Clean growth is at the heart of the UK’s modern Industrial Strategy, with a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. It is understandably the very large organisations with more polluting capacity that are most often focused on and communicated with. However, small businesses are extremely important to the UK business landscape (99.9% of all UK businesses are SMEs) and could make a big impact if all adopted their own clean growth strategies
Below are a few ways your business could support the green economy. Make sure to actively promote your environmental commitment as it will improve your value proposition and potentially help you tap into a new eco-conscious customer base. Perhaps even find appropriate accreditations to support your message. You’ll also find that economic and environmental sustainability commonly go hand in hand so you might make some savings too!
- Embrace tech
Embrace relevant new technology to make your processes more efficient and less resource intensive. This will also make the business more resilient to future change. Many businesses are already well on their way with this, particularly spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Green your supply chain
Review your supply chain and try to use local suppliers that also have sustainability at their heart. This will increase your resilience to changes in global politics and exchange rate fluctuations and reduce reliance on imports or internationally-manufactured goods.
- Review your design
If you design and manufacturer physical products, review the carbon footprint of your product materials, packaging, delivery methods and end-of-life disposal or re-use. You may be able to redesign or replace aspects of your product with more eco-friendly alternatives, and end up with an improved product that you could promote as eco-friendly and potentially even charge more for. There’s a huge and increasing market for eco products and services!
- Reduce energy and resource use
Use resources and energy more efficiently. Whether you have staff or not, whether you work from home or in an office, make sure to turn appliances off when not in use, recycle more, improve insulation, only print when necessary etc. If you actively think about every aspect of your working day there will likely be lots of small changes you could make. This will also save you money. Larger energy users should more closely monitor and improve the efficiency of equipment and processes and replace/renew where required.
- Host virtual meetings
Where possible, host virtual client and staff meetings to reduce the impact of travel. This can also reduce your outgoings and make your business more accessible to all geographies and to those with mobility issues. Some virtual platforms also have the option of subtitles so can be accessible to those with hearing impairments. If you explain why you actively encourage this, the majority (if not all) will understand and respect the choice. Your commitment to the environment (and accessibility for all) may even win you work and help you build a strong reputation and brand.
- Allow home working
Whilst eliminating the commute and fuel consumption, you may also be able to reduce overheads on office space for example. It can also make the business more resilient and provide increased flexibility and improved work environments for staff, often leading to lower staff turnover and increased productivity. It’s key to note that whilst working from home in theory reduces environmental impact, instead of one office space to heat and light there would be multiple. For it to be an effective strategy you will need to ensure that all staff commit to reducing resource use at home.
- Engage your staff
Listen to your staff and their priorities, interests and concerns by starting open conversations with them over lunches or during company-wide meetings. Provide training to raise awareness of key environmental challenges and encourage behaviour change. Make it fun and their impact visible so that they understand why and how they are making a difference.
- Hire employees that value sustainability
Hiring employees that meet the technical/professional job specification will likely be more important to you, however if you include your core business values and your sustainability goals within the job advert you will likely attract more applicants that share these. Culture fit is a crucial part of recruitment anyway and leads to happier employees and decreased staff turnover, so don’t forget it!
- Advocate for change and support causes
There may be an environmental (or social/health) charity or organisation that relies on donations or volunteers and that aligns with your business values. You could allow staff to take a number of volunteer days to work with the organisation or raise funds for them, or donate a proportion of your profits. Either way, this would be another fantastic promotional message for your business to share. Also make the most of your platform as a successful business by collaborating, raising your voice, and influencing your stakeholders.
- Create policies and targets
Consider all of the tips above, and go even further if you can, then include it all in a company-wide Environmental Sustainability Policy. Outline the steps you will take as a company to accelerate action, set clear targets and review/update the document regularly. Be transparent with your goals and your progress (monitor this continuously) and make them accessible for stakeholders to see. This accountability will help to keep you on track.
By Bryony Robertson,
Business Development Manager