HR & Management

10 ways to make your small business more green

6 min read

10 August 2018

The case for "greening" your small business is compelling. It benefits the health of your workforce, society and the planet, writes Steve Edgell of Cycle Solutions. In many cases, going green will also save you money.

What’s more, 82% of millennials would strive to be employed by a company publicly recognised for its ethics, while an overwhelming 92% of millennials are more likely to buy from a company committed to ethical business practices, reports the CIM.

By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be millennials so now’s the time to start thinking about your corporate social responsibility.

1. Reward employees who choose carbon neutral commuting

This includes cycling, walking, running, roller skating – and they will all reduce your business’s carbon footprint. If travel by car is the only realistic way to get to your office, look at a shuttle service from a train station, or set up a carshare system and offer priority or free parking to those who take part.

2. Make green commuting easier

Something as simple as installing ample bike parking can boost the numbers cycling to work. If you can offer indoor bike parking, which protects bicycles from both thieves and inclement weather, even better. For nervous road cyclists, look at offering your employees lunchtime group lessons with an expert to build confidence.

3. Offer the Cycle to Work scheme

This is a no brainer because it’s free for employers to sign up to and will save your business money through reduced employer NI contributions. Participants get a tax-free bicycle and cycling accessories up to £1,000, paid monthly through a salary sacrifice.

It saves employees 32% to 48% of the retail cost. It’s also an easy employee benefit to offer as scheme providers like Cycle Solutions will do all the admin and management for you.

4. Cut down on unnecessary travel by better utilising technology

Use video conferencing software to catch up with clients, and e-learning tools rather than on site training, and you’ll reduce business costs as well as cutting down your business’s carbon footprint.

5. Ban single-use plastic in the office

This includes drinks in plastic bottles. Promote the use of reusable items by investing in bamboo coffee cups and metal water bottles for your staff to fill up with drinking water from the tap. Take the opportunity to get some free brand exposure by adding your company logo to these environmentally-friendly drinking vessels.

6. Add indoor plants to workspaces

There’s psychology behind this. A 2015 report by business psychology company Robertson Cooper, which looked at the impact of “biophilic” design (our connection to nature) in the workplace reported that workers in environments with natural elements like sunlight and greenery saw a 6% uplift in productivity.

The report also states: “Offices that provide natural light, greenery and water features, report significantly higher levels of wellbeing than those devoid of nature.” Choose low-maintenance plants such as succulents and non-flowering varieties that won’t trigger allergies.

7. Consider starting a regular litter pick

This is more for if you work near a green space or a beach. As well as doing your bit to make local community spaces nicer, it’s also a chance to get out into the fresh air and for your team to bond.

8. Make recycling bins readily available in your office

Label them clearly so your staff know how to sort their waste. Sign up to an office recycling company who will come and take away all your sorted waste, plus single-use items that can be reused like empty printer cartridges. Some businesses are now committing to send zero waste to landfill.

For SMEs based in serviced offices, make it clear to the building’s managers that their green credentials are important to you. Find out what their recycling set up is and, if it’s lacklustre, keep the pressure on to make sure it improves. Speak to other SMEs in the same building to up the ante collectively.

9. Small gestures can have a massive impact

Buy recycled loo paper and printer paper for the office, make sure your staff switch off computers and lights at the end of the working day, and group deliveries for the office kitchen and stationery cupboard into one big order from the same supplier to save on delivery miles.

10. Look at all your suppliers

Which of them genuinely care about the environment? Could you switch to a competitor that takes its social responsibility seriously? If your business is taking steps towards making the world greener and healthier, shouldn’t you have higher expectations from the companies you give your business to?

Steve Edgell is the managing director of Cycle to Work scheme provider Cycle Solutions, based in Swansea.