In recent years, the term ‘carbon footprint’ has started popping up in conversations surrounding energy, but what exactly does that mean? Simply put, ‘carbon footprint’ refers to the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through certain activities such as driving and energy usage. So, the smaller your carbon footprint, the fewer carbon emissions you are creating.
For businesses, the size of their carbon footprint can have a large impact on the environment, with 71% percent of all global greenhouse gases being produced by 100 businesses and the threat of climate change growing ever-more worrying, now is the best time to start reducing your business’s carbon emissions.
Our guide contains 11 ways businesses can reduce their carbon footprint, so you can start making changes today, to see improvements in the long run.
Why Should Businesses Reduce Their Carbon Footprint?
There are many reasons why businesses should reduce their carbon footprints that benefit both the environment and the business itself;
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a strategy undertaken by companies to take an active and positive social role in their community. This can include environmental initiatives as well as implementing policy regarding diversity and creating a healthy working environment for employees. CSR is an important way of showing your customers, competitors and wider community that you take a compassionate approach to business; an appealing trait when it comes to attracting new customers as well as staff.
According to a recent study, 4 out of 5 people described themselves as ‘more likely to support a brand with a positive approach to environmental sustainability’. So, as well as saving money on your energy bills, you could also increase your revenue from green-minded customers.
Of course, there will be no business to benefit if there is no healthy planet to live on; the main reason for ongoing efforts to reduce carbon footprints is to protect the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change. Businesses have a vital role to play in the fight to save the planet, so reducing your business’s carbon footprint is great place to start.
11 Ways Businesses Can Reduce Their Carbon Footprint
1. Understand your carbon footprint
The first step towards reducing your business’s carbon footprint is to understand contributing factors. Activities that contribute towards your carbon footprint include your consumption habits- such as electricity, gas and water-, transportation emissions, industrial and commercial processes, and waste produced and how it is disposed of.
The best way to calculate your carbon footprint is over a 12-month period. This can be done using a spreadsheet, or with an online calculator tool. Once you are aware of your carbon footprint, you will be able to begin taking steps towards reducing it.
2. Use renewable energy to power your business
Switching to renewable energy is one of the best ways you can reduce your business’s carbon footprint. There are several ways you can achieve this:
- Create your own energy – the most popular ways of doing this involve solar panels, wind turbines, or both. This is likely to save you a lot of money in the long run. However, you will need to pay a large upfront free before you can get started and you may face issues such as lack of sunlight and/or air flow which could reduce the amount of energy you can collect.
- Switch to a green business energy supplier – By opting for a supplier that provides renewable energy plans, you will be powering your business sustainably while avoiding the hassle associated with installing your own infrastructure. At Yü Energy, we offer 100% sustainable, REGO-backed electricity plans, as well as carbon neutral gas plans.
3. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Did you know that around 80% of items sent to landfill could have been recycled? A simple yet effective way for your business to reduce its carbon footprint, is to be more conscious of the things you use and how you dispose of the things you no longer need. Here are our top tips for reducing, reusing and recycling:
- Do an audit of your premises – are you using any single use plastics, such as coffee cup lids or disposable cutlery? How about your recycling bins? Which areas can you spot that you can improve on?
- Recyling bins – if you haven’t already, introduce recycling bins for staff and customers to use, place these in areas such as kitchens or communal staff rooms where they are most likely to be used.
- Recycle paper – rather than throwing away unneeded paper, reuse it for notes or pop it in a paper recycling bin. (Be sure that you’re not reusing any paper with sensitive data on it – this will need to be shredded.)
- Change the way you file data – to avoid paper waste, try cutting it out of your filing process altogether! By switching to online systems, you can reduce your need for paper, as well as making upholding GDPR standards easier!
- Try composting – if you fancy getting a bit green, try adding food waste bins to your staff kitchens and creating your own compost, this can then be used to create a flower display or even grow your own fruits and vegetables.
- Shop second hand – when purchasing office furniture, tables and chairs, or display cabinets, consider purchasing second hand items from furniture charity shops or outlets selling old furniture from businesses that have closed or moved online. Not only will you be reducing your businesses carbon emissions, but you’re likely to save some money too!
4. Choose the most efficient appliances to reduce carbon footprint
When purchasing appliances for your workplace, such as lamps, fridges, washing machines etc. be sure to check the energy efficiency rating to ensure you’re getting the most efficient item possible. In the UK, all appliances will be awarded an efficiency rating from A to G, with A being the most efficient and G being the least. Items with A-C ratings will use less energy and produce less waste, for example unneeded heat energy created by lightbulbs.
