As a small business that works with, and alongside many other small businesses, I think it’s important to understand what we can do to have a positive impact on the environment and educate our own clients and communities. And it’s not just about saving the planet, it can also be great for your brand reputation and bottom line!
We all know that people want to buy physical product or services from businesses that are ethical, and give that lovely feel good factor. Over the last few years we’ve seen an increasing emphasis in people’s buying habits towards fairtrade, organic and eco-friendly companies. I believe this is down to one thing. Education. In 2018 we were all wowed by the BBC’s Blue Planet series, opening up our eyes to what was happening in our oceans. Then it was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Plastic. Now in 2020, we have the latest in the BBC series – ‘Extinction: The Facts‘. Extinction explores the damage we are doing to the bio-diversity of our planet and the consequences of the damage we’ve done. The effects we are living with now, and those that our children will be experiencing for decades to come.
So how as a business can you make sure that you’re doing everything you can to be sustainable?
In my experience, reviewing what you’re doing in your business and why, is always a good starting point. Start by making a list. What are you doing already that you would consider to be eco-friendly? What are you doing that isn’t? What are the areas that you need to improve on?
Set a zero waste target
Setting a realistic waste target is key. Ensuring that your waste isn’t ending up in landfill takes careful planning and effort. There are lots of simple things you can do right now – starting with replacing any single use plastic items with either reusable or compostable ones, replacing your office lighting with energy efficient LED bulbs and sorting and arranging your waste into various recycling bins.
If you employ people, work with them to put together a zero waste plan. It’s always better to involve your team. If they are part of the process, they’re much more likely to buy in to the idea.
Working from home
For many of us, working from home has been a requirement in 2020. It has so many positives that’s it really worth considering making it a permanent arrangement. In 2014 the Carbon Trust wrote an article about how increasing the numbers of UK employees working from home can cut costs by £3 billion a year for UK employers and employees and save over 3 million tonnes of carbon a year… and that was based on levels in 2014! Think about the reduction levels we could now be looking at with over 40% of jobs in the UK that could be done from home, and in 2020 have been.
Working from home leads to both time and eco savings. Less electricity used, no commute – saving on an individuals carbon footprint, fewer office supplies needed and ultimately less waste!
Where is your energy coming from?
Think about your energy. Is it from sustainable, renewable sources such as solar, wind and water? It’s so easy to switch and there are a lot of options that allow you to be using 100% green energy. Not only will you be helping the environment but it can also reduce your energy bills.
Recycle, upcycle and reuse
With many of us working from home, we’re all in need of office ‘spaces’. I say spaces as for many it might be a desk in the corner of their living room, or a converted cupboard. Others will have a larger more traditional offices with several members of the house sharing the space.
But there’s no need to rush out and buy new office furniture. Get on local selling sites or check out community furniture suppliers (if you’re near to Newbury, we love the Community Furniture Project). It’s amazing what a lick of paint can do!
Add some greenery
I’m a big fan of plants inside and out. All plants are a vital part of our ecosystem and are fantastic at filtering the air around us, producing oxygen and improving the air quality. Go for varieties that don’t need too much looking after – minimal effort, maximum gain.
They can also make an office more inviting from the outside. Having a green space to enjoy, or get involved with (a quick deadheading over lunch) can really help with your wellbeing too. Think about creating seating areas giving you an outdoor working option too. Personally, I regularly take client calls whilst walking out in the fresh air, it puts me in the right headspace and allows me be calm and concentrate.
What about packaging?
For product based businesses it’s important to look at your packaging too. How are you sending products? How easy is it for your buyer to recycle the packaging and are you encouraging them to? UPS offer an option to offset the carbon produced by using their courier service. If you use a courier regularly it’s worth talking to them about the eco options they have and how they can help you to be more sustainable.
And don’t just stop there… think about your supply chain, who you are buying from, are they a sustainable company, are your raw materials arriving in recyclable packaging? Can you reuse the packaging?
Recycle old or used paper and packing by shredding it, it’s much cheaper than buying new and you’re not creating new waste!
Print less, go digital
It sounds a bit random and I feel a little bit like a mean mum when I say it… but do you need to use all that paper? Do you have to print that document?
Reducing the amount you are printing can really help. Moving to an online only file system and encouraging your clients and/or suppliers to use digital documents instead of printed all contributes to less waste.
Now I’m not saying don’t print anything ever again, but look to be smarter about what you print and the technology you using. In our office we recently switched to an eco-friendly printer, using refillable ink bottles rather than cartridges that last longer and can recycled in your household recycling.
Now go shout about it!
You’ve done all the hard work, so now it’s time to get out there and tell people about it. Share your new found love for sustainability, write a blog post, share on social, or add to your email footer.
We talk about what we do to reduce our carbon footprint on our About page. Clients and suppliers can read about how we are helping to reduce the impact of our business on the environment, giving them (and us) the much needed feel good factor. After all, who doesn’t want to save the world!