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Sustainable business practices that could save you money in the long-term

homesmall business sustainability sustainable practices to save money

While most businesses recognise that they need to work towards a net zero carbon future, it can be challenging to deliver the practical sustainability initiatives that really make a difference.

The road to net zero doesn’t have to be daunting though. There are lots of relatively simple projects that can be easily implemented and – best of all – many can bring deliver immediate, long-term cost savings and give your business a competitive edge.

Here are some of the best ways for small and medium-sized businesses to put sustainability into practice.

Click the links below to take you to each section of the guide:

Calculate your business’s carbon footprint

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However you approach your journey to net zero, it’s important to understand what your carbon footprint looks like right now and continually measure progress.

That way you’ll be able to evidence your carbon reduction and cost-saving achievements to stakeholders and customers.

But knowing what emissions you’re producing and where you’re producing them can be complex. Our carbon footprint calculator is easy to use and free to download. As well as helping you identify and measure emissions, it’ll also tell you where you could make changes and improvements.

Manage consumption and reduce waste

One of the most important parts of the journey to net zero is waste reduction – and it’s another area where businesses can reduce costs. With careful planning, businesses can send less waste to landfill and reducing their CO2 emissions.

Even little changes add up. For example, disposable items (such as cups, plates and many other throwaway single-use plastic items) can easily be replaced by reusable alternatives.

From the smallest to the largest business, the message is the same: look closely at the waste being generated then find practical ways to reduce, re-use or recycle.

We’ve compiled a short guide on the best ways to make this happen – everything from a suitable list of recycling collection companies to methods on how to get buy-in from your people and the local community. There are even some quick wins to get you started on a greener path – and some cost-saving ideas to help you along the way.

Carry out an energy audit at your premises

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It may seem obvious, but the key to reducing energy consumption is understanding how it’s being used. A simple business energy audit provides the information you need to work out how electricity and gas are being consumed.

Typically, the audit follows a checklist of assessments in areas like heating and air conditioning, insulation and ventilation, lighting, equipment and (perhaps most importantly) employee behaviour.

While the audit doesn’t have to take up too much time, the information gained is invaluable as it helps to identify inefficiencies and bad habits that can then be addressed. And while the overall objective is to cut carbon emissions and become more energy efficient, there’s also a strong financial incentive to take action following an audit as it can lead to valuable cost savings.

Re-think your supply chain

It’s always a smart move for businesses to insist on sustainable standards across their whole supply chain. That means sourcing supplies responsibly and insisting on more environmentally friendly shipping methods and packaging.

In recent years, demand for sustainable packaging has increased and there is clear evidence that consumers aren’t just more likely to buy from retailers who provide sustainable packaging and shipping - they’re also willing to pay more.

With this in mind, any business that sells or ships to customers can gain a competitive advantage by carefully choosing green product packaging and shipping methods that cut carbon emissions and, perhaps, even reduce costs.

Join an online sustainability platform

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Every small business who signs up to Zellar will get a personalised online dashboard, allowing them to track their carbon footprint and benchmark themselves against similar businesses. Plus, they get access to innovative green technologies and exclusive renewable energy products and tariffs.

On average, companies using Zellar’s tools cut their energy bills by 9% each year, or over £1,395‡, through a combination of reducing their energy use and investing in green technology.

Embrace remote working

If there has been one fascinating societal shift following the recent pandemic, it’s the change in attitudes towards working from home. Though some employers are still sceptical, there is growing evidence to suggest that, wherever it’s possible, home working can pay dividends.

According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, it can increase productivity, promote a better work/life balance and improve employee engagement, job satisfaction and loyalty.

It also has sustainability benefits, reducing the requirement to heat and light a large physical office space while dramatically cutting commuter journeys and their related CO2 emissions. Managed effectively, this simple change can be transformational and it can be an important step on the journey to limiting your environmental impact.

Encourage eco-friendly transport

The morning commute doesn’t have to impact the environment negatively. Cars, trucks, buses and motorbikes – account for nearly three quarters of the greenhouse gas emissions that come from transport.

But recent initiatives show the viability of greener transport, such as the uptake in Cycle to Work schemes, or the rise in electric vehicle usage, which are supported by the government. Indeed, more than 80% of SMEs are keen to switch to EVs which makes a lot of sense when you consider the potential savings on fuel and maintenance costs.

Installing EV charging points on site or providing safe bike storage and shower facilities to promote cycling will encourage your team to make the leap from more traditional transport. Anything that reduces the dependency on fossil fuel-powered transport is a positive boost for your business’s sustainability credentials.

And by investing in this technology, you’re future proofing your business which can lead to long-term savings.

If you found this page useful, take a look at our small business sustainability hub for more free tools, tips and expert advice.

‡ Energy cost savings of £1,395 per business each year are based on the average Zellar SME energy spend and business customers achieving an average energy saving of 9% over a year. Energy spend calculation is based on £0.30/kWh electricity and £0.03/kWh gas. Actual savings will change in line with energy prices. The 9% saving is achievable through a combination of behavioural changes to reduce usage and investments in green technology such as LED lighting.

Please note, SSE Energy Solutions has written this blog for information purposes only. We recommend speaking to your own business and financial advisors before taking any direct action that will impact your business.