How to Create a More Sustainable Business

Businesses not just individuals need to play their part in the race to a net zero economy. To better preserve our planet for future generations, businesses, need to do their bit to tackle climate change. With the business sector producing as much as 17% of the UK’s total greenhouse emissions, it’s vital for all companies to take steps towards being environmentally friendly.

According to data from the Carbon Trust, the average small-to-medium enterprise (SME) in the UK generates around 15 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) annually. This figure will be different for each business depending on the sector, location, size, and energy efficiency measures in place.

The climate crisis has now reached a point where businesses can no longer choose whether they go green. Businesses should ensure that everything they do from supply chain to production, and packaging to raw materials, is as efficient, sustainable, and green as possible. Consumer attitude has changed in recent years, and they are far more likely to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable business. According to research conducted by Funding Circle, 66% of UK consumers would spend more on a product if it came from a sustainable business.

There are some steps that businesses can take which are neither difficult nor expensive. Here are some of both the simple and more significant changes that can be made:

1. Save Energy

Avoid using electric lights by maximising the natural light in your business premises. This will be better for the health and well-being of employees. If there are areas where natural light is just not possible use motion sensitive lighting that automatically goes off when not being used.

LED Lighting

Another way of ensuring you have the most energy efficient lighting would be to replace older lighting with newer, more energy-efficient alternatives such as LED units. Upgrading your office lighting to LEDs has considerable energy savings over compact fluorescent bulbs and even more significant savings over incandescent lighting. Make sure lighting and heating are on a timer so you’re not lighting and heating an empty office.

Make sure your building is insulated. If your business is in an older building upgrading your insulation will have a significant impact on your energy usage. Better insulation retains more cold air during the warmer months and traps more heat during the autumn and winter. It will reduce the amount of energy your heating and cooling system consumes

The digital devices you use have a large impact on energy usage. Consider upgrading old appliances and equipment such as laptops, monitors, TV screens and mobiles with new energy efficient equivalents. It may not be the best idea to go out and replace everything with new ones, however, due to the waste you will create with the old ones.  If a computer breaks or needs an upgrade firstly see if it can be fixed, recycled, or sold, then when you are ready to replace it ensure you do your research on the best environmental choice. Alternatively, you could look at buying second-hand equipment as it reduces waste which is better for the environment. You might also save some money!

You can also conserve energy by activating a power management system on all your computers. This system will put a PC or laptop into reduced power mode after a period of inactivity.

It’s also good practise to shut down computers and other appliances rather than leaving them on standby at the end of the working day. This won’t reduce energy use hugely, but every bit helps.

Installing a smart meter can help you monitor your business’s energy consumption and consider the changes you can make to reduce it. The smart meter can help you identify areas where change is required.

Also, make sure you have an up-to-date EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) for your premises. This will provide you with a detailed assessment of your business’s energy efficiency and highlight areas for improvement.

2. Choose Green Energy Suppliers and Partners

One simple, ecofriendly choice a business can make is to use a 100% green energy supplier. There are an increasing number of energy suppliers who generate power from sustainable, renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydro. Some energy suppliers guarantee 100% renewable energy. Most are very cost-effective too. It’s important to shop around as not all suppliers will actually be supplying 100% green energy. When a supplier generates renewable energy, it’s given a Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificate (REGO). The more renewable energy the supplier generates the more REGOs they get. Some suppliers who say they provide 100% green energy are simply buying REGOs from other suppliers. This is called greenwashing.

Partner with other eco-friendly companies

Partner up with other like-minded, eco-conscious companies wherever possible. There are lots of green partners out there, from sustainable raw materials suppliers to carbon-balanced printers and even eco-friendly office spaces to create a sustainable network. Sourcing local and sustainable suppliers will help to reduce the carbon footprint of your materials. Another thing to bear in mind is to reduce unnecessary packaging (e.g., single-use plastics) and increase recycling of packaging (plastics, paper, and glass).

