The 7 easiest ways to run a greener business

Businesses are responsible for 18 per cent of CO2 emissions in the UK. With a third of customers now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing their bit for the environment, it’s now more important than ever for businesses to go green.

Phil Foster, from energy experts Love Energy Savings, has given us his top tips for running a greener business.

The idea of changing the way your business uses energy can seem complex, but the good news is that it’s easier than you might think to become a sustainable business.

Going green doesn’t have to mean radical transformation and significant investment. The changes that really last are those easy-to-implement initiatives that are driven by your team.

In fact, with a few small changes, you can save a significant amount of energy without it costing you a fortune.

1. Introduce a recycling scheme

One of the easiest and most effective ways to ensure your business is more environmentally friendly is to start a recycling scheme in the office.

First, identify the common consumables in your office that can be recycled. These will include:

  • cardboard from deliveries etc.
  • scrap paper (which has been used on both sides)
  • cans and tins from lunch
  • printer and toner cartridges (there are often incentives for recycling these)
  • magazines, junk mail and newspapers
  • plastic bottles

Next, set up some recycling bins around the office in areas where you expect a high volume of traffic. Cafeterias and break-out areas are an obvious choice, but corridors connecting key meeting rooms will get a lot of footfall, too.

Making it easy to recycle will increase the amount of employee participation. Remove friction by putting different bins together and using clear imagery to show what you can put in each.

Done right, you’ll be amazed at how much waste you can save.

2. Go paperless

In the digital era, going paperless has few – if any – downsides.

Going paperless means stopping printing out documents or using notepads. It’s good for the environment because it reduces the demand for paper. Better still, it saves you money on office supplies.

If your office isn’t currently paperless, assess when you use paper and why. Then, determine whether there’s a way to meet those needs without using paper.

Do you print handouts for meetings, for example? Send people a PDF file ahead of the meeting. This also means they can come prepared with notes and questions, making for a more productive discussion.

If you use paper for filing, look into a cloud storage system as an alternative. Cloud storage means that all your files can be stored online in a centralised area. Files in cloud storage aren’t at risk of physical damage, unlike paper files and hard drives.

If you absolutely must print, use recycled paper and print on both sides wherever possible.

3. Remote working

Remote working has become popular as technology has made it easier. It allows staff to work from home or from a shared workspace a few days a week rather than having to make the commute to the office every day.

The key environmental benefits of remote working are as follows:

  • save emissions produced by commuting – a car produces about 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide every year. Imagine how much pollution you could reduce if even just a couple of your staff started working remotely
  • save on energy used in the office – computers, kettles and kitchen appliances are all used far less with fewer people in the office. Remote working keeps your operational costs down
  • save office space – encouraging remote working means you’re less likely to need to lease more office space. In fact, you may even be able to cut back on the space you use. This could help reduce rental costs and save on the energy that would be needed for heating and lighting throughout the year

Remote working also has a number of benefits to your business that aren’t to do with cost-saving. Flexible working continues to climb the list of things that talented candidates are looking for in a new role. Better still, employees are often eager to prove the success of their remote working arrangement by delivering a higher quality of work.

4. Use smart, energy-saving technology

There are several pieces of tech you can add to your office to help you save energy. Here are some of the cheapest and easiest to implement:

  • smart lighting – many offices now come with lighting that’s triggered by motion sensors. This system is designed to switch off lights once a room has been unoccupied for a few minutes, ensuring that unoccupied rooms don’t use any unnecessary electricity
  • smart energy meters – though commonly used in UK households today, many businesses still haven’t taken the opportunity to add a smart meter to their office. Smart meters display your energy consumption in real-time. They can also provide reports on when your usage might be too high so you can make changes. Do employees switch on the A/C in the afternoon rather than opening a window, for example?
  • smart water meters – it’s not just electricity and gas you can monitor. Smart water meters allow you to see water usage per building from a cloud-based system. They can identify leaks and areas of waste so you can develop a comprehensive water management plan

5. Switch to a green energy supplier

While getting a green energy tariff might have been more expensive than standard providers in the past, a lot has changed. Today, many renewable electricity providers can match the prices you might be paying currently – and if you find the right deal, they might even undercut it.

There are several UK energy suppliers today who provide electricity from renewable sources. In fact, you might be on a green tariff and not even know it.

Some suppliers have increased investment in their renewable energy production. The amount of renewable energy these suppliers generate depends on environmental factors and the demand on the network, which means your tariff might not be 100 per cent green all year round.

Other suppliers offer specific green energy tariffs, which guarantee your electricity or gas is generated from 100 per cent renewable energy at all times.

Speak to your current provider to see if they have a renewable energy tariff or use a business energy comparison site to compare all the markets green tariffs.

6. Supply your own energy

Not only is green energy cheaper to buy than it’s ever been – it’s also cheaper to make.

Businesses can create their own energy with microgeneration, the small-scale generation of energy on your premises. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are probably the most accessible microgeneration solution for business today, but you can also invest in small wind turbines. These turbines are only around two metres high compared to the huge ones you see on wind farms but they can still generate a great deal of electricity.

Though you can no longer sell the energy you produce back to the government (final applications for the Feed-In Tariff closed in March 2019), you can reduce your organisation’s carbon footprint while generating power all year round at a lower cost than you might incur from the grid.

7. Set up a ‘green team’

Creating green initiatives for your company is a great first step but it shouldn’t be your long-term goal. It’s important that you get employee buy-in for each of the steps you put in place. This ensures that the changes you make are stewarded properly so they stick and become part of your business culture.

One of the best ways to get employee buy-in is to create a ‘green team’. Empower your green team to put in place new initiatives by allocating them a budget and targets. Give them the autonomy to make the changes they believe are necessary – this will ensure you stay ahead of the curve as a company.

When your staff are invested into the change you’re making, they’ll advocates those changes to their peers, creating a widespread culture of employee participation.

Final thoughts

Whether it’s switching your energy tariff or putting out some recycling bins, there are plenty of easy changes you can make that will transform your business into a hub for sustainability.

Most importantly, you can make long-lasting changes by instilling a culture that values sustainability. That way, you won’t need to police your staff to enforce the initiatives you put in place – your team will be committed to helping you achieve them.

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