From government grants to analysing your own carbon footprint, energy-efficient measures could reduce the environmental impact of your SME and save you money. Retail Merchant Services explained some of the changes you could make.
Which measures could Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), especially energy-intensive businesses, take right now to reduce their carbon footprints?
- Look at the sustainability of the products you are creating. Can you use renewable materials? Or, if you get materials from another supplier, can you check their eco-credentials, and swap if they’re not doing what they can to go greener? Can you streamline the process so that you reduce waste wherever possible?
- Create a recycling policy. If you can’t reduce the amount of waste that you’re generating, you should aim to make sure that it can be disposed of sustainably. You could look at your shipping supply chain. If your business sends out physical items, make sure to check the packaging you’re using – can it be recycled? Are you using too much?
- Can you switch to a renewable energy supplier, or generate your own renewable energy? While it’s not right for everyone, it can also be worth considering if there are any employees in your business who can work from home on some days. This removes the carbon footprint of their journey to work.
The Smart Export Guarantee Scheme pays some SMEs for producing their own renewable heat and power. Not only will this allow you to generate your own electricity, which can be useful in the current climate of fluctuating costs, but you can earn money from this too.
The Clean Heat Grant is a government-backed grant that rewards companies who use green heating technologies like heat pumps, and the Green Gas Support Scheme is intended to increase the amount of green gas in the National Grid.
The amount that SMEs can benefit from these schemes may depend on the amount of money that they have available to buy renewable technology, or the space to put items like heat pumps. If this is likely to be a barrier, then they may find smaller local schemes more useful.
Do you have any tips for companies calculating their carbon footprints? What are the potential benefits of this?
Take your time – understanding your carbon footprint isn’t an overnight process. You may find it beneficial to use an online carbon footprint calculator, or contact a sustainability expert to help.
You’ll need to consider three types of emissions:
- Direct emissions – the emissions that your company is directly responsible for, such as fuel for company cars.
- Energy indirect emissions – emissions from utilities that you don’t directly control, such as electricity and gas
- Other indirect emissions – everything else that is connected to your business activities, such as employee travel, shipping, and the whole supply chain.
Understanding your carbon footprint is important to help you know where you can improve and cut down on your emissions. Not only does this help the planet, but it’s also a tangible demonstration that you care about the environment, which can be attractive to sustainably-minded customers.
The initial outlay for heat pumps and other technologies are steep, but this investment may pay off in the longer term.
What are the benefits of aggressively pursuing net zero and what are the drawbacks?
Of course, the primary benefit of pursuing net zero is that it helps the planet. Business waste has a huge impact on the environment and, as a result, any changes that can be made in this sector will have a big impact too. However, going net zero can also potentially make your business more profitable too.
Your profits may go up for several reasons. First, it’s more appealing to customers. As part of going net zero, you’re likely to adjust your products to be more eco-friendly. And with reports showing that 63% of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products, this could make your business more appealing.
Second, it could save you money. You may find that examining your processes and policies to make them greener will allow you to benefit from specific tax cuts, or simply improve the efficiency of your company. In time, this could save you from wasting money as well as energy.
Third, it could boost your competitiveness. Small companies often find they just can’t match big businesses for price, so it’s important to find a selling point that allows you to remain competitive. As mentioned before, customers are increasingly looking for more ethical products, so being able to say that you’re net zero could help you beat the competition.
Finally, it could prepare you for new policies. Governments around the world are under pressure to go greener, and so they’ll likely transfer this pressure to businesses. Going green now means you’ll be ahead of the curve and able to make these changes at your own pace, rather than having to rush and pay to make them all at once.
While these are all amazing benefits, one of the biggest challenges that SMEs face is the cost of going net zero. It’s not cheap in the current economic climate, especially if you’ve got big changes to make. According to research, 40% of SMEs said that high cost and lack of budget were the biggest net zero blockers.
Electric vehicles require less maintenance – and you don’t have to pay road tax.
What are the benefits of moving your vehicles to electric right now, and what are the drawbacks?
There’s no denying that electric vehicles are significantly better for the environment than conventional cars. For companies looking for a relatively straightforward way to go greener, electric cars can be a great choice.
As well as swerving rising fuel prices, EV owners don’t currently pay vehicle tax in the UK. Additionally, they have fewer moving parts, and so require less maintenance. All of these factors mean that while EVs can be an expensive initial investment, they generally cost less to run in the long term.
With the UK government banning new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030, investing in electric vehicles now means that SMEs can get ahead of the rush that is likely to come as we get close to the deadline. There is already a year’s wait time for some vehicles, so ordering your fleet now could mean that you avoid an even longer queue further down the line.
Of course, many SMEs feel unable to commit to electric vehicles right now due to the cost of living – they’re an expensive purchase. If this is the case, you could consider changing one vehicle at a time, and looking to see if you’re eligible for any local grants that can support you with the cost of this.
>> Want to turn your science into a business? This event will help.
How much have inflated energy costs undermined the push for net zero?
Unfortunately, rising energy costs have meant that small businesses are feeling the pinch, and might struggle to make new eco-friendly changes, as they are often costly. For many, their focus is simply remaining profitable.
However, what is also clear is that for those that can afford it, examining your business for changes that will allow you to move towards net zero can also be a way of saving money in the long run.
If you’re able to produce your own renewable energy (for example, getting solar panels on the offices), you may be able to mitigate some of the effects of rising energy costs, as you won’t be reliant on the National Grid.
Finally, apart from energy efficiency schemes, how could the government help reduce the carbon footprint of SMEs?
As well as energy schemes, the government can help by providing information and resources on sustainable practices. By sharing best practices widely with businesses, and offering them a place to go to get support, the government can help them develop more environmentally friendly operations.
Additionally, they can help by creating incentives for businesses to go green. By offering tax breaks or other financial incentives, the government can encourage businesses to adopt sustainable practices.
Written by Retail Merchant Services. The SME Environmental Impact Guide can be read in full.
Edited by Eoin Redahan. You can read more of his work here.