After enduring the hottest summer on record at the end of the hottest 8 years, sustainable business practices are an essential consideration. When it comes to getting started, it can be hard to know the best way to implement new practices within existing operational frameworks.
After all, change can be disruptive. Not every SME can afford to enact broad sweeping changes to their operations, no matter how much they may want to. Especially since rising costs across their supply chains mean that profit margins are slimmer and businesses are working harder than ever to maintain their cash flow.
The good news is that green business practices are extraordinarily diverse in nature and scope; not all changes require a huge investment in infrastructure. Many sustainable business practices are very cost-efficient and most will save you money in the long term.
Why are sustainable business practices important?
Corporate Social Responsibility is extremely important to businesses of all shapes and sizes. In these increasingly eco-conscious times, your clientele demands certain reassurances. They expect you to be able to turn a profit without having a detrimental effect on the planet we all share.
Make no mistake, UK consumers care about sustainability. Research from Deloitte indicates that over 80% of consumers are implementing lifestyle changes to live more sustainably post-pandemic. Moreover, over 30% of UK consumers always or often choose brands that have good sustainability credentials.
Unless your green credentials form an integral part of your branding, you may lose these consumers to your competitors. But doing so needn’t break the bank or grind operations to a halt.
Let’s take a look at 10 sustainable business practices examples and how to implement them into your existing infrastructure.
1- Consider green partnerships
Before you look at your own business practices, it’s worth considering what green partnerships can benefit your operations and make them greener. From partnering with nonprofits that share your values to hiring consultants that can help you work your way to net zero operations, or even hiring green cleaning services that eschew harsh chemical cleaners for more eco-friendly alternatives.
2- Reduce water consumption
Whatever your business, there’s a good chance that your operations require the use of water. Every flushing toilet, every cup of tea, and every load of washed dishes or linen contributes to your carbon footprint.
Collecting, treating and supplying clean water leads to the release of greenhouse gases. Hence, using less water inevitably reduces your carbon footprint. Businesses can reduce their water consumption by:
Monitoring water consumption and looking for opportunities to reduce it
Enlisting third-party partners to advise on water maintenance
Installing water-saving devices like motion sensors, water-saving cisterns etc.
3- Deal with e-waste sustainably
Being at the top of your game inevitably means investing in the latest and greatest equipment. But every upgrade in your IT system presents a risk of electronic waste. Disposing of electronics in landfill waste can be extremely harmful to the environment, enabling toxic compounds like cadmium, lead, and mercury which can be damaging to oceans and marine life.
Consider enlisting the aid of an e-waste disposal or recycling specialist. If you outsource your IT, this can enable you to keep your digital infrastructure up to date so that you do not deal with electronic waste directly. Nonetheless, it’s important to ensure that your service provider is dedicated to the responsible disposal of e-waste.
4- Consider the carbon cost of your supply chain
Your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It needs to consider the environmental impact of every link in its supply chain. Try to make your supply chain more circular and find opportunities to eliminate waste. Partner with sustainable logistics providers, and ask your suppliers what they’re doing to operate more sustainably.
Once you’ve audited the carbon cost of your supply chain, solutions to reduce waste and environmental impact will start to present themselves.
5- Swap single-use plastics for plant-based equivalents
Single-use plastics were once an inevitable part of doing business. Especially for those in the service industry but that is changing rapidly. Plastic straws have been banned and replaced with more sustainable paper equivalents. Likewise, disposable plastic forks are disappearing from restaurants and takeaways to be replaced by FSC-certified wooden alternatives.
The thought of running a takeaway, for instance, without single-use plastics was once unthinkable. But now there are plant-based alternatives for every plastic product out there from food cartons to coffee cup lids.
6- Feed your workforce more sustainably
If you feed your workforce on-site, this presents further opportunities to improve sustainability. Plant-based food options have a very low carbon footprint, so be sure to offer plenty of locally-grown veggies. Avoid using plastic cutlery and polystyrene foam takeaway cartons, opting instead for paper or bamboo.
By separating food waste from general waste and sending it to a commercial composting facility, businesses can make their on-site catering more sustainable.
7- Pack your products in biodegradable packaging
As we’ve seen previously, there isn’t much that can be done with plastics that a plant-based biodegradable alternative can’t do just as well. Especially when it comes to product packaging. While this often comes at a higher cost that will impact profit margins, keep in mind that most consumers prefer greener packaging alternatives, and are prepared to pay up to 10% more for them.
8- Invest in sustainable energy
Most businesses use an energy broker to help them find the best unit rates for their level of consumption. Business energy tariffs are typically much more expensive and inflexible than their domestic counterparts, which is why it’s so important to find the right one - especially in the current climate.
An energy broker, however, will not only be able to help you find the cheapest energy tariff, they’ll also help you to find the most sustainable energy tariff using 100% renewable energy from wind, solar and hydropower.
Some can even advise on making green energy installations like solar panels and wind turbines on-site. This can not only make your operations greener but significantly reduce business energy costs.
9- Encourage greener employee transportation
If your workforce commutes by car this provides further opportunities to drive down your company’s carbon footprint. Incentivise your employees to walk or cycle to work where possible, or simply carpool with one another. Government research demonstrates that increasing car occupancy for all journeys from the current 1.55 people per vehicle to 1.7 could save up to 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030.
10- Go paperless
Still jotting down customer orders on a paper notepad? Still, printing out documents that could easily be shared electronically? Still, giving customers paper receipts rather than e-receipts?
Going paperless can greatly reduce your company’s environmental footprint while also minimising its contributions to deforestation. A staggering 55% of the world’s paper supply still comes from newly-cut trees.
In the age of tablets and other digital devices, it’s easier than ever to make your business fully paperless. Our retail and POS systems are designed to help facilitate paperless operations for all kinds of businesses, from restaurants to retailers.