Environmentally conscious businesses are rapidly gaining much larger audiences by providing a different kind of value, as consumers are now more likely to pay more for products with an ethical incentive.
A forward-thinking mentality can set you apart from the crowd, especially in a time where sustainability and social responsibility have become top purchasing drivers.
Taking the time to set up environmental policies that are fully ingrained into the company, will both improve your reputation with clients and benefit from the feel-good impact that comes with making a difference. In such a competitive financial climate, it could be what makes all the difference.
Here are five tips for building sustainability into your business growth from Aidan Bell, co-founder of EnviroBuild.
1. Going Paperless
Paper can be needlessly overused in the day-to-day running of a business. From leaflets, to reports and agendas, paper has always naturally come hand-in-hand with business administration. With the coming of the digital age, it has long since felt antiquated to rely so heavily upon it.
Leaflets and other print media are hardly the most effective of places to focus marketing efforts in the present day. As technology has evolved, consumers have increasingly spent more of their time online and in turn, the marketplace has utilised digital media as a means for exposure.
Not only is digital marketing more environmentally effective than print, it’s also far more cost-effective, allowing much smaller businesses with limited budgets to compete.
Moving from paper to online is a simple way of cutting your paper consumption: consider opting for paperless invoicing and billing; strictly storing office files on a cloud service; moving agendas, memos and other documents to a shared drive and either cutting down on your mailing list or converting to a digital one.
When paper is absolutely necessary, try to only use PCW (post-consumer waste) paper. Only 100% PCW paper is made entirely from the paper put into paper recycling boxes.
If 100% PCW paper is not available, try to find the highest percentage you can as recycled paper uses much less energy in its life cycle than virgin paper.
On top of this, setting the printers and photocopiers only to print double-sided is the swiftest and simplest way of cutting your company’s paper waste in half.
2. Reducing Packaging
Reducing the materials we use is a key component in adopting sustainable principles, it’s important to consider this in every section of both your supply chain and office space.
Can your warehouse reuse cardboard boxes, shipping containers or pallets? Does every part of your product need to be wrapped in a plastic film? Can reusable envelopes be used for post? Cutting down on excessive packaging is an easy sustainability win and can save you material costs in the long run.
Each company will have its own unique packaging needs so it’s important to have a discussion with your suppliers about which processes can be made more efficient. Potentially look into a return scheme in which reusable packaging can be collected and reused.
3. Office Energy Efficiency
For most non-manufacturing companies, it is likely that most of the energy needs are created by running an office. Becoming more energy efficient in your workspace will positively impact the environment as well as being more cost-effective in the long term.
Increasing investment in green infrastructure projects is leading to a decrease in consumer cost, as well as the fact that renewable power generation costs are continuing to fall.
More and more companies are now beginning to offer renewable energy options, so switching to greener technologies such as solar or wind power is simpler than ever.
Switching out lighting to low energy LED bulbs offers a 75% reduction in running costs over standard halogen bulbs and therefore have a payback of roughly 1.5 years. Don’t be put off by the higher price tag, LEDs will last roughly 15 times longer than a halogen bulb, making the investment more than worthwhile.
On top of this, one of the most simple practices a business can implement is to make sure all lights are turned off at the end of the day, along with any equipment in the office too. Look into investing in motion sensors for the lights, and timers that switch off at the mains under for your computers and charging points
Unfortunately, not every company is lucky enough to be able to construct their own office from scratch, so a cheaper option would be to install smart meters to keep track of your energy usage.
Smart meters can be a valuable insight into how energy is being used in your company, one that displays the daily cost of energy consumption is a simple way to make employees more energy-conscious.
As your business begins to expand, consider investing in a well-insulated space, with individual heating and cooling units to ensure any empty rooms are not wasting energy.
4. Ethical Company Culture
Management should lead by example and bosses must strive to cultivate a positive, green atmosphere among employees. If all members of the team are contributing toward the company’s sustainability you can multiply your impact to a much larger scale.
The benefits of this spread further than simply an environmental difference, it can also be a great exercise in team building, for example by setting efficiency goals as a group and celebrating success.
Tracking how much waste is produced in the office and setting goals with incentives will help to make employees more aware of their own impact. Similarly, appointing a team to take charge of these tasks can help create a sense of community.
Encourage more sustainable actions. You could distribute reusable water bottles to employees in order to cut down on waste plastic, and provide cutlery to counter the use of single-use plastic cutlery.
Generally, just making sure members have an understanding about the environmental impact of various energy uses across the office will help to promote green thinking.
Promote green transport options, providing incentives via a cycle to work scheme or by encouraging carpooling.
The government’s cycle to work scheme allows employers to loan bicycles and safety equipment to employees as a tax-free benefit. As well as being an entirely green way to get to work, healthier employees should lead to a reduction of sick days.
Consider also whether any fleet vehicles could be replaced by electric vehicles or if this isn’t possible, the most efficient cars available.
Remote working has grown in popularity in recent years as a more flexible approach to business. Newer technologies such as video conferencing software, cloud services and HR platforms make being in the same space far less important.
Offering the option for employees to work at home a few days a week can cut CO2 emissions, without interrupting the flow of a company.
Sustainability can have a positive impact on your business without having to cost financially.
Incorporating sustainability into your business can have far-reaching impact and bolstering a positive brand reputation is attractive to customers, potential employees and investors alike, especially as newer generations value sustainability highly when considering products or services.
By integrating these small changes into your business, a feeling of trust is built into the culture which encourages greater brand loyalty. Similarly, a modern and flexible approach to work undoubtedly creates happier employees and increases retention levels.
Incorporating sustainability into the core of your business can have far-reaching impacts that reach way beyond the environmental and economical.
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Aidan Bell, co-founder of sustainable building materials company Envirobuild, leading the UK’s efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the construction industry.