5. Consider electric transport
When finding ways to reduce your business carbon footprint, transport is a good place to start if you want to make some serious changes. Whether you operate a fleet of vehicles, lease out company cars, or simply have a lot of staff or customers who travel to your premises via car, incorporating electric vehicles can make a big difference to your business’s carbon footprint.
If you’re not ready to swap out your own vehicles for EVs just yet, try installing some EV charge points for customer and/or staff use. This will encourage more sustainable behaviour, while also demonstrating your green initiatives.
6. Consider your working model
An often-overlooked contributor to a business’s carbon emissions is their working model, for example, do their employees work on-site, from home, or a mixture of both? While working from home may not be possible for all business types, many office-based businesses are staring to change the way they work.
According to a study from the National Academy of Sciences, employees who worked from home were estimated to reduce their emissions by 54%, compared with workers who travelled into an office every day, while hybrid workers working from home two to four days a week reduced their emissions by around 29%.
This can also be applied to meetings; where possible, try hosting meetings using online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Google Meet to avoid generating emissions by asking people to travel long distances. You may also be able to save on your utility bills with less people in-office using energy-guzzling tech and appliances.
7. Use sustainable suppliers
Take a look at your partners and suppliers and their sustainability efforts. If they are not using eco-friendly methods, this will, in turn, contribute to your own carbon footprint.
By working with other like-minded businesses, you can reduce your overall carbon emissions. Look out for businesses with ISO 14001 certifications, as this is proof that they are using green methods for their Quality Management Systems and are taking active steps towards improving efficiency and reducing waste.
8. Talk to employees
When introducing any new initiative, it’s important that you get your whole team on board. If your staff understand why they are being asked to take part, you are more likely to succeed as a team. You can also ask for suggestions from your employees, giving them a chance to have their say and encouraging a strong sense of teamwork.
9. Don’t forget about digital carbon footprint
The term ‘digital carbon footprint’ refers to the number of emissions generated by your digital devices and tech use. While much of the tech used by businesses is necessary and can’t be cut out altogether, you can still make considerable reductions with a few simple adjustments;
- Empty your email inbox regularly to reduce data storage
- Extend your device’s lifespan: take care of your devices and avoid replacing them with newer models unless necessary
- Avoid using wireless chargers, as these can consume up to 50% more energy
- Reduce screen brightness or switch to dark mode: this not only saves energy, but it also puts less strain on your eyes over long periods of time
- Keep your devices charged between 20 and 80 percent and avoid leaving fully charged devices plugged in, as this will decrease overall battery health
- Only download files you need – don’t waste power downloading unnecessary files or apps
- Unsubscribe to unwanted or unneeded email newsletters (Did you know that the average carbon footprint of an email is 0.3g of CO2e?)
10. Consider tech usage
For businesses that rely heavily on technology such as PCs, there are several things you can do to make sure your tech is working in the most efficient way possible;
- Only use what you need – don’t splash out on unnecessary tech, for example, do all your employees need two monitors?
- Swap PCs for laptops – laptop computers use around 50% less energy than desktop computers
- Put computers in sleep mode- make sure your tech isn’t using unnecessary energy when you’re not around by changing the settings so your computer goes to sleep after a set period of inactivity
11. Find the right temperature
Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are often one of the biggest consumers of energy, and so, can contribute greatly to a business’s carbon footprint. Make sure you are not over heating or over cooling your space by setting your systems to a neutral temperature and not allowing it to be changed by employees.
Generally, 20-23 degrees Celsius is considered an ideal temperature for a working environment, however, this can vary depending on the nature of your business. For example, sport centres or gyms may require a cooler temperature for customers who are exercising, whereas a salon trying to create a relaxing environment may require a slightly warmer temperature.
There are many benefits to reducing your business’s carbon footprint, both for the planet and your finances. Though it may be hard to know where to start, especially if you operate a large business with a high number of staff or multiple premises, understanding your carbon profile, along with careful planning, will help you reduce your carbon footprint for good.
Be sure to monitor the outcomes of these changes, to see what’s working well, and what you can improve on!
Looking for more ways to reduce your carbon footprint?
Get your fast, free, renewable business energy quote online now, and find out how much you could save with Yü Energy.