Does taking a more environmentally positive approach in your business feel like a chore? Does the thought of an increased workload and additional costs—all for no return—put you off?
If you answered yes, you might want to think again as Kent County Council’s Chris Bell explains how considering the environment needn’t be a burden and could in fact net you both cost savings and new business.
When some people think about the environment or “green stuff”, they switch off. In my experience of working with businesses, to some, it is seen as the preserve of big international companies with lots of resources or solar panel installers, or perhaps it just conjures up images of grubby people in scratchy brown clothes and no shoes hugging trees.
If these are the images that come to mind for you, it’s possible that you’re missing out on a variety of benefits for your business: financial savings and, as a bonus, lower risk and enhanced corporate reputation too. Virtually every company of any size in any sector will be able to take actions to save themselves money and perhaps win new business as well – it’s just good business sense.
For many businesses a 20% reduction in energy costs represents the same bottom line increase as a 5% uplift in sales
As corporate social responsibility grows in the public awareness, firms that can demonstrate they are avoiding wasteful practices, using low environmental impact options, or even creating their own energy using renewable technology, tend to be looked on more favourably by potential customers and partners when comparing the market. Environmental accreditations such as ISO14001, the international standard for environmental management, can be a sought-after piece of certification to hold, especially when it comes to working in the supply chain of national and international companies.
Starting more tangibly, however, an obvious, measurable benefit can be achieved through reducing all kinds of wastage in your day to day business operations.
Materials taken for waste collection and running clean water down the drain are both wasteful practices which should be minimised wherever possible to avoid both the environmental impact and the needless cost.
A main area of wastage for many businesses though is energy use. Saving money instead of wasting it through inefficient, old or unsuitable, lighting, heating, cooling, plant, and machinery can be achieved with minimal or even no disruption to day-to-day business.
According to the Carbon Trust, low and no-cost actions can usually reduce your energy costs by at least 10%. Additionally, for many businesses, a 20% reduction in energy costs represents the same bottom line increase as a 5% uplift in sales. There’s no need to immediately look at replacing lights or installing renewables. It makes far more sense to first make more rational use of the resources you already have before you look to spend anything on new systems as the following diagram shows.
- Reduce the need for energy. Switch off appliances and machinery, don’t light and heat areas unnecessarily. Consider if insulation and airtightness is sufficient.
- Use energy more efficiently. Replace inefficient or unsuitable equipment and fittings with something more appropriate to make the best use of the energy you’re paying for.
- Supply energy from renewable sources. Install Solar PV panels, a ground source heat pump or a biomass boiler. Many renewables also attract government incentives.
- Ensure that any continuing use of fossil fuels should use clean technologies and be efficient. For most of us, fossil fuels still make financial sense. However, make sure any boilers, generators, engines etc. are efficient and run as “cleanly” as they can.
Some quick wins can be achieved for minimal cost and time on your part, while some investments in targeted areas for your business could pay themselves back in a couple of years, especially if you obtain grant funding to help you pay for the measures you install.
Help is available
The Uprising Report by ad agency 18 Feet & Rising found that eight in ten SMEs want to introduce more sustainable and ethical actions in the next five years but were struggling due to the current business climate. They found 40% believed that expense was preventing them from implementing sustainable practices, while 42% thought the UK Government wasn’t taking enough action to encourage these sustainable practices. 88% of those who responded to the survey said they valued sustainability, but 70% had struggled to embed practices and strategies.
If you fit into this majority, the good news is there are a variety of energy grants out there currently driven by the Government’s desire to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy security and improve public health. Kent County Council is currently delivering the Low Carbon Across the South East (LoCASE) programme, which can deliver funding of up to £10,000 to support energy efficiency projects and help businesses in the “green” sector develop. Free workshops are also being laid on to help understand the principles of Environmental Management – most of these principles are underpinned by sound business practice.
The Carbon Trust also has a Green Business Fund which, while not quite as generous in its financial support, can be combined with the KCC grant to help cover even more of the cost of a project.
Funding programmes can often provide support and advice on how best to use their money, so even someone unsure of where to start should get in touch.
Attend Kent Vision Live 2018 and you will be able to speak with Chris and colleagues from the LoCASE team in the Low Carbon Zone. Alternatively, you can visit locase.co.uk for more details of the support available to businesses.