Sustainable Business Ideas & How to Make Yours More Sustainable
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We hear a lot about sustainability and ‘going green’. It may be tempting to dismiss it as a fad, or as a distraction from the real objective of your business, but it is having a real impact on the world of business. A business that is not sustainable is bad news for the planet, but it is also bad for the business - because customers will be less keen to work with companies that cannot demonstrate green credentials, and investors will be less keen to invest.
Opting for more sustainable practices in your business isn’t just good for the planet – it could also work wonders for your brand reputation, overall sales and bottom line.
In Britain, almost a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions come from businesses, according to government statistics. But increasingly, consumers want to buy from companies they see as green, and investors are becoming keener on buying into businesses that have sound eco-credentials.
Increasingly people want to work for green companies and want to see environmental practices during their working day, so here are some of our top tips on going green.
We all recycle paper and ink cartridges but that is only the beginning. Look at your packaging - recycling packaging can be easier than you think. Polystyrene beads may be great for packaging fragile items but they are terrible for the environment. You can reduce your impact by simply reusing them, helping ensure they never reach the outside world.
But it is not just the obvious where recycling can help. Upcycled furniture can fit out offices, and you can even buy reconditioned electrical and IT equipment.
You save money as well as the environment.
Zero waste to landfill
The second problem of the 'use once and dispose of' approach is not that it is wasteful of precious resources (even though it is), but what happens to the material you dispose of. Careful planning and effort across a business can make it possible to stop sending any waste to landfill.
There are lots of simple steps your businesses can take towards this goal.
One of the first is to engage expert waste treatment contractors, who will provide recycling streams for your business. They can provide separate bins which will make it easy to separate tines, paper and plastic, allowing them to be efficiently reprocessed.
You will also need to look at how your business operates. Disposable items may be replaced with reusables, from the cutlery in the staff canteen to your staff overalls and protective equipment, and even in a post-Covid world, safely reducing your environmental impact as much as you can is beneficial in the longer term, for example, by employees using their own mug which isn't used by others.
If you have an office kitchen or a canteen, look at composting your kitchen waste in its own bin. It may take a little more work, but it will make you greener and reduce costs.
Keeping your old electronics out of the landfill is another important way to help the environment and benefit those in need. Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest-growing waste stream in the world, with an estimated 48.5 million tons produced each year.
If your business is replacing electronic items such as computers, monitors, tablets, smartphones, or printers, they can be put to good use by schools or charities in your area.
Alternatively, computer manufacturers such as Dell and HP have technology recycling programs that allow credit for trade-ins on used equipment and donation programs for charities
Make sure you remove all sensitive information from any devices before you recycle them.
Let employees work from home
As the Covid experience has shown, it is possible to work from home and not only remain productive – but increase individual productivity. Remote working can have a huge impact on a company’s environmental footprint.
As far back as 2014, the Carbon Trust suggested that increasing the number of people working from home in the UK could save more than three million tonnes of carbon a year.
The benefits come in many forms. Your staff don’t commute, which is better for the environment, and for their own health and well-being. They don’t need electricity and facilities at work, which reduces your energy and heating bills. In fact, they don’t even need space at your offices, which reduces the cost of one of your biggest outgoings.
The list goes on. There will be fewer offices supplied used and wasted, less waste produced to be dealt with, less demand for heating, for water…
For some businesses, like manufacturers or vets, for example, working from home may simply not be feasible. If you do have to have staff on your premises, at least you can reduce car use. Make sure your premises are bike-friendly, provide secure bike racks – and if necessary arrange a staff bus and pickup points convenient for your workforce.
You can also encourage carpooling and use of public transport where appropriate and safe to do so.
Don’t get it down on paper
Reducing the amount you print is another important step.
Paper is costly to buy, print on and above all file, and digital communications can do everything that paper can at a fraction of the cost – and completely avoid the environmental impact of paper.
There is a halfway house if your business is still addicted to paper. Integrating print and scan solutions, so that documents can be shared, edited and stored digitally. An optimised scanning infrastructure with a managed print service is the best option for businesses looking to monitor usage and identify ways of increasing productivity and efficiency. It is a new way of working that may take some time getting used to, but it is a big help to reminding staff that they are working in a business committed to working in the most environmentally friendly way
Cut your energy use
Energy is a costly resource and means a big carbon load. Reducing your carbon footprint is vital if your business is to go green – and fortunately, cutting the use of energy also means cutting your energy bill.
