Two-thirds of businesses in the UK have no kind of plan for sustainable operations. This is hardly a surprising statistic — in the current economic climate, enterprises across all industries are looking to reduce their outgoings and avoid any kind of drastic change to their processes that could prove costly.
But as the government pushes to meet green goals and decarbonise all sectors of the economy by 2050, what can we do to be more environmentally friendly in our respective trades?
Thankfully, there are many simple changes that you can make to your daily operations to cut waste, reduce energy consumption and ingrain new eco-conscious habits into your company culture — and these don’t have to be expensive.
In fact, they could well prove to be a wise investment as we approach a winter plagued by the energy crisis — as bills for the average small business hit quadruple what they were 18 months ago. With that in mind, CEO and Co-Founder of leading digital marketing agency Go Up, Edward Coram-James, takes a look at some of the simple ways that your business can go as green as possible.
Time is running out
Cutting out the consumption of meat, fish and dairy, as well as ending any collaborations with businesses involved in those industries, switching to a 100% renewable energy supplier and drastically cutting down our non-public transport are the only three changes that we can make that will actually make a significant enough difference.
And time is running out. If these changes seem difficult or expensive to make, then consider the costs of not making them.
Take a look at our quick go-to guide for how to reduce your carbon footprint as a business, while always bearing in mind that any choices that we make should be in addition to cutting out animal agriculture, switching to green energy and reducing transport.
Without committing to those three, in their entirety, the rest simply do not make enough of a difference to prevent the worst of climate change.
Cutting down on waste means fewer products going to landfill and incineration, two major sources of environmental pollution. By wasting less and recycling more of your rubbish, your business can minimise its environmental consequences and prolong material life cycles, so that fewer resources are used and fewer polluting manufacturing processes are undertaken.
Environmental agency The World Counts estimates that 420 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are produced every year, and this is continuing to increase, accelerating deforestation and destroying habitats. One way to reduce waste (and streamline business processes) is to digitise all the paper correspondence that you can.
This includes any documents, letters, emails and invoices that don’t necessarily require physical copies in the office, to reduce both your business’ waste and paper demand.
Upgrade your recycling
No matter the industry, it’s inevitable that some waste will be produced along the way — but nowadays, there are many different ways to go beyond just the plastic sack and recycle every little thing we can. For example, the morning coffee run is contributing to the UK’s yearly 2.5 billion wasted paper cups, plus plenty of coffee grounds that can’t be recycled by standard disposal services.
By relying on a dedicated recycling service to take away those difficult-to-dispose-of byproducts, you can massively reduce the amount of workplace waste going to landfill and incineration.
Minimise energy consumption
Cutting your workplace energy consumption is another core tenet of making your business environmentally friendly, as major energy providers continue to use energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas. These fuel sources emit polluting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that contribute to global warming.
Encourage remote working
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, a growing number of businesses have adopted remote working schedules. If your line of work allows for it, letting your employees carry out their contracted hours from home can significantly reduce energy consumption as you’ll need to supply less workplace heat and electricity.
Not to mention, fewer commuting members of staff will decrease transport emissions — now the largest contributor to greenhouse gas pollution in the UK, accounting for around a third of carbon emissions.
Use green suppliers
Many office equipment providers and tech outfits are now offering cost-effective and environmentally-friendly workplace essentials. For example, modern LED lighting fixtures that are more efficient in their energy consumption than incandescent lights, computer monitors with efficient ‘sleep’ and ‘off’ modes that draw less power, and heating systems that incorporate solar energy and heat pumps to cut consumption.
By investing in new technologies, you can reduce your business’ carbon footprint and energy bills alike, providing long-term return on investment.
Ingrain new habits
Smart new technologies will be a lifeline to many businesses during the energy crisis — but you should consider pairing tech solutions with an environmentally-conscious human workforce.
Encouraging behaviour such as unplugging unused appliances, cycling or walking to work over using other transport methods, and switching off heating systems in favour of seasonal dressing can all help your business be greener. But what are some of the more wholesale changes that can be made?
Reduce animal product consumption
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 14.5% of the greenhouse gases produced by human activity originate from livestock rearing for meat and dairy products.
The World Bank’s World Watch puts this figure at over 50%, pointing out that the UN does not take into account key figures such as respiration (billions of cows, pigs, chickens etc breathing in Oxygen and breathing out Carbon Dioxide) and Land Use Change (90% of Amazon deforestation is to clear land for cattle grazing or to grow soya to feed to cattle).
More recent studies have put animal agriculture as causing over 80% of man made greenhouse gas emissions. In any event, it is clear that the single biggest change that any single person can make to reduce their carbon footprint is to cut out our meat, fish and dairy consumption.
Take on eco-friendly clients
Among many new habits implemented in the workplace, some service-based businesses are choosing to put their money where their mouth is and exclusively work with clients that share in their eco-friendly values. By centring this ethos in your business decisions, you can ensure that you are supporting and collaborating with other organisations choosing to do right by the planet.
For example, you may wish to only take on clients that have committed to low-emission operations, producing sustainable products, and working to decarbonise the economy.
Becoming an environmentally friendly enterprise is more accessible and more rewarding than ever before, and we can all do our part to make the UK’s industries more sustainable.
The two most significant changes that we as businesses can make is to cut out the consumption of meat, fish and dairy and to end our collaborations with those businesses involved in the industry, as well as to switch our energy supplier to a 100% renewables provider.
As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure your company is on the right side of history — and the grass is always greener when you go green.