7 ways to reduce the environmental impact of your business
World Environment Day is celebrated across the globe on 5 June, and with the news that plastic stirrers, straws and cotton buds are set to be widely banned from April 2020, more and more businesses are thinking about their environmental impact.
Millions of people tuned in to Blue Planet and viewed shocking depictions of the disastrous impact our modern lifestyles are having on our planet and the wildlife we share it with.
Yet how many of us have made serious changes to reduce their environmental impact? And what more can we do to reduce our use of plastic, and work towards a more sustainable future?
We’ve come up with 7 ways your business can make a real difference to the future of the planet.
1. Cancel meetings
Communication is great and sometimes a meeting achieves so much more than just a phone call. But how many of us have sat through pointless meetings or travelled a long way only to sit down for half an hour then get back on the road? The fact is, a significant proportion of the meetings held by many companies are not necessary, and smarter working is not only crucial to improve productivity, but help the planet too.
Cancelling unnecessary meetings will mean reducing the pollution caused by multiple journeys (admit it – how many times have you travelled separately to a meeting with colleagues, only to multiply the amount of pollution caused and petrol wasted?) and saving you time and money, too. Even if your business encourages train travel over car journeys, this can still cause huge amounts of pollution (not to mention the hefty cost of train fares).
Skype meetings, video conferencing, Google Hangouts – nowadays, there’s simply no excuse to stick rigidly to the old fashioned style of face to face meeting. Use the technology you probably already have to reduce your environmental impact and you’ll quickly find yourself saving your business time and money to boot.
2. Eat less meat
Adopting a more plant-based diet is the single biggest way you, as an individual, can make a difference to the environment.
Research has revealed that our meat consumption has accelerated climate change, pollution and mass extinction of wildlife at an alarming rate.
More than 80% of our farmland is used for meat and dairy production, yet they only make up 18% of our calories and 37% of our protein. Methane emissions from meat and dairy farms and the deforestation which takes place actually create as much greenhouse gas emissions as all of the cars, trucks and aeroplanes in the world.
Joseph Poore, a scientist from the University of Oxford, said: ““A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car [which only cut greenhouse gas emissions].
But how can businesses play a role in reducing meat consumption among its employees?
Many businesses regularly order catering for meetings, or buffet lunches for staff. Next time you place an order, consider whether you could request a plant-based platter, or at least reduce the number of meat-based sandwiches and snacks provided for employees. Although you may experience some resistance from die-hard carnivores, you will probably find that many members of staff are happy to try new things and open-minded about the change.
If you provide milk for staff teas and coffees, why not stock up on some plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk like soya, oat or coconut milk and encourage your team to try something different? By opening up these conversations, you could potentially inspire significant change in your workplace and beyond.
3. Encourage flexible working
The daily commute is a huge polluter for millions of us, so is it really necessary for everyone to work out of the office, every day? Adopting a more flexible approach to modern working is a great way to reduce your business’s environmental impact and cut your company’s carbon footprint.
And the benefits don’t end there.
Flexible working boosts morale, increases productivity and saves you money, too. Most flexible workers find themselves far more productive when working from home, so it’s a fantastic boost to your business output as well.
Do you encourage flexible working in your business? Has it made a difference to your environmental credentials and productivity?
4. Near source
“Near sourcing” are business buzzwords you’ll soon be hearing a lot of (if you haven’t already). We’re all encouraged to shop local in our personal lives, but how many of us carry that positive behaviour change through to our business lives?
Every business needs certain resources to run smoothly and make money. What kind of resources your business needs will vary massively depending on what you do and how do you it, yet the chances are you can source most of the products and services you need close to home. This will cut down your business’s carbon footprint considerably, as you will no longer be responsible for endless long courier journeys across the country.
If you build relationships with local suppliers, you can work together to minimise the number of deliveries to your businesses and others nearby, by clubbing together and tagging multiple orders into the same consignment. This will not only help you reduce your harmful impact on the planet, but save you money too and become a far more convenient solution for your business.
Plus, by developing great relationships with local firms, you are likely to be supporting smaller business owners in your own area and therefore boosting your local economy. If you can source it nearby, why look elsewhere?
