We are at a significant moment in our history when there is momentum building, putting increasing pressure on businesses to act in the right way. Our staff want us to change, our children need us to change and our customers expect us to change.
The recent ‘strike’ by school children shows how important the younger generation think the issue is and our businesses need to instil within them that same urgency. So we asked Paul Hargreaves, CEO of Cotswold Fayre and author of Forces for Good to share ways that we can all put in place to make our more environmentally stable.
We will not reverse climate change overnight, but small changes done by a growing number of UK companies will start to make a significant difference.
It is easy to have the wrong mindset of “we are so small we won’t make a difference” or “we are pretty good on environmental issues anyway, it is down to others to change”. All businesses can make changes and all companies can do more than we are currently doing.
There are some actions as a business you can implement immediately;
1. Offset your carbon
A couple of years ago our company started offsetting all the carbon used in our business travel during the year on cars, trains and planes. It is incredibly easy to do, and you have no excuses.
There are a number of companies set up to help businesses do this in the UK. One is ClimateCare, who calculate the tonnes of CO2 your company has put into the environment based on the land or air miles and give you a total amount to pay back. This money then goes into carbon-reducing projects in different parts of the world.
2. Use electric vehicles
As a company we are expecting to have a fleet of electric cars to replace our current fleet as their leases run out over the next two years. By then, the range and price should make them a viable option for every business.
I have ordered my first electric car with a range of 250 miles, which will be charged with completely sustainable electricity both at work and home. Again, no real excuses.
As a distribution business, we also hope to transition to electric lorries when they become available in the UK. If you manufacture or sell goods start planning now for all your distribution to move to electric lorries even if this is not viable for a couple of years.
3. Switch to green energy
If you haven’t done so already, something else you can do immediately is to change your energy supply to a sustainable supplier.
We have done this as a business, and it while it may cost slightly more, we are pleased to pay the small amount extra for the benefit to the environment.
4. Set up ‘change groups’
Much of the initiative for change within my company has come from ‘change groups’ we have set up within the business to drive transformation in particular areas.
In addition to one group that is looking at how we as a company behave towards the environment, there is now also a group looking at how we as individuals can change, and as directors we are happy to put up some money to help employees focus on become greener at home.
These ‘change groups’ have been instrumental for our business in driving forward change for good. We only have one rule; members of the management team are not allowed to participate in the groups.
Ideas coming from change groups are fed into the management and many, but not all, are taken up. I have found that this change coming from within is far more radical and effective than dictates from the directors. Generally better ideas and they stick because people are committed to them.
5. Increase levels of recycling
One of these ideas was to increase our recycling, so we reduced the size of our waste bin to 25% of its original size and found other ways of recycling waste not recycled by our local refuse collectors. All our food waste is now being eaten by worms.
6. Get help and advice
There are many external agencies who can come alongside your business as consultants to work out a plan for environmental change.
One such organisation is the Carbon Trust who will audit your premises and processes and make recommendations on change with associated costs.
We need to re-train our minds on this stuff and those of us who were not brought up in business thinking of the environment need to re-set our minds and external agencies can help do this.
Make the change, reverse the damage
The changes we can make immediately may seem small, but please do not think that they are insignificant. If every small to medium business made these same small changes, it would make a huge difference to our output as a country. This would then put pressure on the larger businesses to do the same.
In turn, it would persuade the government to introduce legislation. The ball has already started rolling on this, and I am excited that David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series has created a momentum shift in the area of plastic in the UK at present. I hope this mass environmental concern rolls out into other areas over the next few years.
All businesses have the opportunity to work towards being carbon neutral. This should be normal for all forward-thinking businesses and changes made by environmental pioneers now can effect this change across the business community as a whole. Now is the time to act and not delay, and you will be playing a key role in reversing the damage that business has done to the planet over the last 200 years.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Paul Hargreaves, author of the new book Forces for Good: Creating a better world through purpose-driven businesses, and the CEO of the fine foods wholesaler Cotswold Fayre.
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