The Press is full of talk about the need for businesses to become more sustainable, but it’s often hard to know where to start. Here are some top tips you can adopt. If you want to go further, give me a call or drop me an email for some more suggestions. Feel free to add your top tips to this so we can all share some best practice.
Use technology to help you cut energy costs.
More businesses are turning to technology to help them manage energy usage. Although initial outlay may seem expensive, the savings can be considerable and are ongoing. At the top of the range are sophisticated building management systems which will control the temperature in your workplace, boosting heating or turning it off and opening windows as necessary. Light sensors can detect when people are around and turn them off when they aren’t needed. Some organisations have a ‘Last Out’ button, so whoever leaves the building last can turn off all unnecessary equipment from one button, or hot drinks dispensers that only turn on when the first person arrives. At the simpler end of the scale, make sure all computers, printers and other equipment are designed to switch off when they aren’t used, and turn off lights, heating or cooling when they aren’t needed.
Encourage staff to ditch single use plastics
Many big organisations are giving their staff reusable water bottles and installing water fountains or chilled dispensers. This isn’t just being environmentally friendly, it’s a sensible business decision. Ensuring your staff are well hydrated at all times will help maintain productivity and efficiency. In addition, by reducing the amount of single use plastic, the company is also reducing waste disposal costs. Providing reusable coffee cups branded with your logo will encourage staff and customers to promote your business when they stop off for that skinny caramel macchiato on the way to work!
Reduce work related travel
Gone are the days when business executives spent their lives on the road, visiting clients or colleagues in other offices. Increasingly, meetings are held via webchat or skype. This has multiple benefits from reduce wear and tear on vehicles and infrastructure, reduced expenditure on mileage and less damage to the environment from pollution. Employees may spend several hours commuting for a meeting lasting one to two hours. By hosting these remotely, staff can use the time they would have spent travelling to and from the meeting more productively. In addition, there is not so much wear and tear on those having to travel and they are less likely to go off sick or burn out.
The plastics debate has focused many people’s minds on how to reduce unnecessary packaging. There are times when plastic is best – attempts to reduce or remove some plastic packaging from food products has led to a dramatic increase in spoilage and waste which is an unfortunate and unintended consequence. Plastic is light, durable and impermeable making it ideal for many products. However, now is the perfect time to look at alternatives and work out whether they would be any good for your products. New materials are becoming available such as packaging made from mushroom compost or algaes and it may be worth considering glass, tins or cardboard. Polystyrene balls can be swapped out for shredded paper or cardboard. In considering what sort of packaging suits your products or requirements, make sure you look at the carbon footprint of any material you are proposing – virgin paper will have a higher footprint than recycled plastic, therefore making the recycled plastic more acceptable. In addition, heavy packaging such as glass can add considerably to transport costs, so must also be factored in. Consider the end of life use for the packaging – can it be reused or recycled and if it is to be recycled, is there a facility near your customers? Ideally, any packaging you use, will be reusable with customers incentivised to do so.
Make your working environment sustainable
Research has shown that making the working environment more attractive leads to improved staff engagement, higher productivity and better retention. Informed planting in the workplace removes pollution and creates a healthier environment leading to lower sickness absence rates and a calmer workforce. Investing in the workplace to provide the appropriate equipment that is well maintained and works alongside the provision of break out, rest areas and plenty of natural light ensures the staff feel valued and cared for.
Find a purpose for your company outside making money. Those businesses who invest time, expertise or money into community projects, either its on their doorstep or the other side of the world reap benefits. Whether its the skills that your staff gain from organising events or running a project to aid a community or voluntary body, or the sense of team that co-operating to fundraise generates, the workforce can all benefit. By participating in activities that are not designed to generate income or profit, the reputation of your business is enhanced and you may find you reach previously untouched markets as a result.
With all these sustainability initiatives, whilst there is an altruistic and environmental objective, there is also sound business reasons for adopting them. These tips could save or make you money as well as making you feel better about your business.