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How can businesses tackle environmental issues in the UK?

Written by Paula Devine | 25 May 2018

Regardless of size, offering, or sector, businesses have a duty to behave in an environmentally responsible way. 

The biggest and most prominent environmental issues in the UK today have been cited as air pollution, climate change, litter, waste and soil contamination. And the onus isn’t on businesses alone to tackle each and every one of these issues, with small incremental changes on a daily basis, change can occur on a wider scale.

The circular economy has gained traction in recent years, aiming to build a more regenerative economy; one where we extract the maximum value of materials and products while in use, recovering and regenerating them at the end of their service life. This concept underpins a new way of thinking and behaving that is slowly becoming a prerequisite for a sustainability in business.

Aside from boosting the economy, conserving the environment, and maximising resources, sustainability can have a positive impact on the overall success of a business. Enterprises that act in a more ethical and sustainable manner become more attractive to investors and employees, increase staff morale, and improve their reputation. People like to be associated with positive, proactive and responsible brands, and, according to Forbes, 65% of employees would seriously consider leaving their job if their company harmed the environment.

So there’s no denying the momentum of sustainability in business. But what can businesses do now to reevaluate their environmental strategy? We’ve put together a list of ‘quick wins’ to helps you start demonstrating a more socially proactive and ethical way of operating.

Be resource efficient

If a business produces waste, then there is a good chance they are wasting money. By making a conscious effort to mitigate waste and conserve energy resources, businesses can minimise their impact on environmental issues in the UK while significantly reducing their annual utility spend.

Being resource efficient is about delivering greater value with less input. The cost savings generated from conserving your resources can be reinvested into training staff, expanding departments or other areas that will improve the value of your business.

And we’re only talking about minor changes here. It can be as easy as turning down the lights off when a room is not in use, or switching off computers at the end of the day. Did you know that a single computer and monitor left on 24 hours a day can cost over £50 a year? These changes require minimal effort, but it’s those little milestones which are the key to bigger change in the future.

Think before you print

The most practical way to reduce waste is to avoid producing the waste in the first place. How many times have you over-ordered on things like business cards or brochures? You probably didn’t need 10,000 anyway, right?

Yes, paper is one of the most easily recyclable materials available, but that doesn’t give us free reign to act irresponsibly with.

We should really be thinking before we print. Businesses often opt for printed versions of their promotional materials when often, they are thrown away as soon as they are read.

We live in a digital age, so it pays to look out for digital alternatives when and where possible.

Consider digitising your promotional material during your quest for a reduced environmental footprint. It also means less physical clutter for the recipients, making them far more likely to hold onto it. In turning to digital, you could save resources, money, and the environment.

Or, how about a digital hiring process? With electronic CV submission and a Skype interview, you get pretty much the same results with less of the waste and pollution.

And if you absolutely must use paper, try and opt for recycled paper or paper that has been Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accredited.

Encourage environmentally friendly commuting

Our choice of travel can have an enormous impact on the environment.  Solo car journeys are a key player in that, and travelling alone in a large car can be as bad for the climate as air travel, arguably one of the biggest environmental issues in the UK.

Schemes such as Cycle to Work are infamous for their health and wellbeing advantages and environmental benefits. Not only do they contribute to a fitter, healthier and more loyal workforce, they cut the number of cars on the road, reduces our dependence on crude oil, and reduce our carbon footprint.  

If you really think about it, are there opportunities for members of your team to forgot the solo car journey? Cycling, walking, car-sharing, public transport - while they may not be practical for everyone, there’s a high chance a proportion of your workforce could switch to one of these alternatives rather than mindlessly jumping into the car every day. And, it’s a win-win decision, since it will slice their fuel spend and any wear and tear on their car.

Turn to your colleagues

Brainstorming ideas with your colleagues and team members can reveal opportunities for sustainable behaviour that might otherwise have been missed. According to Business Wales, employees’ ideas often result in savings of 5 to 10%.

With up and coming generations entering the workforce, most of whom have grown up in the midst of the global warming epidemic, they are more aware and knowledgeable of ethical and sustainably conscious behaviours. Involving your staff in wider decisions also makes for better staff morale, since they feel they are part of a positive change in the business.

Re-aligning your values will not only benefit your workforce, productivity, and your business’ overall success but will boost the economy and contribute towards a collective effort towards a more regenerative economy. The acts above were selected for this post because, while not overly onerous to implement, can make a staggering difference to the environmental issues in the UK. What’s more, once workers start to act in a more environmentally responsible way, they’ll take note of how simple it is, and hopefully look for other areas to replicate this behaviour.

If you already employ any of the aforementioned strategies, or you've devised your own approach to targetting the environmental issues in the UK, we'd love to hear from you.


Topics: Uncategorized, environmental advocacy

Paula Devine

Written by Paula Devine

Paula is Head of Membership and Global Services at Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce.

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