From Bill Gates to Joe Biden, climate change seems to be on everybody’s lips and with World Environment Day just around the the corner this is the ideal time for small businesses to devote time to creating sustainability roadmaps and implement environmentally-friendly practices.
“As the world continues to face environmental disasters, and local demand for resources increases at an even faster pace, a sustainable future depends on businesses adopting the three principles of sustainability – reduce, reuse and recycle,” says Dan Bognar, Group VP and General Manager for DocuSign Asia Pacific and Japan.
While COVID-19 has put small businesses under immense financial pressure and economic uncertainty, some are already making progress, moving online and embracing opportunities to save time and resources, particularly in the areas of travel, transport and building-associated emissions.
In honour of World Environment Day (on June 5), here are six easy ways small businesses can implement sustainable practices.
1. Embrace digital automation
“A single A4 piece of paper is equivalent to 10 litres of water,” says Bognar. “When you consider that the average Australian worker consumes the equivalent of 10,000 sheets of A4 paper per year, this is enough water to fill a backyard pool.”
Switching to digital tools such as e-signature solution DocuSign and Google Drive helps businesses save resources such as paper (and the trees needed to be cut down in order to make it) and printer ink. Digital automation tools also reduces waste and with fewer office supplies to worry about, businesses can also free up space in the office.
“Recycling is one easy way to make your office more sustainable,” says Bognar. “Just provide separate bins dedicated to glass, paper, plastics and soft plastics. If your coffee machine uses pods, recycle the capsules.” Recycling should be an essential part of your sustainable strategy if it isn’t already.
And don’t forget to ‘recycle’ your green waste and food scraps too, in the form of composting and vermicomposting. Composting can reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (as rotting food and plant waste in landfills releases methane) and can result in a great soil conditioner to add to your gardens.
Instead of purchasing single-use items for your business, seek out reusable options that can be washed and reused. Consider swapping disposable kitchen items out for steel cutlery. Encourage reusable coffee cups instead of disposable plastic or paper cups. Provide stainless steel teaspoons instead of plastic or wooden stirrers.
4. Use sustainable packaging
Making the switch to recycled, recyclable or compostable packaging and courier satchels should be a part of any business commitment to sustainability. And with a growing number of B2B options available to small businesses (such as Noissue) adopting environmentally-friendly packaging alternatives has never been easier.
Bognar’s advice: “Seek out suppliers offering eco-friendly solutions, such as recycled paper and cardboard or bioplastic products made from plants, not fossil fuels. This helps the environment and increases brand loyalty among eco-conscious consumers.”
And if large companies like Telstra – that send out millions of products to Australian households every single year – can make the commitment to sustainable packaging, so can your small business.
5. Purchase carbon offsets
Carbon offsetting is when an individual or business voluntarily chooses to pay a price to compensate for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions emitted by their activities. When a person or company pays this price, the funds are used to buy ‘carbon offsets’, a form of credit which is then invested in projects that help to reduce GHG emissions, such as projects that conserve biodiversity. “Carbon offsetting brings many benefits including more trees, cleaner waterways and further investment into clean energy,” says Bognar. “Some carbon offsetting programs also offer the chance to specify the project you’d like your payment to go on. During your research phase, make sure to check for third-party certification and learn about the projects where investments are being made.”
It’s important to remember that while carbon offsets are a tool to help mitigate environmental impact they shouldn’t be viewed as a licence to keep polluting under a ‘business as usual’ attitude and is best used with the other sustainable strategies listed.
Related Post: Why Planting Trees Alone Won’t Offset the World’s Carbon Emissions
6. Switch to green electricity
Opt for green electricity providers and renewable energy suppliers if they are available to you. If you are lucky enough to be based in a sunny part of the world and have the funds, consider installing solar panels. In Australia, Powershop is a popular green energy provider. In the UK, Ecotricity provides renewable energy to homes and businesses. Green Mountain Energy in the United States serves customers in regions such as New York and Texas. A quick online search should bring up the green power providers nearest you.
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Cover image via Noissue.