Public concern for the environment is at an all-time high, with a quarter of Britons now considering it to be the third most pressing issue facing the UK. Businesses are also recognising the importance of environmental sustainability; far from being just a buzzword or a ‘nice to have’, it is now increasingly seen as a business imperative. The pandemic appears to have heightened this, with 68% of SME business leaders claiming that it has made them more environmentally conscious.
Incorporating sustainability into your company strategy not only ensures that you’re playing your part in helping the environment, but it also makes commercial sense. In this blog post, we outline some of the key reasons your business should become more sustainable and some tips to help you achieve this.
Why your business should embrace sustainability
Comply with regulations
All businesses have to comply with a number of regulations to minimise their environmental impact. The specific legislation you need to adhere to will depend on the nature of your business and industry. You can find guidance on various environmental topics on the Natural Resources Wales website. It’s likely that we’ll see more regulations aimed at protecting the environment in the future, so it’s a good idea to be as prepared for this as possible by implementing sustainable practices now.
By reducing your energy consumption, conserving water, recycling and using fewer materials, you could significantly boost your business’s bottom line. According to government estimates, energy efficiency improvements could save UK businesses £6 billion a year. This doesn’t necessarily have to involve buying new equipment. You can often save on your energy bills just by introducing small behavioural changes and optimising existing equipment.
Gain a competitive advantage
Consumers are becoming more and more environmentally conscious, and their values are influencing their shopping behaviours. According to research from InRiver, 63% of British consumers aged 16-44 said they would stop using a brand if it had a negative environmental impact, and 69% stated that they are more likely to purchase if there is clear information detailing the sustainable elements of a product.
Demonstrating commitment to sustainability is also essential to the procurement process and will drastically increase your chances when tendering for new contracts. Additionally, many trade buyers have Corporate Social Responsibility targets and increasingly look for suppliers that can help them meet these commercial goals.
Attract and retain employees
It’s not only customers who look for strong sustainability credentials; employees do too. An increasing number of job seekers want to work for companies whose values align with their own and who are actively making a positive difference. In a survey of more than 3,700 business students, 64% said they did not think that businesses were doing enough to address environmental challenges. Adopting green practices can help you to enhance your employer brand, and having an eco-friendly workspace, for example with better ventilation and natural light, can create a happier and healthier work environment.
How to make your business more sustainable
1.) Carry out a review
Understand where environmental impacts arise in your business operations by considering where you use resources such as water, energy and transport. Take a look at where waste arises across your purchasing, processing and distribution activities, as well as on your premises.
Book an appointment with a specialist sustainability adviser to conduct a review of your business from an environmental perspective. They will identify further opportunities to save your business money, make sure you're up to speed with legislation, and are positioned to take advantage of significant and growing demand for sustainable products and services.
2.) Cut down on your resource usage
Here are some ways you could reduce your resource usage - many of these are straightforward and either free or low cost.
- Educate your employees to switch lights off when they’re not needed
- Reorganise your office space to maximise the amount of natural light, ensuring that windows aren’t blocked and that staff are seated near them
- Consider using lighting controls such as occupancy sensors which detect when someone is present, or light level controls which turn lights on/off or dim them depending on the amount of daylight available. Here is a guide to the various types of lighting controls and when to use them
- Ensure that timers are always set so that the heating is in sync with working hours
- If you have areas that are often unused, turn the radiators off
- Avoid obstructing radiators and vents with furniture
- In winter, keep outer doors closed wherever possible; if they need to be left open, consider installing air curtains or strip curtains to help conserve energy
- In summer, before you switch on the air conditioning, think about using other options first, like opening windows and closing blinds. If you do have to switch it on, then don’t forget to close the windows and doors
- Educate your employees on the cost of wasted heat and air conditioning
- Regularly check for and fix any leaks from pipes, plumbing fixtures and fittings
- Install water-efficient equipment such as tap aerators or flow restrictors, low-flow showerheads and waterless urinals
- Make staff aware of how they can conserve water with simple, everyday practices, for example waiting until the dishwasher is full before using it and not leaving taps running
- Think about ways you could reuse water, like placing a bowl in the sink to collect water when you’re waiting for the tap to warm up or cool down, which you can then use for watering plants or cleaning
- Get your employees into the habit of switching equipment such as computers, printers and photocopiers off at the plug at the end of the day. Leaving appliances on standby can waste a significant amount of energy
- Make sure monitors are turned off when people are away from their desks for more than ten minutes
- Print in batches where possible
- Unplug phone and laptop chargers when they’re not needed
- Look at replacing outdated appliances that burn a lot of energy with newer, more energy-efficient equipment, which will save you money in the long run
For more information on how to save energy, check out this SME Guide to Energy Efficiency.
3.) Use responsible suppliers
Take steps to review and ensure that your business is sourcing goods and services from responsible suppliers that can demonstrate good environmental practices.
4.) Keep track
Make sure that you keep accurate records of the steps you take and the savings you achieve, as these provide a good way to demonstrate better environmental performance to your stakeholders and differentiate your business during tender processes.
With a specialist in-house team of expert sustainability advisers, the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service offers help and advice to businesses across Wales that want to achieve their sustainability goals and win new business. Encouraging water and energy efficiency, using fewer raw materials and reducing waste, as well as introducing environmental management and policies are among the areas where Business Wales can support organisations, helping them drive innovation and resilience to reach new markets and save money for growth. Find out more at www.businesswales.gov.wales/support.