Business sustainability is has been around for a while and, sorry to break it to you, but it isn’t going anywhere any time soon! You know you should be more environmentally friendly but how do you make your business more sustainable?
The big companies are doing it, investing a lot of money. BMW has agreed with its manufacturers that their battery cells will produced using only renewable energy, costing millions. This move to green energy will save about 10 million tonnes of CO2 over the next 10 years.
But as a small business, that’s just way out of your price range, right?
Wrong. There are so many little things you can do, without spending millions, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, that will have an environmental impact.
In this article you will learn:
- What is business sustainability?
- Why do you want your business to be sustainable and environmentally conscious?
- How to make your business more environmentally friendly
What is business sustainability?
Sustainability in a business context can be summarised with the Three Ps:
- Profit (economy)
- People (society)
- Planet (the environment)
A sustainable or green company is one that strives to hit this triple bottom line, not just the money element! A sustainable business should have a positive effect on the environment, local community and/or economy.
Sustainable businesses are making sure that their processes, supply chains, products/services and manufacturing activities address environmental concerns. All the while (hopefully!) making a profit.
Why should you make your business more sustainable?
There is a massive business case for making sustainable business practices a core part of your company’s culture. Let’s discuss…
Whilst some aspects of sustainability and using eco-friendly products and services may have an initial outlay and quite possibly seem more expensive than other options, it is important to take a long view.
Are you looking for Investors?
They will more than likely look at factors including your company’s carbon footprint, community development initiatives and the diversity on your Board, as well as other environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics.
e.g. The EU is supporting clean technology projects with a €1 billion Innovation Project Fund.
Did you know sustainability can actually make your business more successful?
There has been research showing that companies who have sustainability initiatives can help improve financial performance. Plus, companies with high ESG ratings (high means better, by the way) have lower debt costs.
Your clients or customers
Ethical consumerism is on the rise and has been for many years.
In fact, it is estimated to be a market worth more than £41.1 billion in the UK alone. Consumers are researching and making choices based, not only on money, but also on ethics and environmental impact.
Keeping up with the Joneses
With customers making decisions based on products being ethical, environmentally friendly, sustainable, not just cold hard cash, companies are being sure to change their ways in order to adapt and survive.
Roger Federer is launching trainers made from vegan “leather” to cut environmental footprint
Adidas has pledged to develop new materials in order to replace plastic for good
Mulberry have banned exotic skins for their future collections.
BOSH! ranks in top 50 UK Cookbooks of all time
Every major UK market dropped Thai Coconut brand after an investigation revealing the use of monkey labour
If your competitor is taking the steps to improve their carbon footprint and you aren’t, who is that customer going to choose?
Regulations – the government’s 2050 net-zero ambition
Let’s not forget that the Government pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050 and, assuming you still want your business to be running then (which we all do!) then now is as good a time as any to make changes.
If fact, now might be the best time to make changes. So much has changed since March 2020 and consumers are realising the impact of supply chains, waste reduction and environmental practices on our lives in general.
You might need time to introduce changes gradually, so the sooner you start the better.
5 easy first steps to business sustainability
Hopefully you’re now asking yourself, how can I make my business more sustainable?
But figuring out how and where to start can feel a bit overwhelming, especially for small business owners. Even more so when your budget is small. I get it.
Here are a few ideas to get you going and maybe it won’t seem so scary.
1. Change lightbulbs
A simple one to start – LED bulbs.
You might be remembering when LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lightbulbs first came onto the market. They were super expensive and had a cold harsh light. Well no more, my friends. LED lightbulbs are now similar in price and have a range of colour temperature options.
Even I can do it! There is no need to have fittings changed or expensive electrical work done, just simply switch to LED bulbs.
LED bulbs can last up to 50 times longer than your average halogen bulb, so to start with you won’t be buying them so often.
Using less energy means fewer carbon emissions, which is much better for sustainability and helps to protect the environment.
LEDS do not contain filaments, UV, mercury or other chemicals and hazardous materials often found in other bulbs. There is also a reduction in waste due to the longer life span of LED bulbs.
Up to 92% saving on energy consumption compared to incandescent and halogen bulbs. The initial outlay might be considerable, if you change all bulbs at once, but the money you save on energy consumption (as well as buying new bulbs) is considerable and, on average, you could make your money back in a year.
You could wait until your bulb goes, and then replace it with an LED bulb but you might find this to be a false economy, given the benefits of LED lighting and particularly the cost-saving. But however you choose to replace your bulbs, just remember to recycle the light bulbs you replace!
You can find out more about how to recycle lightbulbs here.
