5 Ways SME's Can Reduce their Enviromental Impact

SMEs: 5 quick and easy ways to reduce your environmental impact

Climate change is real, and it’s already happening. Governments and large corporations are taking major steps towards reducing carbon emissions. For instance the UK has all but banished coal as a fuel for generating electricity, and companies like Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover have announced that they’ll only be producing electric and hybrid vehicles by 2020.

But what can small and medium sized businesses do to help the fight against dangerous climate change? Most small business owners are right to think their impacts are minor, but taken together SMEs have been estimated to cause 64% of all environmental impact in the EU.

Most SMEs can do more to reduce their environmental impact, but struggle to find the time and money to invest in energy savings. Some businesses can also be put off by not knowing what actions to take, and thinking that they’ll all be expensive.

Here are 5 simple steps that most SMEs can take to reduce their environmental impact without breaking the bank.

1.Start with a basic energy survey

It sounds like it could be complicated, but conducting your own energy survey can be quite easy. The Carbon Trust has some excellent guides which will allow you to get going straight away, without the need for professional help.

The survey can be as detailed as you wish, but it’s certainly worth doing the following:

  • Gather together your energy bills and enter the consumption data into a spreadsheet. It’s surprisingly common that usage estimates are incorrect as a result of misreading meters, or mistaking day and night figures, so it’s worth doing this to make sure you’re not being overcharged by your supplier. Creating a graph will allow you to see how energy consumption changes over the year. You’d expect gas to be high in winter and much lower in summer, whereas electricity might be more stable. Any anomalies on the graph will indicate what needs further investigation.

  • Work out who in the business is actually responsible for energy management? SMEs are unlikely to have an Energy Manager, so who pays the bills, takes meter readings, and most importantly, who understands how to use the central heating?!

  • Do a walk-around survey. Have you got roof insulation? LED lighting throughout? Consult the Carbon Trust and the Government’s own guide for more information about what to look for.


2.Take free and easy measures

Actions you can do yourself include:

  • Making sure unused equipment is turned off. Do staff turn off computers at the end of the day? Are meeting room lights turned off when not in use?

  • Make sure the right people know how the heating controls work. Thermostats and radiator settings can often be confusing, especially where there are timers on the central boiler. Tweaking settings can lead to over-use of energy, and can also create conflict between staff. Clarify how controls work, and decide who is responsible for using them.


3.Make some ‘no brainer’ investments

There are a number of small investments which generate enormous energy savings:

  • Upgrade to LED lighting. No SME should still be using Halogen or Tungsten light bulbs. They’re expensive to run, and the waste heat generated can actually damage light fittings. Even if you’ve got fluorescent tubes, it’s worth investing in LEDs as the light quality is much better, and they’ll start saving you money straight away. The expert advice is to completely replace fittings rather than just the bulbs.

  • Draft proofing. Take a close look at the edges of windows and doors. If you can feel a breeze or see daylight, then take action! For a few quid you can buy sticky-backed draft excluders and apply them yourself.

  • Put foil behind radiators. Either buy a kit online or do it yourself with some aluminium foil. Where radiators are placed on external walls, this simple step can save around £10 a year per radiator.


4.Tackle travel

For non-manufacturing SMEs, travel is likely to be their largest environmental impact.

  • Business travel. If you fly to meetings overseas, or drive around the UK for work, then this is an area to take seriously. Not only do cars emit harmful CO2 emissions, but we’re now discovering how dangerous diesel is for public health. Ask yourself whether your business trips could be substituted for a teleconference call and invest in high quality video-conferencing equipment to make the change more seamless. Telling clients and partners that you’re trying to minimise your footprint might just impress them.

  • Support active travel. Healthy employees are more productive and take less time off due to sickness. Make sure staff know that they can charge 20p per mile if they travel by bicycle.

  • Commuting. This is the other major impact from travel. Do your staff drive to work in single-occupancy vehicles? You might feel it’s overstepping boundaries to start dictating how your employees travel, but you can nudge them into reducing emissions by subsidising a lift-sharing platform, and offering the opportunity to work from home from time to time.


5.Engage staff and boost morale

Public attitudes towards climate change are changing and a majority of people in the UK support serious action. Workers are attracted to environmentally responsible businesses, and existing staff are likely to be supportive of pro-environmental policies proposed by management.

The best way to reduce your business’s environmental impact is to get everyone involved on board. Staff can help to identify opportunities for energy savings and might lead internal behaviour change initiatives. Some businesses have found that creating a ‘Green Team’ can lead to big reductions in energy use and environmental impact.


If you’d like more help and support to reduce the environmental impact of your business, get in touch with Sam Hampton at sam.hampton@oxfordshirelep.org.uk and 07825 307720. His time and assistance is free to all SMEs in Oxfordshire.