Earth Day 2022: How can I make my business more sustainable?

22 April 2022 is Earth Day, a global day of action and thought for furthering environmental sustainability aims. The Earth Day theme for 2022 is Invest in our Planet. One way of doing this is by investing in making your business greener. This is essential for contributing to mitigating climate catastrophe, and it is increasingly seen to be correlated with stronger business performance.

So, as a small or medium-sized business (SME) owner, what can you do to increase your business’ sustainability credentials?

The essentials

We’ve all been told many times to recycle and refuse plastic bags. But these small actions aren’t insignificant. In business, as in everyday life, habitual changes have a powerful collective impact. Some other habitual changes you can make include: 

  • encouraging employees to use reusable coffee cups, water bottles and take out containers. You could provide branded versions, to promote your business whilst reducing waste
  • avoiding printing documents, invoices and bills
  • using environmentally cleaning products (eg in your office kitchen)
  • using recyclable or eco-friendly packaging and shipping for any of your products
  • encouraging cycling (eg by helping employees purchase bicycles through the Cyclescheme)

Think about food

Our food consumption habits are dangerously unsustainable. Our current food system relies on practices including:

Consider encouraging your workers to eat in a way that tackles these issues. For example, by changing your in-house menu or consciously choosing where you eat out as a team. Consider: 

Evaluate your supply chains

Most businesses’ work leads them to interact with many other businesses – from the business that advertises your products, to the business you buy the office coffee from. Every business relationship you form contributes to how environmentally conscious your own business model is. When deciding to buy from or contract someone to perform a service, you should consider: 

  • how sustainable their products are, based on what they’re made out of and how they were produced and transported (eg plastic products made abroad in an unknown factory are unlikely to be sustainable)
  • whether they have environmental policies and procedures in place (eg are they a B Corp? Do they pay farmers well for their coffee beans? Do contractors use environmentally friendly practices in their offices, or products in yours (eg cleaning products)?)
  • whether they use unnecessary packaging to ship their products to you 

Improve your premises

If your business has an office space, you should make sure that this space is as environmentally friendly as possible. You could: 

Encourage remote work

The Covid-19 pandemic introduced many to the advantages of working from home. The office still has many advantages, but hybrid working should be encouraged on environmental grounds. Working from home reduces the emissions caused by commuting, reduces the need for energy to heat and light larger office spaces, and may encourage people to buy less food and drink in disposable packaging. Consider creating a Working from home policy to outline how employees can work remotely. 

 

The suggestions above provide a starting point for decreasing your SME’s environmental impact. There is always more to do. Consider incorporating sustainability more fundamentally into your business, for example by setting out an Environmental policy or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy, or by becoming a B Corp. Do not hesitate to Ask a lawyer if you have any questions.

India Hyams

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