5. Invest in green energy
Green energy sources like solar panels are a fantastic investment for your business, as they enable you to cut (or even eliminate) your business’s electricity bill and enjoy free, clean electricity during daylight hours.
What’s more, solar panels are low maintenance and work throughout daylight hours – even if it’s cloudy (as let’s face it, is highly likely to be the case for UK businesses investing in solar power).
Despite government subsidies, also known as the feed-in tariff, coming to an end in April 2019, the cost of solar panel installation is lower than ever, dropping by up to 15% in 2018 alone.
The benefits of solar power for businesses are matched by the significant impact green energy has on the environment. Solar panels have zero emissions, so installing solar panels on your business premises reduces your carbon footprint considerably.
Solar power also uses no water, compared to traditional fossil fuels which use thousands of litres of water in cooling, process, refining and transporting fuel to the end user. As water is such a vital natural resource, any form of energy which slashes water consumption comes with enormous eco-friendly credentials.
And the benefits don’t end there. If you are trying to reduce the environmental impact of your business, you can rest assured solar panels help to reduce air pollution. Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy does not emit carbon dioxide and methane gases into the atmosphere, which has a damaging effect on the quality of the air we breathe and consequently our health. When you choose to install solar panels on your business premises, you can enjoy cleaner air and fewer toxic emissions.
Toxic gas emissions from fossil fuels play a major role in climate change, so by installing solar panels, your business will be having a positive impact on climate change.
6. Promote green commutes
Do most of your employees travel to work by car, alone? If so, they’re not alone. Research last year revealed that in 2017 a massive 68% of us still travelled to work by car, only 11% of workers travelled to work by train, 10% walked to work, 7% got to work by bus and 5% stated they used another mode of transport to get to work.
So how can we make our commute to work more environmentally friendly?
Cycle to Work schemes are a great way to encourage your workforce to opt for a greener commute – make sure your premises is set up for cyclists, by fitting bicycle storage and cycle hoops. Large corporations like Pfizer offer incentives to encourage greener commutes – they offered £5 a day to staff who got to and from work by any means other than a solo car trip. And while this does involve an investment on your part, it can lead to a more ecologically responsible workforce, ease congested car parks and reduce pollution.
Car shares are a good way to minimise the pollution caused by vehicle traffic, by reducing the number of cars on the road each morning (and easing traffic, too). Set up a car share programme in your workplace and encourage employees who live in similar areas to pool their resources and share their morning and evening commute. The chances are, this will lead to better employee relationships and ultimately a happier workforce.
7. Go paperless
How many of us are still guilty of printing off way too much paper? Meeting rooms across the country can still be littered with printed agendas, handouts, visuals and more despite ongoing efforts among some members of staff to use less paper.
The good news is, it’s now easier than ever to make the change to a paper-free office environment thanks to a host of technological advancements that have made working without paper far easier.
Look into cloud-based applications, digital document signing and scanning in any paperwork which isn’t available digitally. It may take an initial investment into laptops, tablets and software, but the savings will soon surpass this when you see a dramatic reduction in the costs you paid out for printing, paper, shredding and waste disposal.
Has your business gone paper-free? What are your tips for adopting and maintaining a paperless business?
What are the benefits for businesses adopting environmentally friendly measures?
Why should businesses go green? What’s in it for business owners who invest in environmentally friendly measures?
Being an environmentally friendly business has many different benefits. Helping the planet and reducing your environmental impact is an obvious (and substantial) benefit of going green. But it’s not the only one.
Environmentally friendly businesses create a healthy and happy workplace environment, as well as boosting their reputation within the local business community and their own industry.
Going green also pays dividends to your bottom line, too, as adopting environmental measures for your business can cut costs and help you to save money across many different parts of the business.
Certain environmental measures you can adopt for your business could even lead to tax benefits, if you are investing in hybrid or electric cars for your business vehicle fleet, for example.
We’re sure you’re not one to boast, but promoting your environmental credentials can do wonders for your PR, as well as giving your customers a warm fuzzy feeling about you and your company. This means that being ecologically responsible can actually generate higher customer retention rates, and encourage a great deal of customer loyalty.
Now you've discovered some of the benefits of going green for your business, we'd love to know which of these measures you choose to adopt for your own company. Please share your experiences of reducing the environmental impact of your business on our social media pages!