Nic Redfern, Finance Director, NerdWallet discusses how businesses can reduce their operational costs by effectively reduce their carbon footprint
As awareness spreads about how humans are contributing to the long-term degradation of the environment through man-made pollution and carbon emission, governments, businesses and consumers alike are placing higher emphasis on reducing – or even reversing – their contributions to this global problem.
There are several reasons why a business might be keen to make sustainability part of its corporate identity. For one, consumers are increasingly demanding that the businesses they support are taking action to reduce their impact on the planet and tackle climate change. Indeed, according to a global survey by Nielson, four in five (81%) consumers surveyed feel strongly that companies should actively help to improve the environment.
At the same time, reducing their carbon footprint can also help businesses cut their costs. As someone who has worked closely with companies large and small, I have seen first-hand that with careful planning, reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint can have significant cost-efficient outcomes and reduce unnecessary expenditures.
Starting with the basics
Although the term ‘carbon footprint’ has become a common phrase used by the media and in daily discourse, what does it mean when discussed within the context of business management?
Put simply, a carbon footprint is the best estimate of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced to directly and indirectly operate a business. Depending on the product or service on offer, this can range from the emissions produced in the manufacturing of a product, to the amount of electricity consumed by a company to facilitate its daily operations.
Given the diverse sources of emissions, what can businesses do to tackle their own carbon footprint? The answer often lies in technology; by utilising existing and readily available technology, businesses of all sizes can make the transition to become more environmentally conscious.
Make the switch to renewable energy
One of the easiest ways to do so is for businesses to make the switch to renewable energy, thereby ensuring a business runs on cleaner energy. After all, for most companies, energy use is by far the largest contributor to their carbon footprint.
There are plenty of online comparison websites available that can help businesses explore their options and compare tariffs to find the best deals available. And today, many widely used energy providers offer renewable energy solutions that are backed by REGO – or, Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin – certificates, which guarantee that the origin of the energy supplied is renewably resourced.
Beyond helping businesses do their part for the planet, embracing energy efficiency can also deliver energy cost savings as a result of switching to cheaper alternatives.
Cutting down on waste
According to the Waste Resources Action Programme, a quarter of England’s waste is produced by its businesses. And waste that ends up in a landfill produces harmful greenhouse gases that damage the planet. Businesses are thus encouraged to acknowledge their responsibility to reduce their waste and recycle materials where possible.
This must necessarily start by exploring the sources of waste; for instance, are there noticeable bad practices surrounding wasteful consumption of resources? Paper waste is a significant issue in office spaces, and given its environmental impact, getting to the root of the problem involves reducing reliance on paper in the office and exploring alternative solutions.
That’s where technology comes in. The advent of cloud computing has paved the way for reducing reliance on printing and extensive hard copy record-keeping. Now, employees are now able to access digital versions of files; meanwhile, these computerised management systems can be accessed at any time or place. What’s more, shifting data storage onto to the cloud reduces the need to buy unnecessary ink and paper.
Where it’s difficult to cut down on waste, however, a recycling scheme can help you lower your carbon emissions by ensuring that any waste produced doesn’t end up in the landfill.
Reassess work commutes
Aside from taking steps to reduce carbon emissions stemming from in-house practices, it’s important not to overlook the contributions made outside of the remit of the business premises. Behaviours such as commutes to work play a significant role in the company’s overall carbon footprint.
To improve behaviours, companies should encourage employees to explore other transport options. For instance, implementing a cycle to work scheme could motivate workers not only to ditch their cars in favour of more environmentally-friendly modes of transportation but at the same time help improve their overall physical fitness.
For many – particularly those who have a long commute – this might not be a practical option, but the rise of remote working, facilitated by technology, offers a promising solution. Enhanced online connectivity means that employees can now work from locations that are more convenient for them, whether this is their home or a local library, without it affecting their productivity.
Moreover, the benefits of supporting remote or flexible working are obvious; Xerox recently ran a Virtual Workplace programme which saw 11% of its workforce work from home full time, reducing the company’s emissions by a significant 40,894 metric tonnes.
Implementing greener practices needn’t be overly complicated. By enlisting the help of technology and spreading awareness about environmentally friendly behaviours, companies stand to benefit not only from the satisfaction of helping the planet but also from associated cost reductions.
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