Although sustainability is an abstract concept, there are quite simple and concrete actions that can help you run your business better and save money. If you want to create a green workspace and bring costs down, just keep reading.
The environmentally conscious movement is growing very strong in the UK and internationally, so by making some smart decisions you will be more appealing to a significantly large and growing market that is willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings.
Sustainable business practices you can start today
Reduce your packaging
If your company ships products, a simple way to save money and be environmentally friendly is to reduce the packaging and using recyclable materials. You will reduce packaging costs and help the environment in one blow. There are nowadays many alternatives to plastic so whenever it isn’t needed, just ditch it, and make sure to label your packaging as ‘recyclable’ so that your customers can recycle it as well.
Switch to renewably sourced energy
This might be the easiest one in our list. Renewable energy is energy produced from sources that can regenerate, such as the wind, the sun, or the movement of water. Today, there are a few energy suppliers which source their energy completely from renewable energies, and their prices are similar to the rest of competitors. These companies tend to be SMEs (small and medium enterprises) so by using them you will be doing the environment and the community a favour: easy win-win.
Buy local to strengthen the community of small businesses around you
Buying local benefits the community but also the environment, as the products’ carbon footprint would be much lower (imagine the transportation costs and emissions saved). An easy example could be buying locally sourced food products for your restaurant or calling a local plumber when you need works done in the office. Let your customers know how they are helping the community by buying your products: you can have a section on your website or leaflets on your premises about the companies you work with.
Some big decisions to make
Car and fuel efficiency
Although this might seem like a no brainer, the business vehicle that you purchase is likely to stay in the company for about 10 years. Whether you are still to make the decision or the time to renew your company car is approaching, getting a fuel efficient vehicle should be one of the top considerations. Not only will it save you money in fuel but also in pollution related taxes and it is much better for the environment.
Investing in good insulation for your premises will automatically bring the cost of heating down; there are big savings to be made for a one off investment in insulation. Think about drafty windows and doors, and if you need to have any work done on the walls of the premises. It might seem like a big investment, but it is worth it over time and it will increase the value of your premises, should you wish to sell them.
Sustainability at the core:
Our entrepreneur reading list includes Conscious Capitalism. This book argues that companies that do what’s best for their business and for society will be more successful. It invites you to think about having sustainability at the core of your business, giving you a unique selling point (USP), and a the advantage of customers who are willing to pay extra for your products.
Sustainable business in the UK
If you are still reading, it means you are ready to make some changes and take advantage of sustainable practices. Let’s look at some examples of UK businesses that are champions in sustainability:
Sustainability at the core
Monika Kamycka is the person behind the jewellery brand MonaPink. Monika believes in ‘the beauty of the asymmetrical, responsible design and skilful craftsmanship’, so the studio exclusively uses Argentium silver which is 100% certified recycled and does not require plating. Keeping sustainability at the core, MonaPink uses recycled metals, 100% renewable electricity, safer biodegradable chemicals and, wherever possible, lead-free enamels. Although the market is quite niche, MonaPink has been trading already for 5 years and business is booming.
Anthesis Group is a sustainability consultancy based in London, but with offices globally. One of their initiatives involves appointing a ‘Sustainability Champion’ in each office who is responsible for measuring energy and water usage. They also monitor data on waste, recycling and food waste, and use this data to produce a baseline report and benchmark their performance. Sustainability Champions also ensure electronics, batteries, ink cartridges and the like are properly disposed of or recycled once they’ve reached the end of their life.
Listening to the market
Hawthorn is a clothing manufacturer working with mainly startup fashion brands. Founder Rob Williams tells us that over the past few years they ‘have seen a huge increase in the number of customers coming to us looking specifically for sustainable fabrics’. Rob listened to this trend and now ensures his company gives access to fabrics like organic cotton, bamboo viscose and hemp to brands buying small volumes – other manufacturers typically only use sustainable fabrics when fulfilling very large orders. Around 35% of the brands Hawthorn works with have at least one sustainable element in their collections.
Finally, there are also different funding opportunities for sustainable businesses like the Social Stock Exchange (SSX). The SSX is targeting the traditonal investing market and it is aimed at businesses that want to increase their social and environmental impact. Bear in mind that this kind of investment, involves a considerable application process and the tight measurement of environmental KPIs.
There are many other funding opportunities available for businesses that support sustainability; apart from saving money and doing your bit for the environment, you can get extra funding!