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In 2012, The Carbon Trust estimated that small businesses could save around £400 million in energy costs and over 2.5 million tonnes of C02 by taking some simple steps to reduce their carbon footprint. 

A more recent survey in 2020 by The Carbon Trust revealed that over 80% of SMEs had taken action to increase their energy efficiency and 51% of those surveyed reported they wanted to do more to reduce their carbon emissions. 

Despite these promising statistics, many SMEs are still unaware of the small changes that can be made in their business to reduce their carbon footprint. Here are a few simple steps small businesses can take to help us achieve Net Zero emissions by 2050.

Home is the new office

If we have taken anything from Covid it is that our employees are resilient and in industries where it has been possible many have continued to work productively from home. Flexible working policies are here to stay. Video conferencing is allowing businesses to connect with clients internationally without the travel time and costs associated with this. 

If your business has not planned to keep these ways of working, then you should reconsider this. These are both great ways to reduce carbon emissions, with less people traveling to work. 

If you are in an industry that needs employees on-site there are still significant ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint. Firstly, introducing a cycle to work scheme is a great way to reduce emissions while also promoting employee health and wellbeing. Rewarding staff for car sharing is also a great way to promote greener methods of travel and could lead to a more connected team. 

Building basics

Most businesses now know the basic ways to increase energy efficiency in their buildings. These are things like installing LED lighting with timers and movement sensors, using smart meters to measure energy usage, switching to renewable energy providers and insulating buildings properly. 

We all recycle at home but it is still something we need to improve in the workplace. Ensure you install recycling bins throughout your building. Yes paper, cardboard and plastic are easy to remember but what about food waste. If food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

You do not have to be a business in the food sector to reduce your food waste, if you have a staff canteen then you should aim to purchase from businesses that support local farmers. By doing this, you are indirectly reducing food waste by minimizing transportation in the food system. 

Cleaning in your building can also have an impact on your carbon footprint; try switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products where possible. 

Carbon offsets

Joining a carbon offsetting scheme is a great way to reach carbon neutrality for those activities in your business that you have not yet found green solutions for. Carbon offsetting schemes allow businesses to contribute funds towards projects that have a positive impact on the environment. Examples of this could be tree planting initiatives or schemes that supply energy efficient appliances to developing countries. 

If carbon offsetting were something you would like to explore then have a look at these UK community projects

Change begins with knowledge

Educate yourself, your staff and your customers. There has never been a better time to shout out about the sustainability of your business. 

Statista published a report in 2020 which found that “from the consumer perspective, the most sustainable shopping behaviour is buying a product that is sustainably sourced, followed closely by buying packaging that is recyclable.” With consumer buying habits changing it is important to embed sustainability into your business culture. Begin with the basics; there are some great resources available for small businesses with the Carbon Trust. Why not start with the SME Carbon Footprint Calculator to see your business' current footprint.

We would love to help you begin your sustainability journey at the University of Chester, so why not join us on our “Sustainable Growth Bootcamp: Big Impact, Small Footprint” in April.

Emily Pegg
Business Engagement Manager