How to make your business more environmentally friendly
Earth Day comes around every year to remind us we need to do more to help the planet. But environmental awareness and sustainability is a year-round issue – and it’s one we can all tackle at home and from the workplace.
Earth Day 2022 is all about climate change. This is the moment to change it all - the business climate, the political climate, and how we take action on climate.
Installing renewable energy systems at your workplace is an effective way to cut your business energy bills while doing your bit for the planet. But the technology doesn’t come cheap.
That’s why we’ve conjured up some simple and savvy ways to help make your business more sustainable. But before we look at how you can be more sustainable, let's bust some carbon jargon by explaining the complicated terms you might come across in the journey to going green.
The Bionic carbon jargon buster
Making those smart changes to become a more sustainable business can be tough, not least because the green terminology is so confusing. So let's clear up any confusion and explain what all that carbon jargon really means.
- Carbon footprint - The amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere because of the actions of a person, business, or community, including things like travel and energy consumption.
- Carbon intensity - The amount of carbon dioxide (measured in grams) that it takes to make one unit of electricity at a kilowatt per hour. The lower the number, the better.
- Carbon neutral - Being carbon neutral means removing the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as you put into it.
- Climate change - The changing temperature of the earth as a result of human activity. This usually shows itself as long-term shifts in weather patterns.
- Climate crisis - We’re pretty much past the point of simple ‘climate change’ and ‘climate crisis’ more accurately reflects the severity of the dangers posed to the planet by climate change.
- Eco-friendly - Products, packaging, events, services – pretty much anything - designed to have little or no damaging effect on the environment.
- Environment - This usually refers to the bits of the natural world that are affected by any sort of human activity.
- Green business - A business that has a positive impact (or minimal negative impact) on the environment, community, society, or economy.
- Sustainable - Ways to conserve natural resources and help to maintain the environment's health now and into the future.
8 sustainability ideas for your small business
Small changes can make a big difference to the sustainability of your business. See how many of our eight top tips you can put into practice.
1. Scrap the plastic
A growing number of businesses are choosing to ditch plastic bags and replace them with reusable or paper alternatives. The UK plastic bag charge came into force in 2014 to put a 5p price tag on all plastic bags.
The aim of the scheme was to encourage shoppers to bring their own shopping bags or buy a reusable ‘bag for life’.
And it worked. Since the scheme began, the use of single-use plastic bags has been slashed by a whopping 80%.
As a small business, you may think scrapping plastic bags will be a costly measure that won’t make as much of a difference as it has in bigger shops and supermarkets.
But, in many ways, it’s what small business owners do that make all the difference. It's all about setting an example to your local customers.
You’re the heart of their community and if you introduce reusable or paper bags, you are showing that your business is part of the solution. You're helping the planet and encouraging your valued customers to do the same.
2. Introduce a green team
If you employ a reasonable number of staff, why not create a designated team in charge of keeping up with sustainability? Give your employees free reign and encourage them to come up with fresh ideas to help your business go green.
Incentives usually work well with customers, so think about offering shoppers points every time they bring their own bag or bring in some used packaging from your shop to recycle.
You could encourage staff to think about embracing reusable water bottles. If you have the funds, you could even have some made with your business logo on them, to create a nice sense of unity in the workplace.
If you don’t have enough staff for a ‘green team’, you could get ideas from any employees and customers based around what your business offer. If, for example, you run a florist that sells potted plants, you could offer customers one point each time they reuse a plastic plant pot. They could then get a gift when they stack up five or ten points.
Novel ideas and little rewards can really make customers think about how much plastic they’re using.
3. Go green with your marketing
Being a green business has always been important, but it now seems critical as the planet has reached a climate emergency. Collectively, our small changes can make a big difference, and it's important we’re all aware of the issues caused by not being sustainable.
If your business uses social media, you could run Twitter, Facebook or Instagram campaigns that focus on the importance of going green. You never know, you might inspire someone out there who has never even thought about the impact their actions have on the environment.
Showcasing the ways in which your business is helping the environment can make a massive difference to how it’s perceived. And it should be something you are proud of. So think about posting photos, videos, tips and tricks to show how you support going green.
4. Be mindful about recycling
A lot of businesses recycle and stress the importance of doing so. But sometimes employees aren't really aware of the impact our throwaway culture has on the planet.
As a small business owner, you could try and encourage staff to be mindful about recycling. Why not hold a fun training day for your team where you can spend a few hours really getting to grips with what you can do as a business and how you can improve your system? Ask them what their thoughts are and come up with an effective plan to build upon.
Or putting an extra bin for recycled waste in the workplace can send a simple and effective message.
5. Embrace a green workspace
It might not seem like much, but just adding a few plants to your office or workspace has so many benefits. A bit of greenery can really brighten up a room and, if you want dig into the science a little, more plants means more oxygen is produced, which can also help create a happier space for your employees to work in.
And decking out the workplace with plants can be a continuous reminder of why it’s so important to go green.
6. Switch to a greener supplier
Getting your own business to go green is only half the battle, and your efforts could be marginalized if your suppliers aren’t all that into sustainability. If you’re unsure about the green credentials of anyone in your supply chain, ask to see their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy.
A CSR policy is used to show how a business works ethically and considers the social, economic and environmental impacts of what it does. If your suppliers don’t measure up, start looking for other sustainable providers instead.
At this point, it’s also worth taking a look at your own green credentials to see if they can be improved. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you using recyclable packaging on your products?
- Do you pack out boxes with single-use plastic voids?
- Do you re-use packaging and recycle paper?
- Are your delivery vans ULEZ compliant?
- Do you use energy efficient office equipment?
7. Ditch the printer
Most of us have been guilty of needlessly printing out a meeting agenda ten times over, and we might not think that our paper use is a big problem. But we all need to make changes wherever we can.
Before you print anything off, decide if really need to print out a document or if it can easily be viewed online. If you run a shop, consider offering digital receipts instead of printed ones. A recent study found that 54% of shoppers in the UK aged 35-45 preferred digital receipts, whilst the number was higher for 25–35-year olds at 55%. The statistics were a bit lower at 36% for those over 55.
Just offering customers the option really can go a long way, and it also ensures you’re staying adaptable as a small business and keeping up with the changing ways of business.
8. Think about your energy deal
As a business owner, you can save money and help the environment by simply switching to a green energy deal. Broadly speaking, there are two types of green energy deal:
- Energy is produced from 100% renewable sources
- Some or all of the electricity you buy is 'matched' by purchases of renewable energy made by your supplier on your behalf
In either case, switching to a green energy deal is a more ecologically sound way of powering your business.
It’s also worth mindful about how your business is using energy. For instance, you could look at your heating consumption and make sure you only heat the building when people are in it. You could install touch taps in bathrooms to minimize water waste and you could also remind staff to switch appliances off when they aren't using them.
All these things seem quite small but can add up and ensure that your business is staying green and helping in the fight against climate change. For more green energy tips and ways to cut your carbon footprint, check out our guide on the future of environmental sustainability for SMEs.
To switch business energy, call our tech-enabled team on 0800 144 8334 or give us your postcode on our business energy page and we'll call you right back.