Taking steps to becoming a more sustainable small business - A guide

Sustainability is an increasingly important consideration for businesses, large and small. We all have a role to play in combating environmental issues and building a more sustainable future. From offsetting carbon to ‘greener’ delivery habits, every choice can make a difference.

Making more environmentally conscious choices doesn’t only benefit the environment, though. Embracing sustainability is attractive to consumers, with investment in products claiming to be environmentally responsible growing by 28% in the last five years1. Not only that, but employing sustainable practices can lower your business’ costs and create more opportunities2. An important first step for small businesses is to determine what you can achieve and set realistic goals:

Cut-back your carbon footprint

Measuring your small business’ carbon footprint is a great place to start when seeking to implement sustainable practices. Online calculators make it quick and simple to identify areas which need improvement and allow you to plan your strategy in a more targeted way. But that’s not to say a calculator is always necessary to
recognise where your business can be ‘greener’.

The coronavirus pandemic forced an entirely new way of doing things. Working from home became the new normal, with systems constantly improving to make collaboration and meeting remotely easier than ever. For some businesses, this made the return to office settings gradual, and for others non-existent. Choosing or continuing to run your small business’ work from home, or implementing a hybrid working model, is one way to cut-back on your carbon footprint by significantly reducing travel.

Reviewing your overseas suppliers is another excellent way to cut down on your carbon footprint. Where possible, you could consider sourcing products more locally to improve environmental impact by reducing courier travel. What’s more, investing in your local suppliers is also a great way to support the community and build a positive brand image through partnerships, strengthening your business whilst improving sustainability.

Reduce your waste

One of the simplest ways your small business can reduce waste and improve sustainability is to limit paper usage. Opting for cloud-based billing and paperwork alternatives takes away the need to print and file physical documents, not to mention reducing the risk of losing crucial data! From accounting software to CRM systems, these technologies not only reduce paper waste, but speed up processes and streamline your business’ management.

But, as much as going paperless is an admirable goal, it’s not always realistic. When paper is needed, it’s important to reduce, reuse and recycle. Sourcing locally produced recycled paper, printing two-sided documents, reusing scraps and recycling when finished will still make a difference.

Monitoring your business’ energy consumption is another easy way to reduce waste. Having a smart meter installed by your supplier will help pinpoint the appliances which use the most. Switching off equipment, unplugging laptops when charged, and making sure unnecessary lights are off seems simple enough, but with average office appliances accounting for 0.0178kW per hour when on standby3, it can really help make a difference when it comes to reducing energy waste.

Utilise sustainable materials and delivery methods

Being a sustainable small business can require innovation. Can you confidently say your small business utilises recyclable, renewable or biodegradable materials? If not, it might be time to innovate your products or services with sustainability in mind.

Did you know in the UK alone, it’s estimated that around 100 billion pieces of plastic are thrown away each year4, most of which are single use? Choosing environmentally friendly materials, such as recycled cardboard and paper, biodegradable packing peanuts, corn-starch and organic fabrics, can help to reduce those worrying statistics.

As well as packaging, consider the impact of your business’ delivery methods. With road vehicles being responsible for 91% of the UK’s emissions5, opting for environmentally conscious couriers can make a real difference. In order to offset carbon, most large courier companies offer carbon neutral delivery services, utilising electric vehicles and green energy. Even better, if your customers are local, have complete control over the sustainability of your business’ delivery process by dropping off orders directly.

Get everyone involved

Sustainability requires a collaborative effort, so it shouldn’t feel like a chore. There’s plenty you can do to encourage environmentally conscious behaviour by incentivising
sustainability and rewarding your team for their green habits. Whether it’s a walk/cycle to work scheme, or a ‘who can produce the least waste’ day, finding ways to maintain your team's motivation and involvement is key to being a successfully sustainable small business. Be loud and proud by promoting your sustainability journey on your website or social media, sharing with others your goals and achievements. You never know, it might just be the encouragement they need to build towards a more sustainable future too!

We know building a sustainable future is a collective responsibility. Find out more about how we’re reimagining connectivity to make our business better for people and the
planet here.

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