Creating an Environmentally Sustainable Business

  • ISO 14001

We can’t realistically claw back the damage we’ve already done to the environment – despite some claims the Ozone layer might be repairing itself – but that’s not to say sustaining what we have left isn’t possible. Businesses are at the forefront of this, owing to the massive impact they have on global well-being. Let’s take a detailed look at how enterprises can contribute towards sustainability.

The Importance of Sustainable Businesses

It’s not unreasonable to suggest the current environmental state of the Earth is a lot worse than most people realise. While we don’t know exactly when natural resources will run out completely, most estimations point towards a period within the next 100 years. The infographic below highlights the alarming state the world is in, with the thick sections showing the year resources will run out if used at the current rate, and the thin end showing the time period resources will be expended if we introduce sustainability measures:

It’s crucial for businesses to appreciate four critical factors:

  • We can’t continue to believe there are an unlimited number of natural resources
  • Renewable resources are not intrinsically unlimited
  • There’s no guarantee (in fact, it’s very unlikely) we’ll be able to find a scientific or technical solution to provide us with endless resources
  • There is no way to ensure the future of humanity while following our current path

Drastic, but accurate, points. The importance of sustainability is becoming one of the most crucial factors in the future of mankind. Businesses should begin adopting policies which address the need to be more conservative with these resources, if we want to avoid a reality where we cannot sustain ourselves.

Environmentally Friendly Business Benefits

There are a range of benefits to take advantage of when it comes to a more environmental outlook in your organisation. Business owners have the potential to make a huge impact on the global footprint. This would benefit both the planet and their company.

  • Boost sustainability – As we’ve discovered, the necessity to sustain what we have is becoming increasingly urgent. However, aside from the sustainability factor of the greater environment, you’ll also gain an economic advantage over competitors. The less dependent you are on natural resources (which will be in a shortage in years to come), the quicker you’ll be able to adapt and evolve. Read our guide on how to write your sustainability policy for your business for more information.
  • Improve public relations – The public perception of a company which doesn’t utilise hazardous or limited supplies will always be a positive one – at least from an environmental perspective. Consumers are more likely to do business with an organisation who are environmentally aware.
  • Save on costs – Reducing your energy consumption output will also save money. The American conglomerate DuPont have saved as much as $6 billion since 1990, thanks to reducing their carbon emission rates by 72%. Even smaller companies can save as a result of something as simple as reducing energy bills. For more information, read our article about carbon neutral companies and how you can improve your businesses carbon footprint.
  • Attract more employees and investors – Young people looking for work will naturally be more attracted to a business which shows a clear awareness of the impact they’re having. Reputation is more important in the 21st century than it ever has been before. Do you want your business to appear slightly behind the times with your approach to environmental issues? This will impact you negatively with not only potential job applicants, but also investors. They won’t want their name associated with an organisation that doesn’t value global issues.
  • Provide a healthier workplace – It’s something which can be overlooked, but having a clean, healthy and pollutant-free workplace is naturally beneficial to companies. You reduce the risk of causing passive harm to an employee, and will again boost your public image. The British Assessment Bureau provide training to improve your companies environmental awareness.

Environmental Business Ideas for Sustainability

Now you have a list of reasons why it would benefit your business, it’s only natural you’ll want to learn how to make your current organisation greener. There are a number of steps which have the potential to transform even the most polluting work environment into one which is healthy for everyone.

  • Set up a tree-planting scheme – If you feel you aren’t giving enough back as a business, you could always set-up a scheme to take an active step in environmental conservation. A perfect way to do this would be to donate a tree – or even plant one yourself – every time a certain goal is met within your company. This can be financial or personal.
  • Turn off equipment – although a growing proportion of electricity is now supplied by renewables, the majority of electricity is still generated by burning fossil fuels. Turning off your computers, printers, air conditioning and lighting when not in use will not only reduce your carbon footprint, it will also save your business money.
  • Reduce paper wastage – It might be surprising in an era as technologically driven as this, but paper wastage is still a contributing factor to environmental damage. The best bet here is to try and cut out paper usage altogether – but this isn’t always possible. If you have to use paper, try a recycled eco-friendly option.
  • Pay attention to water usage – It’ll make a big difference by ensuring water isn’t allowed to go to waste. Turn taps as tightly as possible to prevent drips and avoid running water if they’re not in use. Act quickly if you detect a leak. This will help your profit margins, as well as conserve water levels.
  • Think about your equipment suppliers – Some suppliers will provide packaging for reuse. This means the items delivered to you come in specialist containers, which can be recycled and used again. If you’re adopting a policy which sees a greener work environment, make sure you’re sticking to your principles across the board.
  • Try to source everything locally – The further an item travels, the more of an effect it’ll have on the environment. When you research services or products you’d like to make use of in your business, bear in mind how green they themselves are. Your best option from an environmental perspective is to rely on providers who are within a 10 to 15-mile radius.
  • Use CFL or LED lighting – Despite costing more than standard bulbs, both compact-fluorescent (CFL) and LED lights have economic and environmental benefits. While that initial price might be steeper, Forbes suggest you can save as much as £155 a year (per bulb) by utilising these energy-saving devices.
  • Get an energy audit – Arguably the most professional approach to adopting a more environmentally friendly outlook, hiring someone to provide you with an energy audit could have a long-term impact. Finding out where you’re leaking energy will serve to save resources and money at the same time.

Linking Environmental Sustainability to a Business’ Long Term Plans

The best way to guarantee you’ll successfully implement an environmental plan of action which works, is by developing it around your core long-term values. Having strategies which are integrated with your green approach will make it a lot easier to successfully adapt to your new environmentally friendly way of life.

Some useful suggestions in this regard include:

1) Integrate environmental factors into all business decisions

When you’re making decisions, consider the impact it will have on the environment. Is what you’re doing going to have a negative effect in any way? If so, don’t follow through with it. If you want to truly make being greener a primary concern for your company, you need to treat these factors as importantly as you would do any other business decisions.

2) Appoint a chief sustainability officer (and give them power)

Bring in someone with the specific purpose of monitoring and taking your global impact into account. You can either hand this title to a pre-existing member of staff, or go as far as to find somebody who specialises in the field.

Perhaps most importantly, they can’t just be a visual force – they need legitimate power to have a say regarding decisions a company makes. This needs to be largely focused around financial planning. They can ensure there’s money being invested towards sustaining the more environmentally friendly outlook.

3) Introduce metrics related to environmental importance

Make goals and targets you want to hit related to the environment. Also encourage your suppliers to equal or even better these values. If you’re approached by a company who don’t adhere to these core environmental practices, it would be advisable to avoid using their services.

4) Make it a core value of your workforce

You can’t just implement a new strategy when it comes to business decisions. It’s crucial to integrate it at the most important level of all – among your workforce. Make sure they’re given a clear outline of the importance of their impact, and potentially even make awareness of the environment a small part of their plan of progression.

Creating a sustainable business is important for public perception and global wellbeing, it is also important to consider business obligations and environmental laws.

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Written by Mark Nutburn

CTO - technology professional with over 20 years of IT experience building bespoke CRM systems and designing customised software solutions. A key part of the management team at The British Assessment Bureau for many years and a part of AMTIVO’s management team.

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