3. Install Renewable Energy Systems

When it comes to reducing carbon emissions across the economy, switching to low carbon energy is one of the most important changes a business can make. The cost of installing renewable energy sources varies greatly, as does the return on investment, so it’s important to make sure you choose the right option for your business. The size of your business will determine the amount you can reasonably spend on the project, while your location will help you work out which source of renewable energy is best. If, for example, your business premises is in a relatively open location and has a roof with a large surface area, then solar panels could be the best choice. If, on the other hand, your business is located near the coast, wind turbines could offer a more efficient option. The location of your business could also determine whether or not you’ll be able to get planning permission, which will also play a part in your decision. There are many benefits to generating your own electricity. In order to decide what renewable energy source is best for your business you’ll need to decide what is most important to you. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Lower carbon emissions
  • Greater sustainability
  • Lower energy bills
  • Increased revenue
  • Perception of your business

If you are going to get the most out of your renewable energy system, you will also need to consider installing battery storage. A grid system based on wind and solar generation would struggle to provide a consistent volume of energy, right now. At the same time, energy demand is also highly variable with major fluctuations on a daily weekly and seasonal basis. Storing excess power during times of low demand and high production could help address this challenge.

Energy storage is a developing industry which now offers industrial scale and domestic scale solutions using batteries, pumped water, and other innovative methods to store energy. Battery storage can be scaled-up to meet short term energy storage demands of most small to medium sized businesses.

4. Reduce Business Travel Emissions

There are several measures that you can put in place to reduce the environmental impact of your business when it comes to business travel such as:

  • Encourage your employees to cycle, walk or run to work or offer them free or discounted public transport.
  • Reduce unnecessary travel to meetings, classes, and networking events by holding them virtually. This worked for many businesses during the pandemic. If you really do need to travel, then try to maximise your trip by combining multiple visits.
  • Where possible, reduce employee commuting by continuing home or hybrid working which began during the pandemic.
  • Replace petrol and diseases cars or vans with electric or hybrid alternatives.
  • Install EV charging stations at your office premises for both yours and your employees’ cars. 

5. Reduce Digital Impact

    All the content of your business’s website is hosted on a server. These servers use a lot of energy to run and keep cool. The more files you store on the server and users you have navigating your website, the more energy your website is using. You can reduce your website’s climate impact by having your website hosted on a server that is powered using green energy and ensuring that you or your web developer carries out regular website clean-ups of unnecessary files, code, and plugins.

    The way your website is built also has implications for your environmental footprint. Every time a user makes an action on your website, a request is sent to the server to action this request which uses energy. This means that the more complex your website is and the more weight it carries, even down to hidden backend coding, the bigger this request will need to be, and therefore the more energy is required. By reducing the number of calls on the server your website will become much more eco-friendly.

    Design factors also need to be taken into consideration as darker colour pixels (depending on the monitor) usually require less energy to illuminate than lighter ones, with black being the lowest energy colour and white being the most energy intensive. This means websites with darker colour schemes can be better for the environment.

    6. Reduce Waste and Recycle

    No matter the industry or company size, all businesses will produce different amounts of waste. It’s important how a business goes about reducing and recycling what they produce whether it’s cardboard, plastic, or even electrical items. Some solutions can be simple as for example, you can easily recycle paper which is still widely used in offices. You can of course further reduce your waste by purchasing recycled paper. Recycled paper uses less energy and water, and its manufacturing process produces less carbon than non-recycled paper.

    There is no need in today’s world to send out paper bills and invoices. To make your business more environmentally friendly, try to avoid using paper and printing as much as possible. Virtual sign-off, fillable PDF forms and online ordering are just some of the other ways you can let go of the letterhead.

    Every office needs new technical equipment from time to time and one option is to buy refurbished technology which is better for the environment and can save your business money too. To ensure that your old computers are recycled correctly, look at using specific recycling sources who will dispose of your old products correctly, preventing any toxic waste spilling into the environment. Another excellent way of recycling your old tech is to donate to local charities and organisations who provide disadvantaged families with free computers which is particularly useful at the moment with so many people working and learning from home.

    Another way your business can become more sustainable is to use sustainable packaging. Encourage employees to use reusable lunch packaging or even provide them with branded, lunch boxes which is great for marketing as well as the environment!

    Saving water is also significant step towards being a more environmentally friendly business. Use a dishwasher and wash everything in one go at the end of the day. Consider installing dual flush toilets, which can use less water and push taps to avoid water wastage.

    Deciding whether it’s time to switch to renewable energy will depend on your business. For some, it will be as easy as changing your supplier to a renewable energy provider. For others, particularly those in the Energy, Resources & Industrials (ER&I) sectors, a more tailored approach is needed with the signing of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) or developing your own renewable generation. At the moment it’s simpler for businesses who have processes that can be adapted for electrification. Switching will be harder where there is no alternative to hydrocarbons.

    Norbar Solar Panel System Photo 1
    Make Enquiry

    Please fill in your details below and we will be in touch as soon as possible