‘Going green’ comes with plenty of benefits

The trend in businesses these days is to “go green,” with many New Hampshire companies looking to become more environmentally friendly. It’s obvious there are environmental benefits, but there are often a variety of economic and social benefits, as well.

Business owners may be wary about building a green office, or retrofitting an existing building to become greener, because the initial product costs are often higher than the less environmentally friendly option. We counsel our clients not to be put off by the initial investment of going green, because there are often incentives to offset the cost. And these benefits might come sooner than you think.

One important benefit to going green is financial – becoming more environmentally conscious can significantly improve your company’s bottom line. Many green organizations are enjoying tax incentives, rebates, interest-free loans, and grants from government and private entities.

Some states have been proactive in enacting tax incentives for going green, but New Hampshire hasn’t been as vigilant as others in pursuing such legislation.

But while state laws don’t provide a “green credit” for building an environmentally friendly company, local businesses may still secure tax incentives under federal laws. New Hampshire’s green companies also may benefit from private incentives, such as those offered by utility companies that provide rebates, discounts and other rewards for environmentally sound practices.

Many people are aware that they are eligible for incentives, such as federal tax credits, for embracing environmentally friendly practices in their personal lives, like buying a hybrid vehicle, but may not consider the same options in their professional lives. For instance, business owners who purchase hybrid vehicles for their company cars also are eligible for federal tax credits.

Financial advantages

It’s often initially more expensive to go green, so incentives are necessary to make this a viable option. In fact, federal legislation – such as the Energy Policy Act of 2005 – provides financial incentives, such as loan guarantees and subsidies for alternative fuels development and tax deductions for energy improvements to commercial buildings.

Companies may save significant money through rebates or private incentives, but often, they won’t see instant gratification. While it may be more expensive to construct or retrofit a green building initially, the new energy-efficient space will often result in significantly lower long-term fuel costs.

A variety of local utility companies provide incentives for businesses to go green. For example, Public Service of New Hampshire, Unitil and others have programs that offer low- or no-interest loans, grants and rebates to energy efficient companies. These incentives often shorten the time it takes for businesses to recognize the benefits of going green.

There also are compelling social benefits to going green. Many young, talented people are seeking out environmentally conscious companies, and going green is often helpful in recruiting and retaining employees.

Savvy businesspeople also are recognizing the public relations and marketing advantages of going green. Today, many customers want to work with environmentally friendly companies, so businesses are promoting their green practices in their overall corporate messaging. It’s a win-win situation – they’re improving the environment and attracting new customers.

It’s become a marketing and public relations tool for companies to become green. Stratham-based The Timberland Company is known worldwide for its exceptional environmental practices and for the way it fosters a green corporate culture. PSNH and Comcast, among others, are also well respected for embracing green practices. Now other companies are trying to compete, looking for innovative ways to attract customers, staff and positive attention around their green practices.

Not surprisingly, this trend has hit the financial world, with investment firms looking to support environmentally friendly companies. Mutual funds aren’t limited to green companies, of course, but supporting green businesses is becoming increasingly appealing to both personal and corporate investors.

If you’re considering going green, put together a budget and find contractors who are familiar with green businesses, who have worked with utility companies that offer incentives and who can provide you with “best practice” information. Think about the types of incentives you’d like to receive, and work with a contractor who is familiar with these programs.

Keep in mind that there’s no uniform way to document going green in your business. Because of the complexities involved, it’s crucial to work with a team of experts who can guide you through the process, from budgeting and planning your project, to documenting your environmental practices, to showing compliance. Your team of advisers can also assist you in pursuing the incentives that are most appropriate for your particular situation.

Thomas Watson, who works in Wiggin & Nourie’s Portsmouth office, can be reached at 603-436-7667 or twatson@wiggin-nourie.com. Erik Barstow, chair of Wiggin & Nourie’s Business Law Group, also works in the firm’s Portsmouth office. He can be reached at 603-436-7667 or ebarstow@wiggin-nourie.com.