Indirect or intangible benefits are defined for purposes of this discussion as those that are not capable of being easily measured. They range from the psychic benefits of feeling as if you're helping the environment to benefits that directly affect your business.
If you reduce your energy consumption and the amount of waste you generate, you can measure the economic benefits to your business. But those reductions also confer an intangible benefit in the sense that they help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and landfill accumulations. You are doing your small part to reduce potential global warming and environmental degradation.
Those savings are tangible in the sense that they are measurable, but they are intangible to your business because the good feelings you have confer no direct economic benefit. Your green initiatives might make you feel better about your environmental stewardship, but the reduced carbon dioxide output doesn't necessarily affect your bottom line. Thus, the benefits they confer to you are intangible. Only you can determine their value because the value they confer varies from owner to owner.
Having said that the benefits are intangible, however, does not render them unimportant. By making small changes in the way you operate your small business, you can do your part in fighting environmental degradation. There's nothing wrong with patting yourself on the back for that.
Feeling good about the environment isn't the only intangible benefit. Some intangible benefits could directly affect your business. For example, if you have employees, you might gain a recruiting edge over your competitors. Even in the best of circumstances, however, that value is difficult to quantify.
A poll from MonsterTRAK.com, the division of Monster.com that focuses on the emerging workforce, found that 80 percent of young professionals are interested in securing a job that has a positive impact on the environment, and 92 percent would be more inclined to work for a company that is environmentally friendly. As green technologies develop and continue to garner public attention, those percentages aren't likely to go down anytime soon.
Cleaner Worker Environment
On a related note, some green experts contend that green buildings produce a healthier working environment for employees. The improved indoor environment is said to reduce incidences of respiratory disease, allergies, asthma, and sick building syndrome. Those experts also contend that the internal office environment lead to improvements in worker performance unrelated to health.
It's also possible that your green policies could gain you a competitive advantage. This benefit, however, is even more speculative than the recruiting advantage, but it also enjoys an advantage over the other intangible benefits in that it would confer a direct bottom line benefit. Even one new client would justify all the green initiatives.