With less disposable cash to invest in environmentally-friendly initiatives, many small businesses might see going green as out of reach.
As a small business owner, it's possible you think your eco efforts will take too long to deliver any real business benefits. Maybe you don't feel you have the time or energy to even think about the environment.
But that doesn't need to be the case. Here, we take a look at some quick and easy ways to do your bit, which also happen to give you a decent return on your sustainability investment.
Some options, like moving in to a ‘smart building’ or replacing your vans with low-emission alternatives overnight, may be more achievable for medium to large organisations. But there are lots of energy-efficient steps you can take as a small business that may actually help you save money, boosting your business's reputation at the same time.
Whatever type of business you're in, from accountancy to window cleaning, preparing some form of documentation will usually be part of an average business day, week, or month. If it's all paper-based, that adds up to a lot of trees – and a lot of your cash and time spent printing and posting.
So if you haven't done so already, it could be time to move everything online. Any letters or other communications you need to send can just as easily be delivered via email.
To find out how much less time- and paper-consuming a task your invoicing could be, read our article on these seven great invoicing apps.
Finding an energy supplier that uses 100 per cent renewable sources hasn’t always been easy for businesses. But as the world switches on to the fact that we could all be doing a bit more to conserve our resources, there’s an increasing pool of suppliers to choose from.
A big part of the impact will be your reduced costs. Energy is expensive, so by cutting down and switching to renewable sources (see below), you should be saving money.
There are also opportunities to earn money back on your renewable energy, plus all the softer but crucial benefits, from attracting new employees with your squeaky-green credentials to building your brand around the measures you're taking to reduce your carbon footprint.
The Carbon Trust have built a handy tool, designed to help small businesses and organisations calculate their carbon footprint. You'll need details of your fuel and energy consumption, along with any top-ups to air conditioning units (these often have a big carbon footprint), so dig out your bills and let the tool crunch your numbers.
Kitting out your office or business premises using second-hand furniture could save you serious cash. It’s also a great way to reduce consumption and waste by saving perfectly good fixtures and fittings from landfill.
Gumtree, Ebay, and Office Resale are good places to start your search for something pre-owned but no less professional. A quick Google should also reveal auction houses and other second-hand furniture outlets local to you.
If you use a car for your business, buying one with low or zero emissions automatically entitles you to pay lower road tax. Cars that pump out between one and 50 grams of CO2 per kilometre, for example, come with a road tax bill of only £10 a year. And if your emissions are zero, so is your annual road tax charge.
Vehicle Emissions Duty (VED, commonly referred to as road tax) for vans came up in this year’s Spring Statement, when Philip Hammond raised hopes that businesses who buy cleaner vehicles could benefit from lower rates of VED in future. Watch this space...
When it’s time to replace your computer, laptop, or printer, think about buying from a supplier that’ll recycle your old equipment – and maybe even give you credit for it.
PC World, for example, will recycle your old electrical appliances for free, even if you didn’t buy them there. And Apple will let you trade in ‘eligible’ devices, or recycle any devices that don’t qualify for credit.
Showing the world that you care about who you do business with sends a positive message to your customers about what your business stands for. This applies when it comes to attracting the best employees too.
Green partnerships are something you can shout about in your marketing materials, on your company blog, and on your Facebook page.
So if you work with stationers, caterers, cleaning product suppliers, accountants, or other service providers who also do their bit to preserve the environment, you’ll indirectly be boosting your own business and setting a good example to others.
IT giant Dell’s partnership with clean ocean company Lonely Whale is a great example to follow. Earlier this year, these two environmentally conscious organisations launched a cross-industry working group to tackle plastics pollution, reports The Telegraph.
The companies working with Dell catch plastics in waterways and on beaches before they get to the ocean. They then process the plastics so they can be used to create packaging.
There are plenty of local and national environmental charities out there in need of help – and that help doesn’t need to come in the form of money.
For example, you could spend one day a quarter volunteering at your local RSPB sanctuary. Maybe you could do a one-off beach or park clean. Another option is to take part in a sponsored walk or sports event to raise money for a green charity like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, or the World Wildlife Fund.
With a decent phone for selfies or someone on the sidelines to snap a few shots of your efforts, you’ll have plenty to show your customers that yours is a business with a conscience.
In a recent article, The Telegraph reported on a shift in attitudes among UK businesses when it comes to environmental sustainability.
The article suggests that business leaders are waking up to the fact that investing in clean energy will help them, beyond the benefits to people and the planet. It can improve public perception of their businesses, lower business costs, and help them continue to thrive in the future.
The founder of crisp manufacturer Tyrells, William Chase, has found a clever use for his orchard prunings, according to The Telegraph. He says, “Recently we installed a wood-chip steam boiler. By taking the prunings from our 200-year-old apple orchards we have been able to feed the boiler that produces the steam, which is the main energy source we need.”
Sainsbury's, too, is reportedly saving energy and money by installing longer-lasting and more efficient LED lighting in hundreds of its stores. And Northumbrian Water plans to power all of its sites using renewable electricity for the next four years – on top of the £12,500 it saved last year through using solar panels for one of its wastewater treatment plants.
Is it easy or difficult for small businesses to go green? Do you have tips for reducing your carbon footprint? Let us know in the comments below.
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