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Small business guide: quick wins to reduce your environmental impact

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There are a number of relatively easy 'quick wins' your business can achieve to reduce its carbon emissions.

These steps will not only reduce your carbon footprint, but many could also increase your businesses efficiency and save costs, all of which can positively impact your bottom line.


Whether or not your business has already started to quantify its carbon emissions, these simple suggestions can get you started on the right path.

We’ve compiled this list of suggestions to help you reduce your carbon footprint.

Who's it for?

This guide is for small businesses looking to make a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint.

1. Engaging your employees and suppliers

Small businesses need to identify solutions that can significantly reduce the environmental impacts of their organisation and inspire behaviour change across their workforce. These changes can help the wider business achieve environmental targets. 

Behaviour change can be implemented most often at a lower cost than installation of physical measures or savings from installed measures. Behaviour is just as important an opportunity to reduce your companies emissions and energy bills.  

Different strategies your organisation could look to implement include, setting up a working group or establishing a champion to motivate staff on specific aspects of your environmental policy, using employee incentives to help reach targets and creating a feedback loop to encourage active participation. 

2. Purchase Eco-friendly Products

With a little bit of time and attention to detail, buying eco-friendly is an easy habit to introduce, once you have adjusted your mind-set. Focus on purchasing recycled or re-usable products, as this will greatly reduce your workplace's volume of “mixed waste”. Also, be conscious of the packaging of the products and services you procure or deliver.

Becoming paperless can be beneficial for the environment and for your small business at the same time.

3. Paperless Office

Folders and cabinets full of paper are not the most practical in our digital world and can lead to office inefficiencies. Try to avoid printing altogether by encouraging electronic-only communication and document storage. The savings and benefits can be significant, and include reductions in paper waste, ink cartridges and electricity. For example, a small business of less than 10 people, gradually went paperless and in its first year saved more than £6,000 in paper ink cartridges and hardware. A saving that went straight to its bottom line and considerably increased profit.

4. Recycling

Recycling is arguably one of easiest ways to reduce waste and improve resource efficiency in the workplace. A best practice office will be operating efficient recycling schemes for paper, cardboard, glass, cans, food waste and toner cartridges, at the very minimum. Ensure your waste collection is reliable, and regular. Ensure any private waste collection suppliers are reputable. Enquire and ask for references for how the company treats and processes waste.

57.4 million tonnes of e-waste was produced globally in 2021, an increase of more than 21% compared to five years prior.

5. E-waste

57.4 million tonnes of e-waste was produced globally in 2021, an increase of more than 21% compared to five years prior. There are facilities that wipe clean and take apart hardware, and recycle the internal parts in the UK and/or export overseas. Find your nearest e-disposal location and make the effort to drop off your e-waste.

6. Lighting

Try to make the most of natural light wherever possible by opening blinds and curtains, and positioning desk stations closer to the light. This reduces the need for powered lighting. Research also shows that natural light has a number of health and well-being benefits, such as being a source of vitamin D as well as boosting employee productivity. Choose LED lights over other lightbulbs as they are significantly more energy efficient. Install timers on your lighting and/or motion activated light sensors which will turn on for a designated period of time, or whenever there is activity in the room.

7. Power-off

Electronic machines and equipment that are plugged in but not being used/on standby, account for a considerable amount of electricity consumption. Encourage employees to unplug devices and turn off machines when not in use. This is especially true of computers and monitors, where it is common to leave them not only plugged in but also switched on in screen saver mode. Switching devices off will also boost your organisation’s cyber security.

Start your heating and cooling reduction strategy by evaluating your current behaviour before jumping into the procurement and installation of heat pumps and other products.

8. Heating and cooling

Understand how the heating and cooling systems in your workplace operate and take advantage of any energy efficient settings that are built in. For example, you may be able to use timers or sensors to control your energy output. Turn off heating and cooling in unoccupied rooms and ensure windows and doors are closed when using heating or air-conditioning to optimise efficiency. The optimisation and regular servicing of your boilers is key. In the summer, if it’s not too hot and it's secure to do so, open windows instead of opting for air-con. Start your heating and cooling reduction strategy by evaluating your current behaviour before jumping into the procurement and installation of heat pumps and other products.

9. Insulation

It's almost meaningless to focus on heating and cooling without considering the insulation of your building. Check your windows are properly sealed when closed and with no drafts. The same goes for doors and door frames. Address and fix all drafts. Ensure your roof and, where relevant, walls are properly and evenly insulated with environmentally sustainable insulation. Again, start your energy efficiency journey by evaluating your current set up properly, before jumping into the procurement of new insulation products.

10. Renewable energy provision and Green Energy Tariffs

Switching to renewable energy sources and tariffs will enable your business to reduce its carbon emissions from energy. Renewable energy options can include solar power, wind energy, hydroelectric power and biomass. Whilst renewable energy solutions may require a larger initial financial investment, the long-term savings your organisation can make ensures that they are worthwhile.

11. Conserve water

Keep unnecessary water usage to a minimum by fixing leaks within pipes or taps. Consider fitting low-flow aerator taps or electronic taps with sensors which will not only reduce the amount of water used but also improve hygiene. Ensure dishwashers are full before starting a wash cycle. Many organisations now have filtered boiling hot water taps fitted so employees can make individual hot drinks rather than over-filling the kettle with water. Only using exactly the amount of water you need will make a big difference over time.

12. Review your pension fund

Many pension funds have investments in high greenhouse gas emitting industries, but pension funds can also be part of the solution. Your employees will likely want increased transparency and reassurance that the pension funds your company invests in are not negatively impacting the environment and accelerating climate change. Setting up a sustainable pension is one of the most powerful tools you have at our disposal to minimise your organisation’s climate footprint. Investigate your current pension portfolio and make the switch to ethical, validated green pension funds.

13. Gather feedback and communicate progress

Sustainability, climate action and business reputation are now interlinked. Employees, in particular the younger generations, want to work for employers with a strong social outlook and conscience. Having a clear and measurable climate action plan will make your business a more desirable employer to work for.

Communication is a key way of ensuring everyone’s involvement in implementing more sustainable practices across your organisation. Make sure that everyone understands the why, the what and the how behind your carbon reduction strategies. Sharing regular feedback on targets and the achievements to staff also helps to maximise employee engagement and drives behavioural change. Reward individuals and teams on their achievements.

14. Measurement and tracking

Measure and benchmark everything in relation to your environmental impact, consumption and expeniture, wherever possible.

The three most common metrics include your carbon, water and ecological footprints.

Sustainability reporting is already mandatory in larger organisations and the requriement will soon filter down to smaller organisations. The sooner your business starts to embed environmental change, and record its climate position the better.

Carbon footprint calculations are also a sensible form of risk management for any small business to enable you to make quick decisions regarding future legislation changes, supply chain disruption and hikes in the price of energy. Calculating your carbon footprint, and working to reduce it, can lead to cost savings for your business too.

Working with Climate Action for Associations

We are working with the team at Climate Action for Associations (CAFA) to provide small businesses with practical guidance, steps and checklists to support your low carbon journey. CAFA are dedicated to accelerating business and industry climate action. CAFA provide resources, tools, guidance and peer to peer learning to drive greater, and quicker, climate action across whole systems, industries and supply chains.

This Small Business Guide to Sustainability Quick Wins is just one of many straight-talking resources prepared by CAFA that we will be sharing to help you implement climate action in your business.

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