

It helps the environment.

This point is obvious, but bears repeating. Beyond the prudent economic reasons to go green, it's an important step in preserving the Earth for the long-term. Cutting emissions of carbon dioxide and other gasses reduces the impact of global climate change (97 percent of scientists confirm it is man-made), while cutting back on the use of paper and other materials in packaging can help protect important natural habitats.

These are just some of the main reasons why so many companies have embraced the concept of going green. It's not just good for the bottom line; it's good for the Earth. It's something that can make shareholders, and your own conscience, happy.

Published on: May 27, 2015