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The first and most important step is to reduce the materials you use. This might mean checking your stock before buying more, sharing with other users, reusing what you already have, or repairing items instead of throwing them away.
If you need to buy something, purchasing something second-hand or that has been refurbished or remanufactured is a great way to reduce your impact - for example, buying a refurbished phone rather than buying new. If that’s not an option, look for products with verifiable sustainability credentials. Perhaps they contain recycled or bio-based material or are designed for easy recycling.
Finally, if none of that’s possible, try negotiating end-of-life options with your suppliers to give your products the best chance of being processed correctly when they’re no longer needed.
This order of purchasing preference is commonly described as the Procurement Hierarchy.
Transport is the largest source of carbon emissions in the UK. This means that changing the way you move around can be a great way to reduce your impact.
For businesses, transport might include how you and your employees get to and from work; how you visit your clients or suppliers; and how clients, suppliers, and servicing personnel visit you.
The best way to reduce your transport impact is to travel less. This might mean holding meetings with suppliers online instead of in person or allowing employees to work from home.
When travel is necessary, you should promote active travel (like walking or cycling) wherever possible and public or shared transport where it’s not (like trains, buses, or trams). Using electric vehicles as an alternative to traditional petrol or diesel ones is another way to reduce the environmental impact of travel. We call this order of decision-making the Sustainable Travel Hierarchy:
Every business uses energy. The amount you need will vary depending on what sort of business you run, but there are always things you can do to reduce your daily consumption.
Using less energy can be as simple as reminding people to switch off electronics when they’re not needed. Savings can also be made by swapping old, inefficient appliances for new energy-efficient alternatives.
Think about where you get your energy from as energy can be generated from fossil fuels like petrol or gas (known as brown energy) or from renewable sources like solar or wind (known as green energy). Energy from fossil fuels tends to have a substantial carbon footprint compared to renewables.
Understanding where your energy comes from, and switching it if it makes sense, can be a good way to keep the impact of your energy low. But remember: the cleanest (and cheapest) energy is the energy you don’t use in the first place, so follow the Energy Hierarchy when making decisions.
Reducing the environmental impact of your business’s waste means making less of it and sorting what you make so that it can be disposed of correctly.
The first step is understanding what’s in the waste you’re creating. You might find conducting a waste audit helpful as it will show you, first-hand, what’s ending up in your bin. You can then look to address the source of the waste, which will ultimately save you money and reduce your impact
The Waste Hierarchy will help you prioritise your options for things you no longer want or need. Your first port of call should be prevention, which means not creating waste in the first place. This might mean buying less (see Section 2.1 on Materials for more information on this).
For waste you cannot avoid, the next priority is finding ways to reuse it. This could mean repurposing old items yourself or selling or donating them to someone else. If you can’t reuse something, you should look to recycle it properly. Energy recovery (i.e. incineration) or landfill should only be a last resort when no other options are available.