There’s more to running a successful business than just making a profit. Long-term planning is heavily encouraged, especially when it comes to climate change and sustainability, and businesses must ensure any decision to ‘go green’ is thought out, effective and provides a positive experience for employees and customers alike.
Most businesses have already taken steps to reduce their carbon footprint, aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, establishing both long- and short-term targets to achieve their objectives. A general misconception is that making wholesale changes can be costly, but in actual fact, becoming a ‘green business’ has plenty of benefits that go beyond a mere tick-box exercise.
Here are five suggestions for making your business more sustainable.
Outline green objectives
When setting objectives around sustainability, it’s important to decide exactly what it is you want to achieve in both the short and long term. A lot of green targets are often organisation dependent, so looking at the business as a whole, from a different angle, can often highlight problem areas that need addressing or modifying.
It’s crucial to heighten your understanding of current climate change research in order to make the right decision. Being environmentally friendly will enhance your business’ reputation as a responsible, sustainability-focused company. The Global Sustainability Study 2021 found that 85% of consumers have become ‘greener’ in their purchasing in recent years, reinforcing the need for businesses to follow suit.
Alongside outlining the objectives, it’s worth creating an action plan to deliver them. Changing how a business operates to benefit the environment requires plenty of thought, while forcing you to be innovative and creative to gain the best results. While switching to renewable energy or installing CO2 sensors in offices may seem expensive at first, they can actually save money in the long term. It’s an investment to both your business and the environment.
The most effective way to become more sustainable is by reducing energy use, from day-to-day operations to products and services. It’s important to be aware of the amount of energy being used to help identify areas where changes can be made.
According to gov.uk, the average start-up could reduce its energy bill by anywhere between 18% and 25% with efficiency measures, which includes an average payback of less than 18 months. Having an up-to-date energy performance certificate (EPC) for any premises will provide a detailed assessment of a business’s energy efficiency and highlight any areas for improvement.
Perhaps the biggest use of energy in office-based environments are essentials such as lighting, heating and electrical devices. To start, be sure to make use of an office smart meter, which are provided by most UK energy suppliers to monitor energy consumption, and identify where cutbacks can be made.
Consider putting any lighting and heating on timers to ensure efficiency, especially when a lot of people are working from home or within flexible-working models. If your office space has plenty of windows, consider making good use of the natural light, and if possible, try replacing older lights with more energy-efficient alternatives.
Every business produces varying amounts of waste, no matter the industry or size of the organisation. The most important thing is knowing how to reduce it. More recently, businesses across the UK are offering plastic-free delivery as well as refill services to customers - creating a new era dubbed ‘return and refill’.
Some solutions can be more straight forward. The use of office supplies such as paper can be reduced and recycled. To reduce paper waste even further, recycled paper can be purchased, which is one of the greenest options for businesses looking to enhance their green credentials.
Another material that is often taken for granted when it comes to waste management is tech. Every office updates their equipment every so often – so consider using refurbished technology such as laptops, monitors and keyboards. There’s a common misconception that refurbished products are less reliable, but that isn’t true. When it comes to environmental impact, refurbished electronics are often considered better for the environment, while helping businesses to save money too.
Recycling tech needs to be done correctly, either via proper disposable methods or by donating any unwanted items to charity.
According to Deloitte, nearly one-in-two consumers either don’t know what commitments businesses have made that they can trust or simply don’t trust businesses on climate change and sustainability issues. Hence, it’s even more imperative that, in the eyes of the customer, your reputation as a sustainable business is visible.
With greater focus on environmental awareness, customers and potential new business recruits are paying more attention to the products and services they use, and questioning the sustainability of business practices. Before promoting a company’s vision and sustainability stance, it’s imperative to have the credentials to support it.
One of the best actions business leaders can take is committing to becoming an accredited company in the sustainability sphere. 'B Corporation' businesses, for example, meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, while being legally obliged to consider the planet in all their decision making, including people, profit and strategy.
On top of making decisions on a business level, encouraging employees to get behind sustainability efforts is just as important. The ability to turn your teams green by incentivising and rewarding their sustainable efforts will go a long way to ensuring their continued loyalty. A company culture built around environmental and sustainable awareness can also help attract professionals to the business and make it easier to achieve goals.
Working from home, more often in a hybrid-working model, is now more popular than ever. While it has helped employees with their work-life balance, research from the Institut de Ciènciai Tecnologia Ambientals found that staying home four days a week can reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions by around 10%. Giving employees the option to work from home when possible not only cuts down pollution, but also fossil fuel usage, and helps to reduce a company’s overall carbon footprint.
Other schemes, such as encouraging cycling to work and carpooling, limiting business travel and investing in remote-working tech, will help make positive changes both in the workplace and in the local community.
A few simple changes can make a huge difference in helping employers increase their understanding of being green and, most importantly, put companies on track towards a more sustainable future.
If you’re looking for talented professionals to join your team, get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.