More and more businesses are looking to reduce their environmental impact and improve their social impact and become better businesses. The recent IPPC report on climate change highlighted the need for urgent action as our planet is being destroyed at an alarming speed.
However, when it comes to how we should go about making changes it can be confusing. We hear all about environmental, social and governance (ESG) and sustainability but there is a vast amount of information online, lots of new terminology and reports and it can be very overwhelming. What action can my business take that will make a positive impact? Where do I start? I am a small business so am I too small to make a difference? It can be very complicated and confusing!
But it doesn’t have to be the case. If we all do something (even if it is something small) it makes a difference. If we add up all these small steps then, collectively, we will have done something huge! These steps don’t have to be costly either, some changes that you make could lead to cost savings for the business.
So, what practical steps can we take to improve our social and environmental footprint and become a better business? Here are some suggestions.
Cut back on paper
Become a paperless office and save not only the environment but also save money too! If you stop using the printer then you save on energy, paper and ink costs. Also, consider how else you use paper in the office – switch from notebooks to making notes on your laptop or tablet, use electronic signature software for contracts and agreements and don’t send birthday or Christmas cards but send an e-card or donate to charity instead.
Switch to a green pension
Moving your pension from a more traditional fund to a more sustainable (or green) one can be an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint. A recent survey by Aviva, Make My Money Matter and Route2 revealed that such a move could lead to saving several tonnes of carbon per year depending on the size of the investment. In fact, it was found that moving your pension could cut more carbon than driving an electric car or stopping flying. However, remember to seek professional pension advice before changing your own or your employees’ pension arrangements.
Consider your purchases
The next time you need to purchase something for work, firstly consider if you really need it. If you do, can you buy it refurbished or second hand? This can save you money and also stop unused equipment going to landfill. If you have to buy new then aim to buy from local and/or eco suppliers and see if you can recycle, sell or donate your old equipment so that it is not thrown away.
Do you need to come to the office every day? If you move to remote working all or some of the week you eliminate the need for staff to commute in every day. Not only will this reduce emissions from transport, but it would also save on office costs, too.
Opt for a renewable energy provider
Review your energy supplier and move to a renewable supplier instead. Not only is this better for the environment, but it could also save you money too. It is also worth reviewing your energy usage and making sure IT equipment and lights are turned off at the end of the day – not just put in sleep or standby modes.
Support diversity and equality
Diverse and inclusive workforces are better for people and for businesses too. There are no biases and businesses that are taking action towards equity, diversity and inclusion have found this leads to better employee engagement, innovation and productivity. Education is key to create this culture and other steps that can be taken include pay equality, review of company policies and through acknowledging the holidays of different cultures.
Take the stairs!
By not taking the lift and using the stairs, you will be saving on large amounts of energy. You also have the added benefit that the stairs are a much healthier option so you get exercise and steps too! Remember a healthier workforce has more energy at work and also less sickness time.
Use less plastic
Plastic has a devastating impact on the environment so replace plastic cups and drinking bottles at work with reusable water bottles and mugs. Not only does this help the environment, also will save money too.
Encourage your staff to recycle items through the installation of recycling bins in the kitchen and in the workspace and have food waste bins for items such as used teabags, uneaten food and fruit.
There are lots of ways that you can build a more sustainable business. It needn’t be complex or costly and making one small change is better than no change at all. Each change we make will have a positive impact and will help us build a fairer and more responsible business. The key is to just do something!
Caroline Harridence – Counting Clouds Cambridgeshire