Going green - top tips for a sustainable business

Green issues are becoming increasingly important for businesses of every size. There is a growing awareness that all companies have certain environmental responsibilities, and that these must be taken seriously.

Furthermore, consumers are increasingly making decisions based on the environmental impact of their purchases, and the ‘green credentials’ of the companies with which they might choose to do business. Going green is therefore not just a social or ethical choice - it is also a sound business decision.

Simple tips for a greener business:

1. Get a carbon audit

Carbon audits are designed to determine the precise environmental impact of your business activities, and demonstrate ways in which you can reduce this impact. A trained auditor will visit your premises and assess your business practices, with the intention of identifying ways in which you can save energy.

The Carbon Trust, a government-funded organisation, currently offers carbon audits free to UK businesses - and their recommendations can deliver significant cost savings through better energy efficiency.

2. Turn off equipment

Many businesses (and, indeed, many individuals) leave electrical equipment on overnight. Turning off equipment when you and your staff leave the office can instantly result in 50% energy savings. This is good for the environment and good for your bottom line.

3. Don’t print all those emails

Some companies have begun appending a sentence to the bottom of their emails, asking the recipient to only print the message if absolutely necessary. While this can come across as nagging, it does make people think. Reading emails on-screen, rather than relying on hard copes, can drastically reduce your paper waste.

4. Try to source supplies locally

The feasibility of this tip will obviously depend largely on the nature of your business. But, where possible, it is more environmentally sound to source supplies and products from as close to your premises as possible. The further your stock has to travel, the more fuel it uses.

5. Use full duplex printing

This is an easy one; if you are printing on both sides, you are using half as much paper. If you work from a home office, a printer capable of duplex printing will pay for itself remarkably quickly.

6. Travel only when necessary

Many business owners underestimate the power of technology. Virtual meetings are within reach of anyone with an internet connection, meaning that travel can be kept to a minimum. Services like Skype are often free, meaning that you can cut costs while cutting your environmental impact.

7. Encourage telecommuting

If you are an employer and it is feasible to do so, encourage your employees to work from home. To begin with, reducing the number of journeys your employees need to make into the office will reduce the amount of petrol they use. Aside from this, though, the sense that you trust your employees enough to let them work from home can significantly increase staff morale and productivity.

Minimising your business’s environmental impact is an ongoing process; you can’t ‘go green’ overnight. But, while it might take some thought to identify the areas in which your business can improve, you should remember that many of the steps you can take to cut your carbon footprint will also end up cutting your costs. With a bit of creative thinking your business can become leaner and greener.

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