According to recent research into the consumer habits of 5,000 respondents across Europe, sustainability is a top priority for the vast majority of shoppers. When asked about the importance of different sustainability attributes, such as organic production and recyclable packaging, only nine per cent said none of the issues was important to them.
“Greening” a business is not only beneficial to the environment, but it can also help companies to attract and retain customers, meaning a healthier bottom line. Furthermore, increasing energy efficiency can reduce costs and ensure compliance with regulations and legislation relating to environmental business practice. Establishing a sustainability policy and implementing ethical practices will also boost employee morale and enhance the company brand.
So how can you make your business greener in 2020?
1. Introduce Flexible Working Options
Remote working is an increasingly popular work “perk” for candidates seeking their next position. In a recent study by Buffer into the “State of Remote Work”, 99% of respondents said they would like to work remotely at least some of the time for the rest of their careers. By allowing employees to work outside the office, businesses can attract and retain the best staff while also reducing their impact on the environment.
Employees who do not need to commute every day will contribute fewer greenhouse gas emissions and consume less fossil fuel. There will also be fewer office resources used and less energy consumed as smaller premises will suffice for a core team of centrally-based staff. An increasing number of companies are operating without any physical premises at all.
2. Source Eco-Friendly Packaging
Businesses across a wide range of industries use packaging daily — to deliver products to consumers, send out resources to remote workers or to share sample products with potential suppliers or stockists.
Excessive packaging and the use of materials such as plastic are having a dramatic impact on our environment — this is an issue that hits home with many people. Research by YouGov has revealed half of UK consumers are willing to pay more to avoid plastic packaging and receive their goods in more sustainable ways.
Companies that take the time to source a reliable provider of bespoke packaging can design items that are not only practical and fit for purpose, but good for the environment too. Cardboard provides a versatile packaging solution that is recyclable and biodegradable. Choose water-based ink to add custom logos and information, rather than inks and dyes that can have a detrimental impact on the environment. Technology is advancing rapidly and it is easier than ever to create professional, high-quality packaging that also offers a sustainable solution. For example, “bioplastics” are created using 100% biodegradable materials such as vegetable fats and oils — much better for our planet than traditional plastics, which take 1000 years to decompose.
3. Only Do Business with Other Green Companies
Few businesses can operate in isolation. A successful company relies on a network of suppliers, vendors, HR companies and PR advisors to name just a few potential business partners.
Make your business greener by choosing who you work with carefully. Review the procurement policy and include sustainability criteria that businesses must meet to work with you. Consider their ways of working, the materials used, recycling practices implemented, use of packaging and who they partner with. Where possible, use local suppliers rather than sourcing from companies far away.
4. Move Away from the “Single-Use” Culture
The amount of waste sent to landfill in the UK has increased by 15% since 2013. A major contributor to the problem is the proliferation of “single-use” food wrapping. Much of this is poisonous and never degrades. In the UK, we discard 7 million coffee cups each day — that’s 2.5bn every year.
Business owners can do their bit by changing the culture in their workplace. Invest in some single-cup coffee makers for the office and encourage employees to reuse their own mugs rather than buying drinks in disposable cups. Implement a recycling system with clearly marked bins located throughout the building. Make it easy for employees to act more responsibly. Swap paper towel dispensers for hand dryers and provide kitchens for staff to wash and reuse cups, plates and cutlery.
5. Encourage Environmentally Friendly Commutes
If every employee drives a car to and from work every day, consider the carbon emissions contributed by your business alone year-on-year.
Implement a car share scheme that buddies colleagues up and encourages people to travel to and from work together in one car. This will not only reduce the environmental impact of your business but can foster positive working relationships that will improve employee performance and morale.
Offer employees the opportunity to join the Cycle to Work scheme. This scheme was established in 1999 to improve peoples’ fitness and encourage them to make more environmentally friendly choices. The scheme allows employees to purchase bicycles and equipment tax-free. They can also spread the cost as the business pays for the equipment upfront and the employee repays the full amount in monthly instalments.
There are hundreds of ways a business can become greener. It is an ongoing task that will never be “done”, but it can reap significant rewards for the environment and the business. From improved employee wellbeing and productivity to a better brand reputation and more cost-effective working practices — it pays to go green.