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Sustainability 101: How to build a green business with a small budget

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When it comes to running a sustainable business, there’s no detail too small. From the suppliers you choose to the kind of energy you use, it’s all about keeping your carbon footprint to a minimum.

In this article, Crow Wood Hall group accountant Joanne Halsall offers her expert insights on how your business can go green, no matter what kind of budget you’re working with.

As I have gotten older, sustainability has become far more important in my life.

As a mum, and now as a grandmother, the legacy we leave for future generations matters to me.

There are things we can do individually, such as cutting back on single-use plastics, recycling waste at home and at work. I try to reuse items as many times as possible before throwing them away, and buy clothing that I know I will get a lot of wear out of to cut down on fast fashion.

While being eco-conscious on a personal level is important, a staggering 55% of the world’s waste is created by just 20 companies globally, putting the onus on businesses to take more serious action.

We have a clear responsibility to do more, not only by minimising our carbon footprint, but by making sure sustainability is woven into every aspect of how a business is run.

There’s a common belief that going green equals expense.

While some processes do naturally cost more to transform at first, those expenses need to be offset against the savings made to the environment and the positive impact they can have on customers and employees alike.

At Crow Wood, for example, we have a policy in place that means whenever we need to replace a piece of equipment, we need to see if we can buy greener before replacing it.

We’ve found that in most cases, we can achieve this without breaking the bank. It’s all about the research.

With that in mind, here are six of my top tips for becoming a more sustainable and green business, no matter your size or budget:

1. Don’t do too much at once

2. Get your staff involved, if you employ people

3. Talk to your accountant

4. Work with local suppliers

5. Switch to electric vehicles

6. Install LED lighting

Pick an area of the business that you’d like to focus on, and work at that before moving on to the next project. Have a look at the resources that are already available and do what you can with what you’ve got.

Need a little inspiration?

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to have a positive impact.

Most larger companies showcase their sustainability policies on their websites, so look up companies that are taking on the kind of green initiatives you’re interested in and figure out how you can apply that approach to your business.

Then, of course, there’s the wealth of information available on the internet.

A quick Google search can reveal a goldmine of ideas that require minimal investment, both in terms of time and money.

The best way to create lasting change across your business is by getting your employees engaged, from your most junior recruits right up to your CEO. Share updates on your sustainability programme with staff and members and make it easy for people to get involved.

Ask staff for their ideas, and how they think the business can do better and go greener.

It’s surprising how much people to want to get do their bit, but are never given the opportunity.

In April, we organised a clean-up of the River Calder, which runs through our grounds. We picked up everything from bits of rubbish to a shopping trolley and disposed of everything in an environmentally friendly way.

We also encourage everyone to cycle to work if they can, providing bike lockers to make that easier for them to do.

Accountants can see where money is being spent—and lost—across the business, so it’s easy for them to recommend more cost-effective alternatives and source greener solutions.

They are often the catalysts for change and are perfectly placed to advise business owners on where changes can and should be made. Here are just four ways your accountant can help make your business more sustainable:

  • Going paperless. Any accountant will know that investing in a good document management system can save both manpower and trees. But if you don’t have the budget for a full-on document management system, good accounting software allows you to attach images of your files—all you need is a decent scanner or camera. Start small and choose accounting software that can grow with you.
  • Getting more out of your accounting software. We use accounting software that has a mobile app. The app is especially useful if you have a sales team because they can check basic information on the go and in real-time. With many companies now used to virtual meetings, your team could work remotely and still be in contact with their customers, seeing all recent sales history without having to spend hours on the road. A fabulous and cheap way to reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Digging into the data. You accountant has their finger on the pulse when it comes to crunching numbers. They’ll measure it all and report back with insights and suggestions tailored to your business and what kind of resources you’ve got at your disposal. Once you’ve put new processes in place, they’re also able to monitor the impact of that change. Remember, if you can’t measure something, you can’t properly manage it.
  • Sorting out tax savings. Make sure you speak to your financial advisers about Research & Development (R&D) tax credits. There may be some tax savings you can make by creating and investing in newer—and more sustainable—work practices.  A win-win for everyone.

All it really takes is one person to get the ball rolling with a great idea, and an accountant who can come in and help to drive that change forward with finances and feasibility in mind.

There are two main benefits of working with local suppliers.

First, you’ll cut your carbon footprint as suppliers are not shipping their goods across hundreds or thousands of miles, polluting the atmosphere in the process.

And secondly, it means we are supporting local businesses—local families—and giving back to the community by creating local employment opportunities. 

Remember to look for suppliers that are also eco-conscious themselves. We try to work with partners that have a similar ethos to us, and this alone helps to promote sustainability without having to ‘do’ anything, so it’s a quick win.

If your business leases or owns any vehicles, then you can be far more sustainable if you use electric alternatives.

Electric cars still need power to run, but emit fewer greenhouse gasses, which means less pollution in the air. Swapping out just one of your cars could save the planet from 1.5 million grams of carbon dioxide, which is a major contributor to global warming.

Crow Wood is gradually replacing its fleet of business vehicles with electric ones, and we have installed charging points for both our staff and guests to use free of charge on our premises.

Another easy and cost-effective way to be go greener is to use LED lighting wherever possible.

They use 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than standard lighting options, saving you money in the long run. They’re also brighter, which means you’ll need to fit fewer lights in each room, translating to an immediate saving in the short term.

At Crow Wood, we renew all our electric lighting with LED, which has reduced our energy consumption by up to 40% overall.

Sustainability Hub

Explore how your small business can create a robust sustainability strategy, save money, and attract more customers by visiting the Sustainability Hub.

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