How can my business be more sustainable?

The Environment

Small changes make a big difference.  The cumulative impact will help protect the planet and ensure it’s liveable. Here are some easily actionable things you can do to be more sustainable. 


A photo of Emma Godivala in a gin distillery Emma Godivala

Emma director, distiller and designer of  York Gin is passionate about doing her bit to ensure we have a liveable planet.  

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Buy local when you can. This reduces the transport required to move goods – with a knock-on effect on your carbon footprint.

Use a green energy tariff. This encourages the use of renewables rather than fossil fuels.

If you can, employ a sustainability consultant to audit your company and find out how much your business is contributing to the climate emergency. This will uncover (for example) how sustainably your suppliers are acting, where you can cut your energy use (and save money!) and the carbon footprint of your own transport emissions. 

Ask your suppliers about what they are doing on the sustainability front. Even asking the question can kickstart action.

And don’t beat yourself up about not doing enough quickly enough. Do the easy things, do what you can, build momentum. Doing a small thing is better than inaction!

A photo of Andrew StarkAndrew Stark

Andrew is a marketing consultant who helps businesses to create clear and genuine communications to attract and retain ideal customers – and avoid greenwash too.

The term ‘sustainability’ is broadly used to describe the preservation of a resource, and we naturally think about the environment. However, there are three pillars to sustainability (sometimes more), which are; Social, Environmental and Economic. So to be truly sustainable, you need to think more broadly and appreciate the fact that the actions you take have an effect on resources – and you may be able to control, improve and quite possibly change this effect altogether.

Before you put plans into place, it’s important that you’re clear on why you want to be more sustainable, and what it means to you;

 Be genuine. Customers will spot ‘greenwash’ if you’re unable to substantiate and evidence what you do, and why. Ask yourself “why do I want my business to be more sustainable?” It’s an important question and if you’re doing it because you want to make a difference – then that’s a great start.

Work with your business; sustainability should be a company commitment, not an individual crusade. Creative and delivering a successful and effective plan needs engagement and support throughout your business.

Change your mindset; be prepared to think differently. “We’ve always done it like this” will have the same outcome as you have now. Be prepared to change.

Once you’ve addressed these points – you’re in a better position to make genuine and authentic plans which are timely and can be recorded/evidenced.

 

Making Actionable Plans

The problem some organisations make is by either plans which are too vague, or by making plans which they can never achieve.

Remember, a good plan may involve change and challenges – but will be more rewarding.

Here’s what I recommend

Get a team together representing different elements of your business. If you’re a sole trader, use networking groups to bounce your ideas off.

Consider the life-cycle of your products – from manufacture through to disposal. What can you change throughout this process?

Look into alternative suppliers and materials. Do you need to source from abroad? Can you support a local supplier?

Involve employees. How can you help them to help you?

Combine your plans with other initiatives – such as community support, health and wellbeing.

Use recognised carbon offsetting schemes – not to excuse your poor carbon footprint, but as part of your improvements.

Collaborate. One person’s waste might be usable in another industry.

Don’t stop. Today’s improvement becomes tomorrow’s standard.

Lucy Pembayun

Lucy is the founder of York-based LEaF Translations, a carbon-neutral translation company in York specialising in SEO translation and keyword localisation in all major global languages.  

Sustainability is not a black and white issue – we can all improve and encourage others to reduce their carbon footprint too. As business owners, we have the opportunity to influence customers, clients, consumers and suppliers and, by committing to sustainable practices ourselves, we can motivate others to follow suit.

There are two different aspects to this – one is reducing our negative impact and the other is increasing our positive impact. 

Reduce your negative impact

  1. Take stock
    Think about your business as it is now – which actions and activities have a negative impact on the environment. Can you change or adapt these to reduce their impact? If you have the resources, you can hire a sustainability consultant to help you with this.
  2. Switch to renewable energy & try to consume less
    Only buy things if you need them and source from ethical suppliers. Can you borrow items or find second-hand versions instead of buying them new?

    Only buy things if you need them and source from ethical suppliers. Can you borrow items or find second-hand versions instead of buying them new?
  3. And one of the best ways to make the biggest impact… your money! Check out Make Money Matter for a wealth of resources on ethical pensions and consider switching to an ethical bank

Increase your positive impact

  1. Offset your carbon and/or donate to charities fighting climate change and other environmental causes.
  2. Donate to charities fighting climate change and other environmental causes.
  3. Join communities such as the Good Business Charter, the SMEHub, etc. to make pledges and get support.
  4. Spread the word!
    Talk about your journey on social media and via blogs. Not only can it be a powerful marketing tool, it will also encourage others to adopt similar practices and consider how they can make a difference. Plus it is a great way to keep you accountable.BUT don’t greenwash – don’t make claims that aren’t true and don’t pretend to be perfect. Instead, be transparent and celebrate every step in the right direction so others can follow your story and be inspired!

If you are a York-based business and are interested in finding out more, check out Lucy’s talk at the Connect over Coffee networking group on Wednesday 16th March.

Sam Agnew, founder of Everyday PeopleBig thanks to Andrew, Emma, and Lucy for taking the time to share their experience and expertise. There are lots of small things we can do to make a difference, so we and future generations can continue to enjoy our planet .  Sam


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