There has always been a skeptical nod to environmental awareness and sustainable practices from small business owners in the UK, a belief that perhaps having a conscience on such matters is actually rather expensive and one to pay lip service to rather than go full throttle and change the culture of your company wholesale. The truth to the matter is that a responsibility, awareness, and ability to be a thriving company that is also environmentally aware isn’t the sole preserve of large companies with greater wealth than the average SME.
Just to look at the stats should make any small business owner or sole trader aware of their impact, with stats from the 2012 European Commission calculating that SMEs in Europe were responsible for 64% of pollution on the continent. On an ethical level if you are not already doing so it is important to begin the process of reducing the carbon footprint of your company. But it isn’t just about that, there are financial incentives to do so also.
For the smallest sole traders and companies that are starting from a one-room office, working at home, in a garage or shed or home office, there are simple things you can do to ensure your carbon footprint is reduced. Add a smart meter to the property, insulate the office walls and install double-glazing where possible. If it is possible to source your utilities from renewable energy sources look into it whilst you are small and still growing.
In terms of your technology, think about the energy consumption and power waste that is associated with your IT requirements. Does your desktop computer or laptop remain switched on for longer than necessary and can you reduce the costs and energy use through a more efficient storage and cooling solution than you are currently using?
As you grow as a company it might be more prudent financially and environmentally to have flexible working patterns for your staff. That way you are cutting down the transport necessities of your staff, and the electrical consumption on your work site. Both of these things can drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Remote working is effective when modern technologies such as video conferencing is used to optimal levels. For staff members that have to travel to the office think about incentives to get them to cycle to work, or to car share. Your staff will be healthier and your emissions cut.
But what about one of the biggest environmental impacts of a business, the paper waste?
The amount of paper and cardboard threw out as waste in the UK each year is around 12.5 million tonnes. You can immediately play your part in reducing this waste by partnering up with a local paper shredding service. That way you can have your paper waste securely collected from your place of work and disposed of in a safe manner, adhering to data privacy policies, and then have that paper waste recycled. In terms of changing the culture of a working environment, this is the easiest and fastest way to do so.