Marketing Director of financial services firm Maxxia, Catherine Dawson, offers small businesses tips on how they can reduce their carbon emissions.
While our here and now is being dominated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, experts warn not to ignore the potentially greater danger of climate change.
Our collective response to the coronavirus outbreak shows that dramatic action is possible. Yet, the threat of climate change is struggling to gain the magnitude of change needed.
Is climate change too abstract?
In the battle against COVID-19, we’re told to cough into our elbows, wash our hands, stay at home. All doing our bit to help slow the spread of the disease.
Whilst not desirable, it’s pretty simple to understand. And we are told it’s working.
Many of the messages around climate change feel insurmountable. How can we put out a forest fire, or stop a glacier from thawing? It needs to be translated into practical and achievable actions to avoid the ‘I can’t make a difference’ mindset.
How businesses can make a difference
There are several reasons why a business may be looking to improve its environmental credentials and reduce its carbon footprint. These range from social conscience or commercial opportunities, through to cost-saving.
Government regulation is going to be a major factor as new policies are implemented to force change to meet the nation’s climate targets. An example of this is the forthcoming ban on new diesel and petrol car sales (initially set for 2040 but brought forward to 2035, with rumours of it potentially being brought forward a few years more).
Whatever the initial driver, it’s not difficult to get started.
For larger organisations or those wanting to make a significant change, there are specialist providers that can help with carrying out an audit and creating a plan.
Smaller businesses may not have the budget or be ready for this at the beginning. Maxxia, an asset finance company that helps customers find finance for energy-efficient projects such as renewable energy or LED lighting installations, has created a simple guide to reducing your business carbon footprint.
How to start
Rather than jumping straight in, it’s always worth spending a little bit of time creating a plan. A very simple framework is:
Get a ‘stake in the ground’ to give the starting point against which you can measure success. This can also help you to determine the areas which may be the biggest contributors or the quick wins.
With an understanding of the current carbon emissions, you can decide what is a sensible target to aim towards.
This will be different for each organisation depending on activities, size, etc. There are some ideas of areas to look at below. And, of course, you should involve your business colleagues who will be able to help contribute ideas.
Shifting to a lower carbon future will need the buy-in of all involved in the business to make it successful. Involving employees and making sure there’s regular communication are critical to a successful implementation.
How can companies reduce their carbon footprint?
Reducing carbon emissions or moving towards being carbon zero could be a massive undertaking. But it doesn’t have to be as some simple things can be done fairly easily.
Here are some simple actions which make a great starting point:
1. Reduce travel
Physical meetings, especially those requiring flights can be, in many cases, replaced by teleconferencing or videoconferencing. Not only does this save the flight cost but there are usually accommodation costs, as well as significant time savings.
2. Remote working
The coronavirus lockdown has proven for many that jobs can be done remotely. This allows employees to avoid the daily commute, saving time and money. Review how to incorporate remote working on an on-going basis, where applicable. It doesn’t need to be 100%; a day or two a week can make a difference.
3. Eliminating waste
Look for opportunities across the organisation to reduce waste. This could be anything from reducing paper use, limiting single-use plastic cups or cutlery, and reducing food waste, through to a review of manufacturing processes.
Consider the replacement cycle of IT equipment and reuse or recycle as much as possible.
4. Switch to renewable energy suppliers
There are many providers offering green electricity tariffs – and costs can be lower than the traditional tariffs.
5. Reduce email
Estimates suggest that an average business user creates 135kg of CO2 equivalent from their email activity in a year. This is the equivalent of driving 200 miles in a family car!
This is such an easy area to cut down. Skipping unnecessary emails, such as a ‘thank you’ email can collectively add up to a substantial saving. Similarly, minimising attachments and not sending to unnecessary recipients, e.g. replying to all if not needed, will not only reduce carbon but it will free up our heaving email boxes and save time.
There is much more that can be done – some of which will require an initial investment or a business case. For many organisations, right now may not be the time for a major investment. And for others, it might be a perfect time!
Whatever your situation, there’s something that can be started, however small. And many carbon reduction activities will bring additional business benefits, such as cost savings which is a win-win.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.