Every Little Counts: Small, Simple Steps to Make Your Business More Sustainable

With endless financial demands on business owners, it can seem a little overwhelming to keep up with sustainability targets. Luckily, being green is easier than you might think.

It isn’t necessary to radically alter your business or make dramatic structural changes to make it more sustainable. In fact, taking small, manageable steps will help ensure your company reaches its long-term goals rather than stumbling at the first, too-tall hurdle.

Here are some of the simple, low-cost ways your business can become more sustainable.

Create a Recycling Policy

Chucking empty toner cartridges, piles of paper and drinks cans in the bin can make a huge dent on your pocket by increasing waste disposal costs. It also has a big environmental impact.

According to government-backed Waste Resources Action Programme, or WRAP, businesses are responsible for a quarter of all UK waste. The organisation estimates that increasing recycling and reprocessing could amount to a UK-wide increase in revenue of £430 million and a 4.5 million tonne reduction in CO2 emissions.

So combatting recycling is a crucial, and relatively simple, move for businesses.

It could mean holding an awareness day for staff and colleagues to highlight the impact recycling can make, both financially and environmentally.

Or it could be as simple as laminating a couple of sheets with recycling instructions and sticking them above the office swing-tops. Speaking of which, investing just a little in sleek, colour-coded bins could be a good way to encourage employees to take notice.

You could also try this sneaky trick—remove bins from under your employees’ desks, forcing them to get up and walk to your swanky new recycling station.

Unfollow the Paper Trail

According to WRAP, paper makes up between 60 and 80 per cent of office waste. ORS Group reports that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year, 68 per cent of which is considered to be unnecessary.

If you and/or others within your business are still printing out invoices or (shudder) every single email, then this is an easy win.

Create a policy of only printing out documents that are really necessary—we’re talking contracts, not an email from Greg on the art desk asking about your lunch plans.

Even then, there are several new apps and programs that can help you go completely paperless. DocuSign allows contracts to be digitally signed, for example, while QuickBooks Accounting offers a bookkeeping method without actual books.

File-sharing through apps like Box, where colleagues can collaborate, review and edit documents in real time, are also helping to reduce print-outs. Surely anything that helps eliminate piles of random paper cluttering up your desk can only be a good thing?

Light Bulb Moment

Many of these steps aren’t just about being responsible and doing your bit for a sustainable future. They also have the knock-on effect of improving the reputation of your business and, in many cases, saving money by cutting down on waste and trimming unnecessary expense.

Energy is an obvious example. Keeping office lights on when no one’s in that part of the building, or having the radiators on when the weather is actually quite balmy, are common habits. And how many offices, big and small, have computers buzzing away all night, switched to sleep or standby rather than off? It can all add up to a huge bill, for the company and the environment.

Thankfully, these really are easy fixes. Implement a policy that all machines are switched off when not in use, lower the thermostat (though, obviously, don’t let anyone freeze), and switch to energy-efficient light bulbs. You won’t have to change them as often, either.

Ditch the Car Pool

It’s tricky to avoid travel completely. You have clients to meet and suppliers or collaborators to liaise with. You may also have employees who need to travel, too, often at the last-minute.

So having a company vehicle or car fleet seems to make sense. You can hop in and drive to that site visit without having to ring around rental companies or pay for a taxi.

But the Zipcar ride-sharing app effectively supplies a car pool without requiring you to own a single vehicle. Instead, you can unlock the vehicle you need when you need it, and only pay for the length of time you need it for, be that two days or 22 minutes.

The app allows you to give colleagues and employees access, and tracks usage and costs in one simple tracker. Zipcar is also rolling out a fleet of electric vehicles in London—another switch to help your business become more sustainable.

Chain Reaction

However, all this might seem futile, and have little impact on your sustainability rating, if suppliers and companies you’re linked to don’t share the same values.

Take some time to examine companies in your supply chain, looking particularly at waste disposal, recycling and transportation. Think about switching any that don’t fit the ethical and environmentally aware model you’re striving towards. You never know, your actions could inspire other businesses to follow suit.

Matt Farrelly
Matt is our Head of Zipcar for Business and spends a lot of his time thinking about how we can deliver a better future, of more sustainable business transport in our cities. The rest of the time he's likely to be found either with his head in a book, playing tennis or continuing his attempt to break the world record for weekend Netflix binges.

Date published: 5 September 2018

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