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How to go green – Giving your business an ethical energy makeover

The best way of tackling a new ethical energy initiative is to speak to your supplier and find a renewable source, and then begin the ongoing process of making improvements in your business to conserve energy where possible.
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There are plenty of different ways to make your company environmentally friendly, and a good place to start is making better use of ethical energy.

Here’s how to conserve energy and make sure your business is using renewable sources.

Once you’ve made the decision to go green – whether that’s for reputational, ethical or cost reasons (see part one) – where do you start?

The best way of tackling a new green initiative is to speak to your supplier and find a renewable source, and then begin the ongoing process of making improvements in your business to conserve energy where possible.

Choosing ethical energy suppliers

When it comes to choosing suppliers, you should do due diligence to ensure you are happy with the working practices across your entire supply chain. If you find out the company that supplies your raw materials is operating in unethical conditions, it reflects badly on your final product and, ultimately, your business reputation.

You might have preconceived ideas about it being difficult to make the switch to ethical energy. Rest assured it’s as simple as switching suppliers – there’s no prerequisite to get solar panels fitted, and your company’s supply will at no point be suspended.

The National Grid is responsible for delivering electricity around the UK. When you switch to a green electricity product your supplier buys green power on your behalf and feeds it through to the grid.  It’s as simple as that.

However, it is important to know what you’re signing up to. While the majority of suppliers can offer 100 per cent renewably-sourced electricity, gas is a little more complicated.

Some offer “carbon neutral” gas, which means the carbon emitted from the production of the gas has been offset by other green projects (such as planting trees), while others provide “semi-green” gas where only a portion of the total volume supplied is renewable-sourced gas. Total Gas & Power is proud to offer 100 per cent renewable-sourced gas from UK producers.

While it is true that some ethical energy products are more expensive than fossil fuel options, you might be surprised to learn how cost-effective some of them are. For example, some suppliers will offer five-year fixed contract terms, which allow you to budget with certainty. However, if paying more for green energy isn’t viable, you can see still see how green a supplier is by looking at its fuel mix (this applies to electricity but not gas).

Energy suppliers are required by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to source some of their electricity from renewable sources and publish the percentage (their fuel mix) on their website.

This can help you find a supplier who meets your renewable energy standards – even if it isn’t the cheapest or greenest option available.

Making green and ethical choices

There are also simple changes you can make day-to-day to conserve energy and make your business greener.

• Make sure you understand when and where you use the most energy – when are the lights/heating/air conditioning units in use? When you understand where you’re using your energy, you will be more equipped to control it
• Consider getting an audit – if you want a really thorough understanding of your energy use, you might consider getting an external audit. This can be especially useful to businesses that use energy in peaks and troughs, such as manufacturing companies, as it can give you a clearer idea of the big picture
• Switch to LED lights – you’ve probably heard this advice before, and for good reason. It’s a simple switch that can make a difference
• Get a programmable thermostat – make sure you’re only using energy when you need it. For example, make sure that there is never an instance of heating being on with windows open
• Go paperless and recycle – save the trees and only print when you need to. It’s a small change but it needs to come from the top. You’ll find there are often ways of doing things digitally rather than printing reams of paper
• Conduct virtual meetings – you don’t always need to meet people face to face. Have you looked in to web conferencing to save on petrol and reduce your carbon footprint?

Lastly, there is one big change that needs to happen if you want your business to truly go green: educate your staff.

Employee awareness is crucial, because day-to-day they are the ones running the factories and offices. Make sure they know the importance of turning computers off and not leaving the lights on in the meeting rooms when they aren’t in use.

No single change is going to turn your business around over-night – if you do decide to make the change to go green, you need to take it on board as a new business culture. It’s a process of continuous improvement – but if done right, you should reap the rewards of an ethical approach before long.

Overall, you might be surprised how affordable going green is – and in the long run, it might end up being a boon to your business, and your reputation.

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About Author

Letitia Booty

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Real Business. She has a BA in english literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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