In our previous article, Marketing Sustainability: A Force for Good, we shared the reasons why sustainability should be on the agenda for every SME. This second article explores the practical steps that can be taken, along with resources, to make it easier for your business to go green…
Corporate Social Responsibility isn’t about ticking a box or a great PR stunt, it brings genuine value to businesses, customers and the environment. Approach sustainability as part of your business continuity planning. It is an effective way to manage finite resources, improve efficiency and mitigate risks.
When sustainability underpins strategic planning, it also becomes a powerful marketing tool. Taking action will help your business to remain relevant, competitive and profitable in an ever-changing market. As employees are increasingly attracted to brands with an environmental agenda, it also increases the chances of attracting talent.
This article explores the practical steps that can be taken, along with resources, to make it easier to go green.
SMEs taking Collective Action on Sustainability
One SME cannot reduce global carbon emissions, prevent habitat destruction or influence consumer purchases, but thousands can. This is the vision of COP26, a UN initiative to put sustainability at the heart of every business.
In October, COP26, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will be held in Glasgow. This follows on from the 2015 Paris Agreement. The aim is to move member countries towards a position of Net Zero and to protect communities and habitats around the world. These goals cannot be achieved without buy-in from businesses large and small.
According to Government statistics on emissions, UK businesses currently contribute 17% of the nation’s greenhouse gases through energy use, transport, supply chains and waste management.
The SME Climate Hub provides information to help SMEs reduce emissions and champion sustainability. Your business can commit and become part of the solution. By engaging customers in your story, it is also possible to encourage them to make more informed choices.
Sustainability Actions for SMEs
Here are some achievable sustainability actions for SMEs. This is not an exhaustive list, but it shows that there are many small steps that every SME could adopt to reduce their environmental impact.
- Increase Energy Efficiency
Install LED lighting, enhance insulation and switch to a renewable energy supplier. Instil a culture where it is second nature to switch off lights, heating and appliances when not in use. Install an energy meter to measure and better manage energy use.
- Improve Waste Management
Develop production methods that reduce, reuse and recycle materials, water and energy. It could be as simple as not printing documents unless necessary, installing recycling bins or creating a new product from offcuts.
- Include Sustainability in Training & Development
Embedding the sustainability agenda in all training and development activities will encourage ethical decisions from every member of the team. Embedding environmental awareness and actions internally will help to develop a greener company culture.
- Scrutinise Supply Chains
When sourcing packaging and raw materials consider more than just price. How are your suppliers embracing sustainability? Their actions can enhance your offer to customers. As an example, order boxes from an FSC Accredited supplier and discuss packaging redesign to remove the plastic and encourage recycling.
- Reduce Vehicle Emissions
Could your company incentivise employees to walk or cycle to work? An option could be to install bike racks and offer a Cyclescheme. Continuing to favour virtual meetings over travel to physical meetings is another easy step.
There are also significant tax benefits for companies investing in electric vehicles and chargers. As petrol and diesel-fuelled cars will not be on sale from 2030, this should already be part of your business continuity planning.
- Be Selective about Investment
Whether seeking investment or becoming an investor, opt for companies that can demonstrate strong ethical and environmental credentials.
- Use Marketing Opportunities to Promote Sustainability
Marketing has always been about influencing purchasing decisions. Incorporating your sustainability story into your marketing plan can inspire customer’s desire for ethical purchases.
- Engage with Environmental Campaigns
Support local, national or global campaigns that raise environmental awareness and encourage behavioural change. These could tie in with actions that offset carbon emissions, such as tree planting or habitat protection.
Purpose Beyond Profit
If the idea of working towards something bigger than the boundaries of your business appeals, there are plenty of sources of information, inspiration and support. Here are three to get you started:
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) supports the COP26 agenda. Their website includes practical advice on sustainability. This includes articles on calculating carbon footprint, reducing carbon emissions and carbon offset.
The Good Business Festival has been postponed, but this event promises to bring together forward-thinking minds, good practice policies and innovative ideas to drive positive change. The website contains a journal of impactful stories of businesses as catalysts for change.
The Carbon Trust provides a range of resources aimed to inform and support businesses with carbon reduction initiatives.
Low Carbon Workspaces offers information and grants of £1,000 – £5,000 to cover a third of sustainable projects in commercial spaces in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire.