Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.
Sustainability is undoubtedly an increasingly important buzzword of today’s generation, especially in the business world. Changing global perspectives and increased knowledge of humanity’s damaging effect on the environment is prompting a shift in consumer behaviour. Since 2016, global Google searches for sustainable products have increased 71%. Customers are opting for ethically and sustainably made goods – and calling out businesses that don’t deliver.
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Becoming a sustainable business is more important than ever with the increased pressure to consider going green. Global agendas, like COP26, are putting strides in place to alleviate impact on the environment. During COP26, UK businesses took the lead in the global switch to net zero emissions by 2050.
There are various government incentives to encourage UK companies to consider the environment in the day-to-day running of business. This includes tax exemption for businesses opting for energy-efficient technology. It’s a win-win for both your business and the planet.
10 eco-friendly business ideas
It might sound daunting to take the leap into the world of green, but starting a sustainable business is easier than you think. We’ve put together a list of ten eco-friendly business ideas to help kickstart your transition into eco-friendly business.
1. Recycle your waste
It’s impossible to call yourself a sustainable business without recycling your waste. Contribute towards the circular economy by separating your rubbish and recycling correctly – have separate bins for food waste, paper, glass, and non-recyclable goods.
Be sure to research and educate your staff on how to recycle certain materials. By ensuring that all members of staff are following the same recycling guidelines you can work to reduce your carbon footprint as a whole organisation.
2. Eco-friendly cleaning service
Consumers are increasingly seeking eco-friendly alternatives for everyday services. So why not branch out into the eco-friendly market by advertising that your company uses these products?
The harsh chemicals found in cleaning products have a damaging effect on the environment, so a natural, environmentally alternative would be well received by eco-conscious customers. If you plan on selling these products, apply for a Green Seal Certification to help your sustainable business stand out.
Upcycling is a popular and creative sustainable business idea. It’s the process of adapting an existing product to creating something new – to give it a second life. Not only do you produce innovative and exciting products for your consumers, but you’re positively contributing to the circular economy.
Creating an upcycled line is a great way for retail businesses to attract new eco-conscious customers – particularly from Generation Z of which 59% are buying upcycled products.
4. Eco-friendly Retail
This eco-friendly business idea requires a refresh of your business plan. To become an eco-friendly retail store, you must have sustainability at the heart of your company. This may require you to rethink every aspect of your operation.
Carefully consider every stage of your product’s journey and make sustainable choices at each level – including sustainable raw materials, reduced stock levels, green energy suppliers, and eco-friendly packaging.
5. Reconsider raw materials
If you’re wondering how to start a sustainable business from scratch, raw materials are a great place to start. If you’re in the fashion industry, natural materials such as hemp or bamboo are great alternatives to water-intensive cotton farming and can produce high-quality, soft clothing. Even better, if you can use recycled materials, you avoid extracting new materials and still create an exciting product for your customers.
6. Transparent supply chain
A typical business supply chain accounts for 80% of your greenhouse gas pollution and 90% of your entire businesses air, land, water, and biodiversity resources – so there’s a great opportunity for improvement.
Customers are more switched on than ever, so it’s important to be honest about where you’re getting your products from. Work with organisations, such as Fairtrade, to ensure that your supply chain isn’t harming your workers or environment. Once you meet their criteria, advertise this on your website.
7. Reduce food waste
As a sustainable business, you must manage your food waste correctly. Food waste is directly contributing to climate change with over 900 million tonnes of food thrown away each year.
Sorting your food waste is a win-win for your company – the UK government is offering £1.15 million worth of funding to businesses in England as an incentive to come up with new ways to tackle food waste.
8. Sustainable event planning
Sustainable event planning is vital for your eco-friendly businesses. Some key things to consider when planning a sustainable event include:
Carbon emissions – consider if the events carbon footprint can be reduced to create a better environment for your guests with improved air quality.
Health and wellbeing – it’s vital to consider your employee’s health and wellbeing to lead a happy workforce and increase staff retention.
Use recycled or biodegradable products – use recycled paper, refillable water stations and bulk dispensers in bathrooms.
Source energy-efficient technology – opt for energy-efficient washers, driers, fans, and heaters.
9. Technology refurbishment
Most companies require a considerable amount of technological hardware for the day-to-day running of a business. Due to this constant usage, these valued pieces of equipment get worn out and unfortunately cause environmental damage when they’re discarded. Shockingly, the world creates 50 million tonnes of e-waste each year.
Buying refurbished equipment is not only a great way to save money but it also helps to alleviate your environmental impact. You may also want to consider selling your old hardware to refurbishing companies for recycling.
10. Sustainable consultation and auditing
For a real sustainability overhaul, you might choose to complete a sustainable audit of your company. This is when you take a long, hard look at the inner workings of your business to establish where you can improve.
This will benefit your business in the long run by identifying opportunities to implement green business ideas, to improve your environmental impact, and attract new consumers. It helps you set a benchmark for goals, keep employees engaged with your sustainable mission, and helps to track your progress to becoming a sustainable business.
Useful tips for sustainable business owners
All businesses have a responsibility to be sustainable and operate in an eco-friendly manner. It’s important to alleviate your businesses impact on the planet to keep up with consumer demands for transparent and sustainable products. Square works hard to improve our relationship with the planet, and we’re working towards [Net Zero Carbon for Operations by 2030](2020-CSR-Report-Final.pdf (q4cdn.com).
For new businesses, it’s important to weave sustainability practices into your business plan and consider your Corporate Social Responsibility from the get-go. But for existing businesses, going green can be as simple as these little switches:
- Switch to renewable energy
- Go paperless
- Use recycled stationery and ink cartridges
- Make sure correct recycling bins are available to employees
- Encourage staff to use public transport, cycle, or walk to work
- Switch to Cloud commuting
- Gift disposable cups, bottles, and bags to employees to encourage good habits
- Support green causes and environmental charities
- Educate your staff and customers on the importance of going green
It’s simple and easy to make small sacrifices to make day-to-day life that little bit greener. Switch up your business, or start a new one, and go green.
Becoming a sustainable business will not only reduce your impact on the environment but you could reap financial benefits for your company – a study by Nielson indicated that 66% of respondents are willing to pay more for a sustainable product.
Square can help you grow your sustainable business and support you every step of the way. Our payment methods are simple and straightforward, so you can focus on the important part of making your business as eco-friendly as possible.