Environmental issues affect all of us but with the hot summer we have been experiencing in the UK lately it is easy to forget what the long-term implications are of climate change. Although some of us may be basking in the heat and lapping up holidays in Scarborough that resemble more of the South coast of Spain, there is a hole burning in the ozone layer that will see the end of some countries one day but, I hear you say, what can your small business do to help?
Well, every business has a part to play in the environmental issues that face our world, no matter how small, so the first thing to do is take a good look at what you do and how you might change something to have a positive effect. Environmental awareness can start with small things such as being energy efficient, changing your light bulbs to energy-saving bulbs, using natural light as much as possible, turning off all computers at night as well as being aware of heating and water usage. Once you have agreed that you do want to make some changes then the first step is to allocate a person for the job of implementing an environmental policy or get an environment officer in to look around and help you set a plan of how your business could make some changes. You can visit your local Chamber of Commerce for advice and there are also ways to get free assessments from the government through Envrowise.
One major step you can make that is relatively easy to implement is to consider how much paper you use – sadly, most commercial companies simply do not realise the amount of waste they produce through paper alone and that by running an efficient office, not only will there be a decrease in the impact on the environment, but there will also be changes in the negative impact on profits. “In 1998, the UK as a whole used 12.5 million tonnes of paper and board. Contrary to the expected trend towards the ‘paperless office’, paper consumption continues to rise by around 20% each year” (ref: Envirowise). This is quite phenomenal when you consider that with implementation of email it is deemed unnecessary to print everything but as one worker said: “the problem is, you still don’t feel safe unless you have printed something out to put in your file. It is hard to put your trust in servers holding all your computerised work.” If this is your stance then why not simply instigate a recycle pile next to photocopiers and printers? Just by printing on both sides of the paper or re-using paper that has only been used on one side, you will be making significant savings. You might also consider using old envelopes for internal correspondence and cutting down your marketing materials by doing more email mailshots.
The main point to consider when you decide to implement a policy is to educate your staff. If you do not educate properly then it will simply be a wasted exercise. You might consider placing a recycling bin in each office along with a poster outlining what must be recycled and keep employees up-to-date with how their efforts are rewarding the environment, and the company. By keeping people informed of what they are achieving collectively you will be amazed at how quickly they pick up new procedures until it becomes second nature fairly quickly. Do however ensure your cleaning staff are also aware that the recycled waste will go into its own bin, otherwise all your hard work could go out the window!
Our world may be in a sorry state one day and even if you will be long gone, you have to think about your children, and their children, and their children … businesses, no matter how small, all have a part to play in improving the environment we live in so it is wise to consider just how much waste you produce and how you could improve procedures to not only save you money, but also save the environment.