Time to show your green credentials
Creating a credible environmental report
According to Kantar UK, almost 80% of consumers say they’ve switched or boycotted products in the last year, or are thinking of doing so as a result of their perception of a brand’s environmental reputation.
Nowadays, it seems that having a visible and credible environmental report is more important than ever.
But how easy is it to achieve? Will it really make a difference to buyer decisions? And how do you create one?
Here’s some guidance to help you think more about your small business’s environmental impact and report on it too.
What you need to know
Before you put pen to paper, you need to think about who your stakeholders are and consider their main concerns.
What do your employees, the local community, your suppliers and your customers expect from you? Do you know how important it is for them that you put the environment front of mind?
Employees – Increasingly, people want to work for a business that is aware of its environmental impact and is actively trying to reduce it.
The local community – Being part of the community where you have your business is important for many reasons. You hope it’s a harmonious relationship. But imagine if you have a factory which uses lots of plastic packaging or throws out fumes from machines.
Think of ways these can be reduced and what you can do to counter-balance them.
Suppliers – When you think that every business needs to be aware of its environmental impact, remember that this includes the supply chain. If your business isn’t regarded as having a strong enough environmental policy, it could affect a supplier’s decision to work with you.
Customers – As the figures above show, more and more people are making purchasing decisions based upon environmental factors.
Ignoring this fact could see you start to lose previously loyal clients.
What should it include?
Your report could start with an overview of your ambition as a business to reduce your environmental impact.
Summarise how this might be achieved and outline what people can expect to find in the report.
Then think about the following:-
Accreditations already achieved
If you work in the construction industry for example, you will almost certainly already have standards you have to adhere to. If you use wood in your products, are you FSC certified? Perhaps your business has achieved ISO accreditations? Anything like this should be explained and listed out in the report.
Whether it’s a factory, shop, office or campervan, are you consciously trying to make it more energy efficient and less wasteful? Do you have lights which turn off when nobody is in the room? Is your heating and energy powered by a renewable source?
Some of these changes are not going to be cheap but it’s about having a vision and making what changes that you can. Make sure you tell people what you are doing to improve things.
Reducing the waste
We know from running a home how much rubbish we can accumulate. Your business should be trying to reduce the amount it uses and increasing the amount that is recycled or re-used.
Could you source products that come with less packaging on, for example? Are there facilities onsite for staff to recycle, paper, plastic, metal etc? Do you have a policy in place around printing? Only print when it’s necessary and print double sided. There are lots of ways you can reduce, reuse and recycle.
Helping staff lower their carbon footprint
Offering staff a cycle to work scheme could encourage them to leave the car at home and use pedal power to get to work.
Advocating a flexible working policy, such as allowing staff to work from home, means less travel to and from work. You can also ensure you have a good system for conference or video calls so meetings can go ahead without everyone being in the office. Cut down on travel to clients too. Save on those air miles and train journeys by having a video meeting instead.
Offsetting with the positives
If you run a business which makes wooden furniture, then it’s going to be difficult to cut down on the amount of wood you’re using. To counterbalance that, you could sign up to a tree planting scheme near you. If there isn’t one, find out from your local wildlife groups if tree planting is something you could support or donate to.
Find out if there are other charities out there that you could support or donate to. Perhaps staff could volunteer to help with a project in the local community.
Use environmentally friendly products and services
Are you using recycled paper in the office, recycled cups, selling products which aren’t tested on animals and don’t contain palm oil? Make sure you look at your business across the whole range of products and services that you use and make. If there is something you can change, change it.
Show people your environmental story
Using social media is a great way to document the changes you are making. If you’re working hard to change aspects of your business to make it environmentally aware, tell people. If you don’t shout about it, they can’t be expected to know.
An annual report to showcase it
The initial report is just one aspect of being an environmentally conscious business.
There will be things you need to do throughout the year but pulling everything together into your annual report (if you have to do one) is a good way to show progress and your future aspirations.
There really is no excuse now to ignore the environmental impact of your business.
If almost 90% of those surveyed by Kantar UK agree that brands need to take more responsibility for the waste their products create, it’s in your best interests to take this seriously.
You are doing this primarily for your existing customers but focusing on the environment may well open up a new market for you and increase sales.
Come and pay us a visit
If you’d like to know how charity work or environmental schemes can affect the amount of tax you need to pay, come and see us (or phone us) at one of our offices in Chelmsford, Cheam, Wanstead, Saffron Walden and London City.