When considering your business space and resources, it is easy to consider the needs of the business first and foremost, and forget the amount of potential your business has outside of that. Regardless of your company’s focus, the very space you occupy has a community context that reaches beyond your building. This can be a rewarding resource to tap into with both direct and indirect benefits available to your business, should you choose to pursue them.
These benefits available to you will vary based on your business type and the support you are able to offer, but there are some consistent things to look out for.
If you share a building you may have entered that space with a collaborative waste effort already in place, but if you don’t, environmental initiatives can have a hugely positive impact, and are sometimes even available to separate buildings within a single street.
The City of Melbourne is one local council which has demonstrated the effectiveness of such projects. From 2013-2014, recyclable waste was collected from over 60 businesses across Degraves Street and Centre Place precincts. This resulted in diverting tonnes of waste from landfill and disposing of an average of 300kg of food waste a day to be composted and redistributed in parks. The feedback on this initiative was overwhelmingly positive, with 80 percent of the traders rating the improvement of the serviceability of the physical spaces around their businesses as being 8/10 or above.
Aside from the physical improvements to the surrounding premises, environmental initiatives have many other positive flow-on effects to businesses. Community standing improves, which can assist with a boost in patronage, as ‘greener’ businesses often have an edge over competitors with customers interested in making ethical choices with their wallets. This can also provide staff with morale boosts and higher job satisfaction, especially if they are locals who get to feel more integrated with their own community through these partnerships, and feel that their employers are invested in their interests. This can result in lower turnover rates and greater productivity.
Aside from your local council, many other groups exist which can help your company be more environmentally friendly. Green Collect is an organisation which has been involved in recycling efforts for over 10 years, and they specialise in recycling old office supplies and electronics. These recycling efforts both divert waste from landfill and create jobs, contributing in meaningful ways to both the environment and the local economy.
Space sharing is an especially efficient way of providing in-kind support to local communities and integrate with them as a business. Many different activity groups struggle to find spaces to meet in and work on their goals. Not every business’ space will be appropriate to every group’s needs, so investigating who your business can partner with in such a way will be the first step to assessing how exactly you can help. Some may just require storage spaces for brochures and flyers or advertising space on the premises, or the use of a photocopier. Costs incurred can be offset by requiring that people bring their own paper to copy onto. If you aren’t using your storage spaces, offering to rent them out at a percentage of the normal cost still brings in a profit from an otherwise untapped resource while also building goodwill with the people who then go on to rent the space.
Meeting spaces are similarly valuable to all kinds of groups. Some are interested in finding alternatives to meeting or working at home, or else hold community events. Fees for renting the space may continue to be low and scaled to be more affordable for not-for-profit groups, and yet continue to bring in an increase in revenue in comparison to when the space goes unused.
Aside from rental costs, profits may also benefit from the increase in foot traffic around your business and build your reputation. Depending on the community groups and their purposes for meeting, there may also be opportunities and incentives for your employees to take part in these communities and return to your business with an increase in their skills and training which may in turn increase your company’s productivity.
Other In-Kind Support
There are many ways in which the services, skills and goods you have on offer may be of use to the community. The best way to find out how you can connect to people is through investigating these local communities and asking.
It is worthwhile remembering that non-business networking is still networking and can have positive short and long-term results, especially if your business is ever interested in applying for Government grants or permissions for other projects. You may put yourself in a position for improved marketing opportunities, as community partnerships and results are a popular topic for local news sources to cover. This will also increase your influence with local decision makers and create a network of people who are invested in supporting your business.