The sustainable SME

How to be a more sustainable business

Climate change and sustainability is dominating the news, encouraging people to make changes to help the environment. But what can small business owners do to improve their sustainability (frequently cited as one of the things consumers consider when making their purchasing decisions)? We’ve pulled together a quick guide covering some small and large changes you could make for your business.

Select a renewable supply

The first step to creating a sustainable business is your choice of energy – specifically having something backed by a supply of renewable energy. With our renewable business tariff we can match 100% of your estimated annual electricity use with what are called Renewable Energy Guarantee Origin (REGO) sources such as wind, solar and biomass.

We’ll even provide a certificate that you can display so customers can see the efforts you’re making.

Think waste

We’re all used to recycling at home, but what about at work? Having a selection of easily accessible and correctly signposted recycling points can increase your sustainability credentials and encourage your staff to recycle more.

The UK generates over 5 million tonnes of paper waste per year so minimising your use of paper where possible is an easy way to make your business greener. There’s more you can do than using recycled paper and recycling waste paper. With technology you can e-sign documents, store them digitally and switch your printer settings to double-sided as standard.

Reducing your plastic waste is another great way to improve your environmental impact and reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the oceans. Simple steps can have a big impact such as offering metal or biodegradable disposable cutlery instead of plastic and providing tea and coffee facilities to reduce the amount of single-use takeaway cups brought to work. If you want to go one step further, you could even provide your staff with reusable cups.

Transport matters

Getting the bus or train to work, and encouraging your staff to do the same, is an easy way to make your commute more sustainable. Or why not start a car share scheme or encourage your staff to walk or cycle to work, where possible, to cut down on carbon emissions and improve local air quality. For those who aren’t confident on a bike, there’s the Government’s free Government cycle training programme. And as electric vehicles (EVs) grow in popularity, you could consider installing an EV charging point for your employees, customers and visitors.

Install solar panels

If you’re wanting to become more self-sufficient, and if your property type allows, why not install solar PV panels and capture solar energy to create the electricity to power your business, even on cloudy days. Solar panels don’t just improve your sustainability credentials, they can also lower your energy costs as you have less reliance on the grid, avoiding market volatility.

Consider CHP

For businesses with more significant heating or electricity demands you could consider combined heat and power (CHP). CHP engines replace a traditional boiler and turn fuel (usually gas) into electricity whilst also capturing the excess heat produced to either heat or cool your building. CHP can reduce carbon emissions by up to 30% when compared to generating through a power station and boiler and reduces energy costs by up to 20%. You can also take advantage of the opportunity to sell excess electricity back to the grid.

Store your energy

You don’t need to use the renewable energy you generate immediately; advances in battery storage technology mean you can store energy to use when you need it. Using stored energy can lower your demand at peak times - and avoid high network charges – or it can create additional revenue by selling it to the grid.

As a small business owner, there are many steps you could take to improve your sustainability ranging from the quick and easy to the more long-term solutions.

Find out more about how E.ON could help your business become more sustainable.