Going green: improving your organisation’s environmental credentials

There are many reasons why a business would benefit from becoming greener, such as saving money by becoming more efficient or seeking to avoid the increasing amount of fines and monetary penalties imposed for waste and emissions. And with increasing pressure from customers wanting more environmentally responsible organisations, it’s never been a better time to invest in reducing the impact of your organisation on its surroundings.

Below you will find our top ten tips to help you make your business greener:

1. Waste reduction

Keep waste to a minimum by recycling as much as possible. Build recycling in to your production processes, pass old equipment and furniture to charities who can sell it or recycle the parts, and encourage staff to help by placing recycling points around your sites.

Until an alternative is found to landfill for non-recyclable products, the best way that your company can help in this are is to keep waste to a minimum. Not having to use landfill disposal as much can provide a monetary benefit as it can reduce Landfill Tax payments.


2. Recycled products

As well as recycling your own waste, you should try to use products made from waste. Keep a look out for the designation “post consumer waste” (PCW) on products such as printing paper and packaging. The PCW label means that the product is made from 100% recycled materials.

Recycling paper has been shown to use 50% less energy than traditional paper manufacturing methods 1 even when factoring in the costs and environmental impact of collecting and transporting the waste materials in the first place.


3. Biodegradable and non-toxic items

Products that are made from harmful chemicals such as detergents, varnishes or paints can cause problems if not disposed of properly, or if an accident causes them to be spilled. To protect against this, some companies opt for ingredients that are known to be biodegradable, avoiding the harmful chemicals altogether.

The EU Ecolabel that can be found on products such as detergents and surface cleaners is a useful identifier for more environmentally-friendly products. As well as the materials used in the product’s creation, it also requires manufacturers to have production processes that have a reduced environmental impact.


4. Water usage reduction

Alongside energy, water is likely to be one of your business’ biggest utilities. A lot of resources go into cleaning and transporting water so reducing its usage will in turn reduce the environmental impact of water treatment plants, as well as saving your business money.

Start off with basic maintenance and regular servicing of plumbed in items such as taps and washing machines to reduce leakages. If your budget allows, you could install low-flow white goods that use less water than their traditional counterparts. If you have any landscaped areas on your premises, consider switching over any sprinklers to those that have drip systems and rain sensors.


5. Renewable energy

Choosing to use renewable energy is a great way to help the environment. Some energy companies provide this as a option, but you may wish to seek out energy companies that only provide energy from renewable sources.

The down side of using renewable energy is the cost. Despite low carbon electricity generation in the UK being at a record high – making up 54.4% of all electricity generation in the third quarter of 2017 2 – policies and regulations, legacy costs, and market power mean renewable energy is still considered to be an expensive alternative 3.


6. Energy efficiency audit

How well your premises uses electricity is referred to as energy efficiency. Having an energy efficient building saves your organisation money on energy bills and can also save on heating bills because an efficient building would be better at keeping the heat in during winter months and staying cooler during summer months.

Many businesses are now legally required to have their premises audited for their energy efficiency through the acquisition of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), the results of which should then be displayed on the premises.


7. Energy saving products

You could offset the cost of using renewable energy by reducing your energy usage. Energy saving products such as compact-fluorescent or LED light bulbs, appliances marked with the Energy Star logo, or smart power switches that cut off power to unused devices, are particularly useful for this.

These products often have an upfront cost that is higher than less energy-efficient items, but the long terms benefits can often significantly outweigh this initial fee. Online calculators like this one for computer energy usage can help you work out just how much energy you will save, allowing you to evaluate whether it is worth the investment.


8. Transport changes

Alternative fuel is not just used for energy, but in vehicles too. Hybrid vehicles are becoming more popular as technological improvements and an increase in public charge points make them more viable. The price is a consideration however, as replacing an entire fleet can add up, but as an intermediary step, effective route planning, regular maintenance and increasing the aerodynamics of existing vehicles will assist in reducing emissions.

You can inspire your staff to help out too through car-share and bike-to-work schemes, as well as encouraging the use of public transport.


9. Team up

Big changes such as becoming a completely green business need teamwork to truly accomplish. Actively look for other environmentally-minded businesses to work with and encourage your existing suppliers and business partners to go green.

Even if the changes you have introduced are incremental – they all add up – especially when applied as part of a larger project. You may also find that by working with other businesses you can spread the costs of being a greener business by sharing responsibilities, creating a quicker return on investment.


10. Green by design

The best way to become a green business is to consider environmental issues by design, for all of your business processes. Start at the beginning of a process, this could be acquiring manufacturing materials and work your way through to the end product. The little changes you make along the way will soon add up and create a bigger impact.

Don’t forget to consider external factors such as where your business partner’s get their supplies from or how they transport goods to you.

A great way to monitor and manage your environmental impact is through the use of ISO Management System Standards, such as 14001 Environment Management and 50001 Energy Management. These standards help organisations to put best-practice processes in place that cover environmental concerns for all aspects of their business, while driving continual improvement.

Other benefits of these Standards include cost savings through more efficient processes and a reduction in wasted resources, as well as reduced monetary penalties for breaches in government environmental legislation.

To find out more about how ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 can help your organisation to become greener, please speak to one of our expert Certification Advisors on 0333 344 3646 or by emailing enquiries@qmsuk.com.


Footnotes:

1. Survey on the environmental benefits of recycling in the UK recycling sector performed by the Technical University of Denmark and the Danish Topic Centre on Waste, on behalf of Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)

2. Statistics taken from UK Energy Statistics, Q3 2017 press release 

3. Government Cost of Energy review 2017