2. Turn off and unplug
How often do you just shut your laptop when you’ve finished working? Do you even turn your monitors off? When was the last time you unplugged your phone charger from the point?
Now, setting your computer to “go to sleep” when it hasn’t been used for a period of time, say 10 minutes, is a great way to save energy. Appliances in standby mode do use less energy. BUT, they do still use energy.
Example – Your mobile phone charger
- uses around 3 watts when charging your phone
- uses around 2 watts when a fully charged phone is left plugged in
- uses 0.25 watts simply by being plugged into the socket
Example: Computer or laptop
- Desktop computer uses around 67 watts
- Laptop uses about half as much, about 32 watts
- In standby mode, a laptop uses about 1.6 watts and a computer uses 12 watts
Now, these do not seem like much, but it is about the cumulative effect of all the appliances we have in the office and at home, or like a lot of us these days in your home office/dinner table office. It all adds up, not only in cost-savings but also in the reduction of your carbon footprint.
Remember, turn it off at the plug!
- When your phone has finished charging, unplug the phone. Then turn off or unplug the empty charger.
- If you have something you don’t use very often (for me, it’s my printer – I use it maybe once every 3 months!), then keep it unplugged until you need to use it.
- For the motivationally challenged, use multi-plug adaptors which mean you can switch off lots of appliances off at once.
- Think about investing in socket timers to turn off appliances out of hours (during the night/at weekends).
- When the time comes for you to replace an appliance, get a lower energy option. They do exist, honest!
3. Go paperless
Again, another quick win. Do you REALLY need to print out that email? Can you get away without a hard copy of that document? Are you still getting paper bank statements?
Reducing the amount of paper you use obviously reduces the amount of waste you produce.
Where you have paper copies of or things have been sent to your, can you reuse any of it for something else? Can it be shredded and used as eco packaging?
Last option, where you can’t reduce by not using it in the first place or reuse it for some other purpose, then recycle.
Recycle the paper you have. Use recycled paper for printing – and don’t forget to print double-sided!
Think about how your printer ink – did you know you can recycle the cartridges with the RSPB? Double whammy of eco-goodness right there.
If you’re looking to invest in a printer, consider buying one with refillable ink cartridges. You know that will save money in the long run (I’m convinced some companies think they’re making ink unicorn tears) and be better for the environment.
4. Switch to green products
It is easier than ever to buy green. The rise of the zero-waste shop and plastic free promotions means making environmentally conscious choices much simpler.
Start with your soap. Now, we’ve all been washing our hands like crazy these last few months, am I right? But look at all the packaging on liquid soap bottles! All that plastic, so easily avoided. In the office, consider soap dispensers and then you can buy the soap in bulk, reducing waste. At home, take a trip down nostalgia lane and go back to a good old bar of soap. Job done.
Now think of all the other cleaning products. These might leave that lemony fresh scent which you find comforting, knowing the space is clean. The chemicals within that product not only can be damaging to the environment, but to your health too.
You might be worried about the implications of using eco products in a commercial setting, especially with the whole COVID-19 situation going on, yes? Well fret not. There are companies who provide such products suitable for commercial environments.
If you’re after a recommendation, I like Nu-Eco – 100% natural, eco-friendly, biodegradable and vegan-friendly. Multiple wins!
They even have an essential pack for return to work which contains water-less hand cleanser, hygienic hand wash, hygienic surface cleanser and hygienic air freshener. Sorted.
Make yourself a literal green office!
As you know, plants take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. Good old plants. But there is some academic debate about whether houseplants (office plants, in this case) purify the air, offsetting the carbon emissions from electronics in your office or workspace. NASA seemed to think that that plants purify the air, so that’s good enough for me!
Stay with me though, as there are other documented benefits of being surrounded by plants, aside from the green flowery aesthetics, which make plants your best new co-worker.
Did you know:
- You are more productive when surrounded by office plants
- Plants absorb noise in an open plan environment
- Plants relieve stress
- Your employees take fewer sick days
- Need a creativity boost? Look at your plant!
Good options for offices (or for those not blessed with green fingers, like me!) low maintenance plants such as spider plants, lemon balm plants or bamboo palm plants.
Remember, every step you take and every little change you make adds up. Sometimes it can feel a bit like, what’s the point? Every item you recycle, that’s one less thing going to a landfill. Every time you reuse, you haven’t created more waste in the first place.
These are a few simple changes that are easy to implement. Why not start here and see how you get on? There are LOADS of ways to make your business more eco-friendly, environmentally conscious and sustainable.
Keep an eye out for my next blog on sustainable business practices.