Ombudsman: Small Business & Climate Change
Small businesses play an important role in California's economy as they represent approximately 4 million businesses, 99.8% of Californias's employers and 48.8% of the state's private-sector labor force (source: US SBA Office of Advocacy 2019 Small Business Profile for CA). Small businesses also play a critical role in helping California meet its climate change goals by reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in order to protect our economy and preserve our environment.
Small Businesses Lead the Way
Small businesses are leading the way to a healthy future by taking actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable practices such as energy, fuel, and water efficiency, along with material reuse and conservation, help reduce emissions and business costs, while conserving our natural resources. Every business can take simple steps at little to no cost to become more sustainable. For example, energy efficiency can be improved by simply adjusting the thermostat, using day lighting, unplugging equipment, or turning off computers. Some actions take a little more effort and/or upfront costs (e.g., changing the lights, installing energy or water efficient appliances, driving alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles), but greater rewards typically require some additional commitment. With a little bit of work, time, or money, your sustainable strategies will reduce the environmental impact of your business, save you money and help position you for growth.
Where to Start?
CoolCalifornia is a small business portal that has tools and resources on sustainability planning, a carbon footprint calculator, tips on actions you can take to further reduce your GHG emissions, success stories from a variety of business types, and lots of "cool" information to help your business.
Once you make a commitment to take action to reduce your GHG emissions, it is important to prioritize your actions and estimate the cost and payback period for each one. While some steps are very easy and cost very little to implement, other efforts will require up-front investment. Rebates and incentives, including those offered by local utilities, are included in the Funding Wizard database; you should also check your local utilities website for additional cost savings options. Other small business financial resources and programs, including the California Business Incentive Gateway, the U.S. Small Business Administration, local air districts, and the California Capital Access Program (CalCAP), should also be considered, among others.
It is always helpful to see what other businesses have done to successfully reduce their emissions and improve their bottom line. Case studies of California small businesses can be sorted by location or industry sector or type of action taken on CoolCalifornia; examples of energy efficiency actions is available from Energy Star.
Once you have experienced first-hand the environmental and economic benefits of reducing your carbon footprint, you may want to go further and become a certified Green Business. There are several sources of information and programs to learn about and/or get certified, including Sacramento County's Business Environmental Resources Center (BERC), Scientific Certification Systems, Green Seal, and the California Green Business Network.