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Environment

Green business: Four expert tips for making your company sustainable

Making your business green isn’t always easy – but we’ve gathered expert tips on the best ways to get started.

When it comes to the climate crisis, individuals and organisations have a responsibility to do our bit in reducing our carbon footprint – but green business isn’t always easy.

Companies produce more greenhouse gases than the average individual, meaning that reducing emissions here is particularly important in tackling climate change

Yet as a small business or social enterprise, it’s not always clear how to approach the issue, with so many elements involved that it’s hard to know where to start. 

Luckily, many businesses are already leading the way on sustainability and have plenty of tips to share with those just getting started.

We’ve gathered the top four tips on making your business sustainable given by social enterprise leaders at the Social Enterprise Futures Festival 2021. 

So read on for key advice – and don’t delay in getting started today. 

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Conduct an audit 

The first step any company should take when trying to lower its emissions output is to find out how many emissions it’s producing in the first place. 

This is key not just so your numbers are accurate, but to make sure that your current efforts aren’t being concentrated in the wrong area. 

Speaking at an event on improving environmental impact for social enterprises, head of Big Issue Invest Danyal Sattar used the example of supermarket chain Walmart to illustrate this point.

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“When Walmart audited their CO2 emissions they immediately thought their trucks were the biggest culprit because trucks burn diesel.

“But when they audited their impact it wasn’t trucks, it was their fridges doing the most damage.”

Cemal Ezel, founder of social enterprise Change Please and Serious Tissues, said auditing is one of the most important things a company can do to reduce its environmental impact. 

“I think it has to be a basic requirement for more social businesses to audit and understand exactly how we can reduce our impact on the environment as a prerequisite before we start looking at our social impact. We have an obligation.”

Ezel said working with an external auditor can be very helpful, but Sattar said it’s “never been easier” for businesses to find “toolkits and guides” for helping themselves along with the process.

Your local authority may have a guide on doing this – Somerset council has a toolkit online for example. 

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Big Issue Invest are one of the UK’s leading providers of finance to social enterprises, community organisations, charities and businesses that are socially-driven. We invest between £20,000 and £3,000,000 in social enterprises and charities.

Collaborate 

Elaine Brown, head of the Edinburgh Remakery, says that companies won’t find success without collaborating with others on making their business sustainable. 

“Don’t reinvent the wheel. Start conversations with one another, share what you do brilliantly but also share your gaps – consider where somebody else might be able to add value,” she said.

She lauded the benefits of reaching out to other similar businesses to share ideas about how to work on sustainability – benefiting both of you in turn.

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Connect with consumers 

Telling consumers directly about the changes you’re making – and inviting feedback – is a great way to improve sustainability in your company, said Ezel. 

“There’s never been a time when more consumers want to improve their environmental impact. 

“It’s not that they need to be educated but they just need to be told what you’re doing and what already exists – there’s so many channels to reach them directly,” he said.

Be the change you want to see 

Sattar said that acting on sustainability on a personal level is a key part of making your company or enterprise more sustainable.

“We’re throwing ourselves at this not just through our businesses or our investments but through our own choices. 

“Make those personal choices and live the world that we want to see,” he said.

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