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Practical advice for reducing environmental impact in business

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Businesses are constantly looking to improve their environmental impact, and rightly so. With pressure from governments and global targets, as well as business-specific goals, SMEs and FTSE 500s alike are always trying to implement the best, most sustainable practices. Not only do positive changes within businesses benefit the environment, but also businesses themselves; appealing to environmentally conscious consumers, saving money, and creating a long-lasting impact they can be proud of.

However, knowing where to start and how to implement changes for the benefit of the environment can be challenging. There are a plethora of ways businesses can reduce environmental impact, but often they are not practical, and instead require methodical planning. Whether there are logistic issues, low budget, or even lack of support from stakeholders, not all environmental initiatives for businesses are as simple as they may first appear.

Here at Sustainit, we help businesses and organisations collect and manage their sustainability data in efficient and change-inducing ways. With better understanding and data management, businesses can successfully implement environmentally friendly practices with measurable results. Below is our practical advice for reducing environmental impact within a business, including key preparation steps to consider.

Read Time
3 mins
Julia Anukam

Utilise business data

A huge but often overlooked component of good environmental practice for business, data is critical to effective and practical changes. Businesses can’t set targets and pull ideas for better environmental impact from thin air; data and current usage stats can create an awareness of areas to focus on and improve. By assessing where they currently stand in terms of environmental impact and use of resources, businesses can better plan and initiate impactful change.

This is achievable with simple assessments of current data streams or through the use of specialised EHS (Environmental, Health, and Safety) software. This technology is used by businesses to manage all corporate sustainability data, compliance information, and activities. Learn more about this software and how it can benefit your business and environmental goals here. To find the right EHS for your business, check out our own tool (insert link once ready) developed to compare and rank EHS systems according to your business’ goals and budget.

When looking at business environmental data, some businesses may focus on just one aspect, such as water use, energy consumption, or even the use of printing, whereas others may do a total audit of all business practices and materials. Both strategies result in highlighted areas for improvement around a business. For example, when examining electricity use in the business premises, it may be found that lights are unnecessarily left on, so motion sensors and LED bulbs can be employed to reduce wasted energy. Or, by looking at spend on energy, a business may find that installing renewable energy solutions could save money and the environment in the long run.

From these reviews of current data, businesses can create practical targets, made realistic by the foundation in real-world information. Reducing carbon emissions by a certain percentage in a certain time frame, for example, will be more achievable for a business that understands their current carbon footprint and how it is created.

See more: How to Become a Carbon Neutral Business

Communicate environmental strategy

It’s one thing to create a strategy outlining how a business will reduce its environmental impact, but it’s another to present this in digestible and persuasive ways to employees and stakeholders. Plain presentations littered with jargon and lacking in evidence may fall on deaf ears and fail to enthuse the audience. This is especially key for persuading stakeholders of business

decisions, who may need persuasive rhetoric to accept changes.

Clear data presentation, with simple statements and visual elements like graphs help to display information in an engaging and compelling way. Having a clear strategy broken down into key stages, as well as data-backed arguments and future projections, not only explain how the business’ environmental impact will be reduced, but the long-term benefits this will provide. With a blinding presentation of data and strategy, stakeholders will be

enthralled with passion and sure to back any environmental changes.

For help presenting your data in insightful, informative ways, our expert team at SustainIt offer data visualisation assistance.

Make deadlines (and stick to them!)

It is typical in a fast-paced business for administrative tasks and sustainability initiatives to be pushed aside in favour of the day-to-day activities. This understandable, and even inevitable, scenario can spell disaster for a business’ environmental strategy, resulting in no long-term positive impact.

To prevent this, businesses should set deadlines and create goals to achieve in this time. Change does not have to be rapid or major, but consistency is key to practically achieving reduced environmental impact in business. Businesses can have fortnightly check-ins for recycling rates, set quarterly goals, or appoint environmental impact officers, who have the responsibility of enforcing and managing the environmental strategy.

Data can play a huge role in tracking and sticking to environmental policies within a business. By charting progress over time, businesses can get an instant overview of how goals are progressing and where needs more attention. For example, if you notice at one of your regular check-ins that your graph for recycling rates has hit a plateau, you can look to bolster rates or find new ways to increase recycling.

Assess supply chain

Supply chains are a huge factor in businesses’ environmental impact – accounting for up to 75% of a business’ carbon emissions! Therefore, supply chains are a key area to assess when looking at reducing environmental impact.

In recent years there has a been a drive to ‘support local’, of which there are numerous business and environmental benefits, such as reduced emissions from less shipping and appealing to conscious consumers. Where before local suppliers may have been ignored in favour of cheaper overseas suppliers, the ethical and environmental benefits of local sourcing are increasingly attractive to UK businesses. Even if local materials and supplies are more costly, it has been found that consumers are usually happy to spend more for the privilege of locally sourced.

Businesses that don’t necessarily sell products or source materials can still find ways within the business premises to improve suppliers. This may vary a lot depending on industry, but all businesses will have suppliers of sorts. Whether it’s a case of an SME switching to a local service provider and supporting an independent small business, or larger organisations shunning international deliveries, there is something every business can do concerning its supply chain with important ramifications. A transparent, local, and ethical supply chain is essential to reducing environmental impact within business.

Reach sustainability goals with Sustainit

At Sustainit we take a bespoke approach with each of our clients, helping small businesses and large organisations alike to achieve their sustainability goals and better their impact on the environment. Working closely with you, we help you leverage your data, visualise information, and complete sustainability goals.

To discuss your environmental project or get advice on approaching sustainability in business, get in touch with our friendly team!