The environment is fast becoming one of the major talking points in society, as awareness of its demise grows, causing pressure on individuals and, more poignantly, corporations to take responsibility for their contribution and put measures in place to minimise it. As a business owner, it’s highly likely that this issue has been playing on your mind, but where should you begin when it comes to creating a more environmentally conscious company?

Rather than putting pressure on individuals, creating a company-wide policy and general business culture for staff of all levels to respect and work towards, is a less intimidating and more productive approach. Here, we offer up a plan of action for companies who want to play their part, starting with some suggestions of possible objectives that could make up an overall carbon neutral policy, and the strategies you could put in place to help you achieve them.

Objectives

Renewable Energy

A strong objective to start with is to aim to source the energy that fuels your business from a renewable provider. This can be achieved in manageable stages starting with carrying out research into the responsible energy providers that are currently available. Companies like Bulb, Pozitive Energy, Hub Energy and Octopus pride themselves on Only sourcing energy from renewable sources such as solar power, wind or hydro.

This is far better than using oil, gas, coal and nuclear energy sources which are not only non-renewable but also cause the release of dangerous toxins during their production. While this particular objective could only be achieved by those who make the wider company decisions, sharing the progress with the company as a whole can set a great example of your motivation to become carbon neutral.

Travel

Another great objective to work towards is a reduction in the overall travel undertaken by the staff body as a whole. This would have a significant impact on the carbon emissions associated with your company, and could be achieved through things like cycle to work schemes, lift shares and public transport incentives.

Energy Performance

EPC stands for Energy Performance Certificate, and they are a great way to access how energy efficient a property is. They take into account things like central heating, insulation and the age of any boilers before assigning a score. Try to access the EPC of your current commercial premises and if its score leaves a lot to be desired, you could consider making a change of premises to somewhere more eco-friendly one of your company objectives.

Energy Efficient Interiors

As well as the building itself, what’s inside also contributes to the overall carbon footprint of your business premises. For example, old or faulty electrical appliances will use more energy than those that are in full working order. Similarly, incorrect use of these appliances can have a negative impact, for example, switching on the central heating rather than closing windows, or relying on memory and switching the heating off manually, rather than using a timer or thermostat which would carry out the process automatically, and therefore more reliably.

Furthermore, simple things like changing to more efficient light bulbs can make a big difference. LED (light emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) lightbulbs are the most efficient and are very affordable now that they are so widely used. When it comes to smaller steps like this, taking the time to make the most of windows and doors can also be highly effective in reducing your carbon footprint. Opening and closing them should be the first port of call before reaching for the heating or air-conditioning controls.

Paper-Free

A popular objective for lots of companies looking to become more environmentally friendly is switching to a paper-free approach to communication. An estimated 18 million acres of forest are lost each year to paper production, the equivalent of 20 football fields every minute. Considering that trees intake harmful carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, this has a colossal, negative impact on the ozone layer and it is, therefore, crucial that these figures are reduced as soon as possible. Businesses can help by ensuring that all of their communication is carried out via email rather than sending letters, and making the most of their website to provide information, rather than printing out fliers and brochures.

If you want to go a step further when it comes to sustainable operations, you can even look into finding an environmentally friendly website hosting provider. Such providers usually offset any damage they create by funding the creation of new, renewable energy.

Recycle

Recycling is a well-known path towards a greener way of life, and still highly effective when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. Not only should you be providing and encouraging the use of recycling bins for your staff body, but you can also source recycled office supplies easily. If you provide food and drink for your employees, you should also consider how recycled materials could be incorporated, for example in the packaging of the products. Many food and drink providers have dedicated themselves to a greener way of operating, so supporting these suppliers is also important.

So, now that you have some ideas of the kind of objectives you could put in place as part of your new carbon neutral policy, it’s time to start thinking about how you can achieve them.

Strategies

Committees

First of all, establishing a committee with the sole aim of achieving your environmental aims is a good way to ensure that you don’t lose focus. Regular meetings are crucial so that momentum isn’t lost and be sure to treat them with the same respect as others such as sales objectives so that their importance isn’t underestimated. The committee should be made up of representatives of each department within your company so that their views and contributions can be recognised.

Accessibility

This leads me to my next point, accessibility. It is important to make sure that all members of staff have access to the company’s carbon-neutral policy and goals so that they understand what they are collectively working towards and how they can help on an individual and departmental basis. It is also important to make note of how the company is progressing towards each goal as this not only motivates staff to continue the good work, but also highlights areas in need of improvement, therefore focusing their attention.

Training

It wouldn’t be fair or realistic to expect your staff to understand and implement your strategies straight off the bat. Investing in training is the best way to engage their interest and motivate them to play their part, as well as knowing how to do so. For example, if you do decide to go paper-free you will need to communicate their new workflow which incorporates increased email usage and directing customers to a new and better-utilised website. Similarly, training in how to use heating and air conditioning systems effectively is essential if you’d like this to be a solid and consistent strategy used to tackle your goals. If you’re worried about cost, around 0.4% of annual revenue is all it takes to completely offset a company’s carbon footprint, so it's certainly no barrier to your goals.

Targets

Breaking down your overall strategies into manageable chunks is a good way to make them seem more attainable, and reaching each milestone successfully will encourage ongoing involvement from staff. Company-wide, departmental and individual targets create a sense of achievement which can be a good incentive and encourage personal interest and investment in your overall policy.

It is also important to manage the performance of departments and individuals so that you can pinpoint any strategies that may not be effective or may require further investment, for example through further training.

Incentives

Just as with any targets you set, incentives go hand in hand. For many, reducing their carbon footprint and that of the company is enough of an incentive, but others may need a helping hand in finding the motivation to go the extra mile. Celebrating the success of those who do and who hit their targets is key.

Support

Finally, having a support system in place will help to ensure continued success. This is where team-based strategies are effective as staff will motivate one another when they’re working towards a shared goal. It can be an opportunity to boost spirit thanks to the bonding opportunity of contributing towards the betterment of wider society. Team events can also help to support your strategies as they unite your employees in a relaxed and enjoyable environment which they then associate with the overall aims of your new policy.

Hopefully, now you have a better idea of how you can go about creating a carbon-neutral strategy for your business, that will lead you to a greener, brighter future. Creating clear and realistic objectives is an important first step, followed by considering the strategies that can be put in place in order to achieve them. The ways in which you can motivate your staff to play their part is also crucial, as is providing them with the support they need to see it through. 46% of UK businesses have made plans to become carbon neutral by 2050, can you achieve it sooner? 

 

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