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Retail Industry Opinion

Eco-friendly business modifications are the next step to a better world (and a better sale)

Eco-friendly business modifications are the next step to a better world (and a better sale)

"If you like a bit of swag to give to potential clients, you might have promotional items for your business."
Gareth Smyth, CEO of Hilton Smythe

An eco-friendly business is one mindful of the waste products it creates, and the way it uses resources. There are many different available options for packaging, advertising and day-to-day running of the office that have a low impact on the environment. This could include using online marketing tools rather than printed leaflets, working with suppliers that utilise hybrid technologies and making sure that a part of what you consider when buying or selling is the cost and impact of the shipping of the product.

According to a report published by Unilever last year, a third of consumers prefer to buy from businesses that are “doing social or environmental good”. This percentage is set to rise as more people become aware of the effect their purchases have on the environment and more conscious forms of consumerism spread.

The UK government has committed to a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050, under the terms of a new plan to tackle climate change. Then Prime Minister, Theresa May, said there was a “moral duty to leave this world in a better condition than what we inherited”. Cutting emissions will also benefit public health and cut NHS costs.

Britain has been praised by several green activist groups for being one of the first major nations to propose such an ambitious target. The UK’s previous 2050 target, to reduce emissions by 80% was agreed by MPs under the Climate Change Act in 2008, but has been superseded by a new, much tougher, goal of “net zero” greenhouse gases by 2050. That means domestic and business emissions will have to be avoided completely or, if this is not possible, offset by planting trees or removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Making your business more environmentally friendly will pay dividends, not only in saving you cash, but also getting up to code well ahead of the government deadline, meaning it will have more pulling power should you come to sell.

5 eco-friendly ways to a greener business

1.    Reduce your plastic waste

It’s no secret that we should all be buying less bottled water, drinking fewer coffees in disposable cups and refusing straws in bars, but have you thought about how your business could be contributing to the huge amount of plastic waste created every year? Do you have a water cooler that’s typically equipped with a sleeve of plastic cups? You could instead ask staff to bring reusable cups, or how about gifting each of them a reusable water bottle? If you regularly host meetings and provide lunch, sandwich platters often come with a lot of plastic packaging, as do biscuit tubs and doughnut trays. Can you find a company that serves food in biodegradable packaging, or buy from a local business that will allow you to use your own reusable plates, trays and so on? Transport emissions are responsible for around 25% of the UK’s carbon footprint, according to the UK Government, so not only will you be reducing your plastic use, but also your carbon footprint.

2.    Promote your business with eco-friendly products

If you like a bit of swag to give to potential clients, you might have promotional items for your business. At the very least you’ll have business cards, but you might also have notebooks, pens, and highlighters that are printed or embossed with your logo. But these aren’t often made in green and sustainable ways. It is possible to find manufacturers that can offer eco-friendly products, such as Custom Planet, a printing and branding specialist that offers a selection of environmentally friendly promotional products, which have been manufactured using natural or recycled materials. They won’t increase your carbon footprint and are ideal for increasing brand awareness, plus recycled or upcycled material provides a positive talking point that shows you’re in step with wider consumer change.

3.    Swap to renewable energy sources

An increasing number of businesses are powering their premises and digital platforms using renewable sources, which is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Not only can this help to improve your green credentials, but it can save you money and reduce how much you rely on the world’s dwindling supply of fossil fuels. Consider using green website hosting, switching to a renewable energy provider or even installing solar panels, if you own your workspace. If you aren’t totally sold on the idea of switching to renewable energy, it’s well worth looking into the benefits. Conserve Energy Future has a list of nine ways businesses can benefit from renewable energy, which can give you more insight into why you should take advantage of this option.

4.    Encourage your staff to use greener forms of transport

Transport emissions are responsible for around 25% of the UK’s carbon footprint, according to the UK Government. If you can encourage staff to use greener forms of public transport, this could have a massive effect on the environmental impact of your business – vodka giants Absolut incorporated the concept in its ‘Nothing to Hide’ campaign to promote its sustainable business values. If you’re feeling particularly flush, you could look at electric or hybrid company cars, but the more budget options include carshare, cycling or walking to work schemes. The government’s Cycle to Work scheme can help employees save up to 39% on the cost of a bike and accessories. Flexible working hours can also help to reduce the carbon footprint of your employees’ commute. If they miss rush hour, they’ll spend far less time sitting in idle traffic, or if people are working from home, there’s no transport emissions at all.

5.    Recycle your electronics

We all have a printer that never works or mobile phones that look like ancient bricks but instead of throwing them in the bin, it might be worth looking at a more eco-friendly solution especially as the UK’s E-waste will hit 50 million tonnes by the end of 2018. Recycle Now can point you in the direction of a local recycling centre that will happily accept a lot of your electronics or you could donate them to a local electronics upcycling centre, which helps people to mend electronics instead of disposing of them.

All of these points might seem like small changes but together they can lead to big differences and a different mindset, where we don’t just throw things away but think about our actions as part of an interconnected, greener world