Sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips. It’s at the top of the business agenda and at the forefront of consumer minds, and is part of wider debate around climate change and the affect human activity has on the planet. There are numerous green investments we can make as business owners to manage the sustainability of our business operations and reduce the impact we have on the environment.
From revolutionizing our manufacturing to installing double glazed windows and switching to wind or solar energy, opportunities for green investments are not few and far between. Here’s five to consider for your business.
Energy Efficient Infrastructure (Building Heating and Lighting, Solar and Wind Energy)
Investing in the energy efficiency of your business properties is a relatively straightforward investment that can provide healthy financial returns. Lighting, heating insulation, and electricity all contribute to the carbon footprint of your company and if you occupy older buildings it is likely that inefficient infrastructure could be draining money at an alarming rate.
You should conduct an energy audit of your business properties to understand any areas that you can improve on. A professional audit can highlight weakness in your energy efficiency and recommend improvements to existing infrastructure to meet clear cut goals for reducing energy costs.
Switching to LEDs from old halogen lighting has the potential to reduce lighting costs by as much as 90%, with LEDs using five times less energy than traditional bulbs. If you operate large warehouses, switching high bay lighting from halogen lamps to LEDs will help you save significantly on lighting overheads given the high wattage lighting used in these places. Effective insulation should also be considered, especially on older buildings that were built to an outdated energy standard. Quality insulation will reduce the demand on your central heating system and developments could include double or triple window glazing, cavity wall insulation, and floor and ceiling insulation.
On top of reducing energy consumption with modern technologies like LEDs and insulation, renewable energy from wind and solar power can have huge financial benefits for your business and are readily available. Switching to green energy can involve building your own solar or wind farms or using contracted energy from green providers. Building your own solar or wind energy network is undoubtedly a huge investment of finance, time, and resources, and is perhaps best reserved for large companies and multinationals capable of taking on such a project. For smaller companies, switching to a green provider is much easier and quicker, and lower expenditure will not offset any financial returns gained from using solar and (or) wind energy.
Manufacturing processes are amongst the most polluting business actions that contribute the most damage to our environment. Eco friendly manufacturing refers to investment in carbon efficient machinery, sustainable resourcing, recycling and reusing materials, and using alternative energy sources, and infrastructure.
Upgrading business processes, especially manufacturing, is not a straightforward task. It is likely to be time consuming and expensive, while requiring acute organization to ensure manufacturing output is not reduced and any potential loss of revenue is minimized. The long-term benefits of adopting sustainability and green practices in your manufacturing processes can be significant. Any changes required for your business will be unique to the product or service which you supply and the outcome will vary by industry.
However, adopting a more sustainable business and manufacturing approach does have inherent business opportunities. Being a sustainable business means materials and processes have minimal waste and it will maximize efficiency where possible to both reduce damaging environmental waste products (pollution etc.) of business processes while also optimizing the cost of production. Nevertheless, a sustainable business is very appealing to the eco conscious consumer too who prefers natural, organic, and unmodified products where possible. The eco conscious consumer is a growing market audience who judge a product not only by its quality but by its sustainability standards and safeguards.
The UK uses more than 12 million tons of paper each year. This roughly equates to a forest the size of wales! Switching our business practices away from using paper materials to digital alternatives is not only better for the carbon footprint of your company but it’s better for your bank account too.
Switching to digital documentation means no need to buy and order physical paper, with less financial burden on the procurement and resourcing team and better organization using online services. Paper also needs toner, ink, and printers too, which means more savings that you can further invest in digital infrastructure and more green initiatives!
Electric Fleet Vehicles
Adopting electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles can lead to significant cuts to the carbon footprint of your company. In the UK, businesses are well supported to make the switch to electric business vehicles, with zero BIK tax rates on electric cars and various grants applicable on the purchases of EV and the installation of charge points on business premises.
Ultra-low emissions vehicles emit less than 75g/km of carbon and include EVs which emit 0 g/km. They are the future business vehicle for both pool cars, company cars, fleet vans, and machinery, with cheaper running and maintenance costs, and attractive tax incentives for both employers and their employees.
From April 5th 2021, company car drivers in the UK aren’t charged BIK tax on electric vehicles and this has huge personal wealth savings for your employees. For example, let’s look at a popular EV fleet vehicle, the new Fiat 500e. Compared to the alternative Fiat 500 Hybrid, employees can save as much £700 a year on company car tax and these savings are only going to increase as taxation on petrol and diesel vehicles increase in the coming years. Electric vehicles can also act as great incentives to both attract and retain employees at your company.
Embrace Employee Initiatives
The COVID pandemic has brought on a seismic shift in how we work. It has accelerated already growing trends towards remote working with employees being forced to work from home as nationwide lockdowns are introduced in the wake of the pandemic.
Revolutionizing our relationship with work is going to play a huge role in the battle for a carbon neutral economy, and how we travel to and from our place of employment is set to play a major part in this shift. A survey in September 2020 reported that commuting to work accounts for 25% of UK transport emissions, with suggestions that as much as 10 billion kg of carbon could be saved every year if alternative travel options like walking, cycling, and public transport were used more frequently.
While employers can’t directly manage the commuting habits of their employees, they can, without a doubt, influence their decisions and choices with thoughtful and well-organized initiatives to help employees be more eco-conscious. Setting up a car sharing scheme, participating in the bike to work scheme, rewarding employees for not driving to work, or implementing a remote working system are all tangible ways to reduce the impact of your business operations on the environment.