Although attitudes are changing, many people view Sustainability as a ‘nice to have’, but not essential to your business. Being sustainable still has connotations of compost toilets, beans, lentils and ‘hug a tree’.
There are sound economic benefits from embedding environmental behaviours into your business. Research shows that those companies who take sustainability seriously are able to manage and control their overheads better, attract and retain quality staff and increase their market share. These companies become more productive, profitable and popular.
Running a business is time-consuming, and additional issues to address could mean you lose focus. Successful business people concentrate on what they do best. They turn to other experts for the areas they understand less – increasingly this includes Sustainability, where a professional can identify where overheads can be better managed, where there are opportunities to exploit markets or move into new areas.
If you are taking your first steps into sustainability though, there are some simple steps that don’t involve huge expenditure but could reap valuable returns.
1. Check your water bills and benchmark them against similar size businesses in your sector. Do you have systems in place to reduce your water flow, manage leaks and ensure all taps are fully turned off? As an example, if you leave the tap on whilst brushing your teeth for 2 minutes, between 12 and 18 litres of water will be wasted. As a business, not only are you paying for the water coming out of the tap, you are also paying for the water going down the drain, so it makes financial sense to minimise both your water demand and waste.
2. Check your energy bills and benchmark them against similar size businesses in your sector. Get a smart meter so you can identify when your peak energy demand is. It may pay to see if you can even out demand by changing some working practices, and you could identify where you have unexpected demand such as when you are closed.
3. Undertake a waste audit. What are you throwing away? Can you find an alternative use for it? If there is a lot of packaging, can you persuade your suppliers to take it away? They may be encouraged to look at their operations to see if they can be more sustainable. By measuring your waste, you will have a better understanding of what is there and how to avoid producing it.
4. Are you making the best use of your built environment? Are you paying rent, rates and energy for areas of your business you rarely use? Is your workforce located in the best place or in the most logical way to enable you to be the most productive? Space is an expensive commodity that needs to be managed and controlled in the same way as other overheads.
5. Review your travel and transport requirements. Can your team carry out skype meetings instead of using precious working hours travelling to visit suppliers and customers? Is your distribution network regularly reviewed to ensure you are making the best use of it?
These are all simple, yet effective tools for managing your overheads and taking the first steps to becoming more sustainable. The savings you will make should encourage you to continue your journey and consult an expert!