This year, Earth Day (22 April) marks the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Since the agreement took effect, nations and businesses around the world have taken great strides towards an eco-friendly, green future. While large multinationals have a huge role to play in this respect, small businesses are just as important. Unlike their larger counterparts, small businesses are adaptable and agile, so can quickly change to become environmentally friendly. This is also useful from a commercial point of view, as it’s something that consumers increasingly see as a key requirement when it comes to choosing between competitors.
So, just how can a small business become a sustainable business? We explore some of the simplest and most effective green business practices to help your enterprise become a leader in the fight against climate change.
Setting up an eco-office
The first step on any small business’ sustainability journey is to reduce waste. In spite of recycling efforts paper is still a major landfill component, and offices are a significant contributor to paper waste. Beyond encouraging employees to go paperless, businesses should aim to have a clear policy in place to reduce paper waste. Make sure every employee is aware of the policy, and consider a reminder sign near the printer. This idea can be taken further, to the front-end of the business. Instead of leafleting and taking out print ads in local papers and magazines, consider online marketing and email blasts.
Set environmental guidelines
Alongside a paperless policy, eco-friendly small businesses should also have clear guidelines on maintaining a green office space. Energy-saving light bulbs, bigger windows, and low-energy computer settings can all make a difference. If your employees need to use devices, consider allowing them to use their own rather than providing, say, a second phone and a second laptop for out-of-office use. Two-factor security and private connections make this a more viable option today than ever before.
Choose sustainable suppliers
Beyond the physical office, think about the bigger picture. You might not be able to choose who your customers are, but you do have a choice when it comes to the energy supplier and bank your business uses. Switch to providers that commit to sustainability, and don’t be afraid to change at a later date if you see a more innovative environmental offering elsewhere on the market. The more small businesses that do this, the faster large-scale energy and banking providers will cotton on to the growing demand for green business services.
These are the initial practical changes that any operation aiming to become an eco-business should be making. However, the sustainability challenge doesn’t stop at the infrastructure level; there’s a lot you can do to drive sustainability in society through ongoing schemes. One of the best and simplest ideas is to encourage employees to travel to work in an environmentally friendly manner. If you offer perks, consider public transport travel cards, and allow employees to work from home if and when they want to – this can have a huge effect on the overall environmental impact of your workforce. The Cycle to Work Scheme is also worth considering for more established operations; this allows employees to pay for a new bike through a salary sacrifice, saving them money and promoting a carbon-neutral form of transport.
Investing in the future
Finally, think about the wider societal impact of the way you do business. Does your company source and sell physical goods? Change to a sustainable supplier, even if your costs increase, and then seize the marketing benefits to recoup any loss and eventually make the switch profitable. Customers are increasingly voting with their wallets when it comes to sustainability, and those businesses brave enough to take a small hit now are in the best position to reap the rewards of the future.
So, this Earth Day, whether you’re based in London, Manchester, or further afield, why not make sustainability a leading business objective? You’ll be rewarded with happier customers, more alert staff and lower energy bills, on a cleaner, healthier planet.