Last week I had a small argument with the check-out guy at the Reliance Fresh shop near my house. The reason - I did not use those ubiquitous thin plastic bags that they provide to segregate different vegetables in the shopping basket.
"You have to put each kind of vegetable into a separate plastic bag, if you want me to bill them", he said and then added, "They are free. You can take as many as you want".
"I know. But using your plastic bags is not very environmentally friendly, is it?" I said. "That's why I have brought my own cloth bag for the vegetables. Here, put the veggies into this, please".
He wasn't very pleased. Started grumbling under his breath. I gave him my customary 2 minutes before I launched into my usual sermon about how, being the much younger of the two, the world was more his than mine. That it is in his best interest that he starts being more environmentally aware. That he should be the one taking the initiative to highlight this to his company. And how, who knows, may be they will appreciate it and even give him a promotion! He continued to grumble but he knew he had lost the battle and I came out without a single plastic bag against my name.
It is amazing that a huge company like Reliance takes such a cavalier attitude towards the environment. All the more strange when you realize that they are in an awesome position to get maximum mileage out of it, in terms of branding and goodwill.
If I were in their position, this is what I would start with:
1. Give discounts for people who come with their own cloth bags.
2. Sell sturdy cloth bags with Reliance Fresh emblazoned on one side and "Real men carry cloth bags to buy vegetables" or something like that on the other side.
3. Quickly phase-out the plastic bags.
4. Talk about the company's commitment to improving the environment in every aspect of their business - from the farms to their retail outlets.
The reason I chose to write about Reliance Fresh, of course is the fact that for them to take this stand seems to be a no-brainer. But if we think about it, almost every company can do a lot to go green. Go ahead, take any industry, any company you can think of. In five minutes, you will be able to come up with cost effective and highly beneficial (to their business also) ways of going green.
Let me take the example of the job site that I am currently working on - JobsByRef.com. At first glance, you might think "how can these guys help the environment?". Just of the top of my head, I can do the following(at hardly any additional cost):
1. Promote the site as the place for your definitive resume. You keep your profile up-to-date on our site and whenever anyone is interested in your candidature, you just send them a link. There is never going to be any need to print your resume, ever. We will provide ways to manage these links so that you can always decide who gets to use them, for long, etc.
2. Provide functionality for conducting remote interviews. That way, candidates do not have to travel in order to attend interviews. We are working on making this happen. I don't want to reveal too much at this stage but we are working on ways to ensure that some of the most common concerns relating to telephonic interviews are taken care of.
3. Promote telecommuting so that it becomes mainstream. We are providing functionality for people to actively search for telecommuting jobs as well as for companies to look for such people.
I am sure we can do a lot more. Can you think of other ways we can help the environment? For example,
1. How can we help companies that are trying to move jobs to rural areas [as against bringing the rural masses to urban areas in search of jobs]?
2. How can we link causes to volunteers and vice-versa?
3. How can we help NGOs and not-for-profit companies find better candidates?
4. How can we help organizations working on conservation projects find committed employees?
I am sure you can think of a 100 other ways to go. Do write to me if you have any suggestions or leave a comment on this post.
Thanks in advance.