Growing your business
Go Green: Sustainability for Your Small Business
Over recent years consumers and business owners alike have grown increasingly conscious of how the sale of products / services impact our environment. Concern for being kinder to the planet is constantly in the news, and there is pressure for all business owners to do their bit. Making your business more sustainable can have some added benefits, when your customers know you’re green.
Tom Permatteo, CEO of the Green Business Bureau says: “We know that 84% of global consumers already seek a positive environmental and social commitment from their preferred businesses. We also know that the emerging Millennial generation is the most knowledgeable, committed and gregarious demographic when it comes to environmental issues. Because of these two factors, we can expect a continued shift of preference toward companies with genuine, visible, thoughtful and validated environmental commitments over the next few years.”
So to kickstart your eco-friendly journey, we’ve put together a simple guide on how to get started with small business sustainability.
Create A Plan
Going green can be a large task for any business. There are many ways to go green but choosing what is right for your business and having a plan to make it happen is a good start. So before you get started it can be helpful to put a simple strategy in place to keep you on track with your targets and how to reach them.
To begin with, focus on setting some clear, goals, and realistic ways to achieve them.
“There are as many key issues facing small businesses as there are small business types,” says Tom from the Green Business Bureau. “We have found that environmental drivers have more to do with the core inputs and outputs of the individual business than any global sustainability trends. For example, a restaurant may focus their sustainability efforts around the inputs of their food supply, water use for cleaning, energy use for heating, and cooling and food prep, while another restaurant with a large takeout and delivery focus may look to improve packaging and CO2 emissions from their delivery efforts.”
Then, evaluate the costs and benefits of each eco-friendly action too. If you work with a wider team, make sure to share your strategy with them too; and make sustainable actions simple and achievable, by supplying recycling bins for example. For that extra encouragement, consider implementing an incentive plan to help efforts progress, such as a cycle-to-work or office recycling scheme rewarded with cash bonuses or holiday time.
Whilst sharing your strategy with your employees is essential for keeping efforts consistent, it’s worth sharing the results of your work with your customers as well.
With so many options in their buying process, consumers are now more frequently considering the brand behind the product when it comes to making a purchase, not just the price and quality. And research by The Nielson Company found that from 2014 to 2015, customer willingness to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive environmental and social change increased by almost 20% too!
Considering this growing consumer desire to choose earth-friendly products, don’t forget to shout about your journey towards going green, and really build that emotional connection about your cause!
Even simple changes such as making sure lights, computers and heating are switched off when they’re not being used can make a huge difference to your eco-footprint – and your bills too! – with research by uSwitch finding that UK households currently waste a total of £227m a year by leaving appliances on standby.
So think carefully about your energy outputs and turn things off at the switch, close doors and windows to retain heat, and turn your thermostat down – even reducing it by just 1°C can save you as much as £60 a year!
Efforts to reduce energy consumption can also include installing timers on your heating, air conditioning or lighting systems so that they automatically turn off when business is closed for the day. And making sure that computers and monitors go into hibernate mode out of hours too.
For a little extra support, there are several smart energy apps that can help monitor your appliances such as Hive and Nest which are simple to use and can integrate your lighting, electricity and heat into one dashboard. And for further advice on how to reduce your energy usage, many energy audit companies can assess your business to make sure it’s running energy efficiently whilst marking areas where you can make savings too.
Sustainable Energy Sources
As sustainable technology has developed, thousands of businesses have begun to take energy saving one step further by switching over to renewable sources of power such as solar, wind, tidal or biomass – which can be used to generate both heat and electricity and makes up a huge 85% of renewable energy in the UK!
Luke Godfrey from Godfrey’s - a fish and chip restaurant who took the crown for our Small Business of the Month back in May 2017 - runs a large portion of his business on renewable sources. Using solar power for electricity, and collecting rainwater to run the plumbing in the bathrooms to save on water bills.
On a smaller scale, one of the simplest changes you can make to your energy consumption can be to switch over your lighting. This means using energy efficient LED or CFL lights which, as found by The Energy Saving Trust, can cut costs by £80 and save 320kg of carbon dioxide over the lifetime of the bulb.
Product and Packaging
“The easiest way for company to know where its best opportunities for real eco-improvement is to look at what makes the business money, as well as spending habits,” says Tom from the Green Business Bureau. “By attacking core business areas, a company's sustainability efforts are more likely to truly deliver a positive impact for the business - which will further motivate the business to seek even more positive changes.”
There are two key areas of your business that are likely to generate a sizeable impact on the environment: suppliers and packaging.
Thinking about going green with the goods and services you use for your business, it can be beneficial to review your existing suppliers. Make sure to consider whether your suppliers work sustainably, their use of any substances that could be toxic to the environment, how necessary packaging is, if any element of the product can be reused or recycled, and if you could find any local alternatives to reduce on delivery emissions.
Restaurant and bar Hood in Streatham, London are keen advocates of using local produce; and even display their suppliers on a map instore. Visualising their food journey to their customers in such a way is a great form of engaging green marketing.
A similar practice in sustainability goes for the way you produce and package your own products too!
Being resource-efficient by cutting down on unnecessary paper, plastic or glass is a great way to show consumers you’re looking out for the environment; as supported by research stating that since 2010, 30% more shoppers choose environmentally friendly packaging over other options. And 66% of respondents in the 2015 Nielsen Sustainability Report said they would be willing to pay more for sustainable goods too.
The transition into sustainable, ethical packaging may require different steps for different businesses, but the final result will always be a happier customer and a happier planet.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
As well as thinking about your products manufacture, do consider what happens when it reaches the end of its lifecycle. Is that the end of its lifespan? Or is there the possibility to reuse or recycle elements of that product?
A growing number of restaurants and cafés are encouraging their customers to reuse containers when dining with them. Edinburgh’s soup café Union of Genius for example, who incentivise the use of Tupperware when serving their soup to save on plastic waste by offering customers loyalty points.
High-street stores LUSH and H&M, also offer vouchers and free products to customers who recycle used clothing or returning empty bottles to them.
And recycling doesn’t just apply to your product / service, but the day to day running of your business too where, to improve sustainability, you should aim to produce as least waste as possible. At first thought this may appear to be rather a costly project, organising waste pick up and spending more time on training employees; but the option of running your business without recycling can be even more costly in the long run, simply considering the wastage you will incur.
There are dozens of small changes you can make to have a big impact when it comes to recycling, but to list just a few:
Purchase recycled office supplies such as paper and ink cartridges; or compostable food containers.
Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
Have recycling bins, including paper and glass, in your workspace.
Make an effort to recycle or repair old appliances and computers instead of throwing them away.
Offset recycling costs by selling your excess materials on to businesses who could use them.
Band together with other local businesses to form an efficient recycling process in your area.
Running a green business is a powerful tool for creating and leading positive change; for more information and inspiration on how to implement sustainable practice check out our 5 Earth-Friendly Resources To Help Your Business Go Green and the sites listed below.
Join The Sustainable Revolution With Recycling Programs – Environmental Leader
How Green Is Your Business? The Checklist For Eco-Friendly Business Owners – Digitalist
Save Energy: 19 Free Energy Saving Tips – uSwitch