There are little things that you can do. Converting all lighting to LED is a good first step, cutting your energy usage for the light you need and the cooling requirements of your business – LED bulbs produce a fraction of the heat of old-style incandescent bulbs.
But you may need to look at all at the electronic equipment you use, both in your office and your production floor. Replacing old and inefficient equipment can substantially reduce your energy needs – and your costs.
One of the best ways to make your business much more environmentally-friendly is to practice a green procurement policy. This involves sourcing goods and services that are produced and supplied in a sustainable way. Sourcing from local suppliers rather than ones far away can be a good place to start. Reducing transport miles cuts pollution and energy consumption.
Review your procurement policies, and make sure everything that you buy:
- Is manufactured in a sustainable fashion
- Does not contain toxic materials or ozone-depleting substances
- Can be recycled and/or are produced from recycled materials
- Does not make use of excessive packaging
- Is designed to be repairable and not throwaway
By buying green, you are reinforcing your own green credentials – which is something that investors may be looking for.
There are many ways to become more environmentally friendly, from making changes in the office to using green energy. Find out how you can fund eco-friendly equipment and make your business more sustainable
Reduce water usage
The climate has become more unreliable in recent years. Droughts are becoming more common in parts of the UK and, if you are a major water user in a production process, you will already know the problem this can bring.
But all water users need to cut back on the water they use.
Ways you can reduce water usage on your business premises include:
- Fixing dripping taps, plumbing leaks and installing low-flow toilets
- Moving to drought-tolerant landscape design, with drip irrigation and rain sensors where necessary
- Using a high-efficiency pressure washer for cleaning jobs
- Reduce water usage in processes
- Adopting a water recycling approach
Reduce your Building Energy Footprint
Buildings use about 40% of the country's energy for lighting, heating, cooling and appliance operation.
The drive to reduce building emissions has spawned a rapidly growing industry in high-efficiency architecture. Net-zero and passive construction methods employ super-insulated shells equipped with solar and geothermal systems to reduce energy usage by 80—90% over standard construction.
Whether you're constructing your own business premises or renovating an existing building, make sure you investigate the various rebate and incentive programs that may be offered for upgrading insulation, solar systems and appliances.
You can embark on an expensive retrofit to make your office and workspace greener, but there is a simple solution that can provide real benefits at a fraction of the cost.
Bringing shrubs and plants in your building can massively help improve the air quality which is essential for your employees. In addition, this will also help your business look a lot more attractive. Bringing more nature into the office means more oxygen is produced, creating a happier space for your employees to work in – and it can help reduce your energy needs, by cutting the need for air conditioning.
Reduce your vehicles' energy needs
The latest generation of hybrids can offer far better energy performance than older cars and vans. Replacing your fleet is a regular cost. Replacing it with e-vehicles, whether hybrids or pure electrics, can mean a massive reduction in operating costs.
It may be vital to adopt electric delivery vehicles if you serve city markets, simply to avoid the huge costs of emission zones.
It is not only your road vehicles that may need to be looked at. How are your yard vehicles and fork-lift trucks powered?
Go to the cloud
Technology has been responsible for a great deal of waste and environmental demand since the industrial revolution but that may, at least, be changing.
The cloud allows you to have your computing power and data storage offsite, meaning that you can work from anywhere and need a much smaller investment in IT hardware.
With stacks of servers and miles a network cabling fast becoming a thing of the past, you can cut your costs, energy usage and even support costs. As company information is hosted in the cloud, there is no need for your business to purchase and maintain expensive, power-intensive servers. Employees can share and access information from anywhere, reducing travel costs, carbon emissions and printing costs of your small business.
The way forward
Sustainability needs to become such an integral part of your business that it is part of everything that you do, and part of your brand identity. To that end, you need to keep evolving as a sustainable brand and set targets to achieve this, along with deadlines when they should happen.
It is an ongoing process. Once this is completed, look again at how you operate and think how your business could be even more sustainable. There is always room for improvement and going greener still.
Of course, some measure you will need to take will require investment. Replacing inefficient equipment with new and greener alternatives will have a capital cost implications, even if the payback in reduced operating costs and enhanced green credentials will make it very worthwhile.
At Rangewell, we can provide the solutions that you need when you are looking at funding for greening your business. They can include asset finance, which will et you bring in new and better equipment – from your production floor to your office and even to your sales team’s vehicles – and spread the costs.