How to make your business more sustainable in 2023

How To Make Your Business More Sustainable In this article

From switching to electric vehicles to adding a recycling bin, we’ve rounded up eight ways to make your company eco-friendlier by 2024.

Review your greenhouse gas emissions

The UK has committed to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but we can all play our part in making this happen.

The first step is understanding what your emissions are in the first place by carrying out a review. There is advice on the government website on how you can do this, which lists how to collect data and set targets. 

After switching to electric vehicles, Yorkshire boiler and central heating firm and Which? Trusted Trader Scarbrook has invested in solar panels. Compliance manager Ian Atterbury said the change was to reduce the firm’s carbon footprint but will actually save them money because of rising electricity prices.

Boost your property’s energy efficiency

Whether you have dedicated business premises or work from home, have a look at any changes you could make for your property to become more energy efficient. 

Relatively simple and inexpensive improvements include:

  • Use door insulation to keep the heat in. For example, if you can feel cold air coming from under an external door, you can fit a weather bar or door brush strip.
  • Draught-proof windows. This could include a window seal foam, foam sealant or paint brush strips. 
  • Invest in thick window curtains or blinds to stop heat leaving after dark.

If you only have single-glazed windows, investing in double or triple glazing can also increase a property’s energy efficiency significantly. Check out other Trusted Traders to see if anyone offers double glazing installation in your area. 

Bigger changes, such as adding wall or floor insulation, can be pricey, but if you own the building you may be able to access grants and funding to help offset the cost of more major changes.

Find out about more government business grants

If you’re a tenant, talk to your landlord and discuss whether there are any changes they would be willing to make.

Reuse and recycle

A good first step in cutting the carbon footprint of your business waste is to have recycling bins in your office to make it easy for you and your employees to dispose of waste responsibly. 

You could also consider what you can do to support and encourage your customers to recycle any of your products and packaging that they use, for example by improving labelling on what can be recycled and how to recycle it. 

Top tips to recycle more

  • Carry out a waste audit to see how much is being used by your business
  • Keep records so you can monitor the amount of waste you’re recycling
  • Nominate a waste champion – this person could take leadership of any recycling issues
  • Communicate with your staff and make sure everyone knows what facilities are available.

Limit waste (and save money in the process)

Every item we throw away contributes to our carbon footprint. Recycling helps reduce this, but it’s even better to cut down on waste in the first place.

Which? Trusted Trader JR Roofing has benefited hugely from its waste reductions. Director Josh Morrison says his company separates all waste and recycles where possible. It has changed suppliers to help facilitate this and started buying more in bulk to reduce the packaging.

‘Lead is the most recycled construction material and we use that regularly within our work,’ he says. In addition, the company has eliminated all paperwork internally and uses postcode data to plan visits so travel is reduced.  He adds: ‘We have cut down our admin time and have more tools to analyse our business operations.’

Consider more efficient modern equipment

Carpet and upholstery cleaner Proclene upgraded to machines that use 40% less water and reduce fuel emissions by 23%. They also cut 30% off the time it takes to do a thorough clean.

There are knock-on benefits too because the new processes reduce the need for the customer to use additional energy on fans and heating to dry their soft furnishings. The machines are much less noisy too as they can be operated on their lowest setting. 

Director Craig Haycock says: ‘We have switched many cleaning products used in the services we provide to more ethical, sustainable, ecological and environmentally friendly products, and we will continue searching until they all are.’

Switch to electric vehicles

According to figures from the Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), published by EV charge point mapping app Zap-Map, there are now more than 680,000 electric cars on our roads, with 265,000 registered in 2022. Some 13% of cars registered in January 2023 were EVs.

It is predicted the number of EVs will rise to more than 12 million in just over eight years, after the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is banned in 2030.

Electric vans are also on the rise, accounting for 5.9% of all new vans in 2022 (up from 3.6% the year before).

Many businesses have already made the switch to electric vehicles and the Government has introduced new incentives to help Small and Mid-sized Enterprises (SMEs) with the upfront costs. 

The Department of Transport has put together a beginner’s guide for switching to electric vehicles. The government also launched an app last year called EV8 Switch which calculates if drivers could save money by switching to an EV compared with their current petrol or diesel vehicle. 

The Workplace Charging Scheme 

The Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) is a voucher-based scheme that provides eligible applicants with support towards the upfront costs of the purchase and installation EV charge points.

It’s open to businesses, charities and public sector organisations that meet the applicant and eligibility criteria, and is available in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The grant covers up to 75% of the total costs of the purchase and installation of EV charge points (inclusive of VAT), capped at a maximum of £350 per socket and 40 sockets across all sites per applicant. Find out more Workplace Charging Scheme

Plug-in Car Grant 

You can get a discount on the price of brand new low-emission vehicles through a grant the government gives to vehicle dealerships and manufacturers. 

To be eligible for the grant, the car must have a recommended retail price (RRP) of less than £32,000, including VAT and delivery fees, a zero-emission range of at least 70 miles, and be fully zero-emission.

The grant will pay for 35% of the purchase price for these vehicles, up to a maximum of £1,500 for cars, £2,500 for small vans and £5,000 for large vans. Check the criteria for low-emission vehicles eligible for a plug-in grant

Challenges with switching to EVs 

Several Which? Trusted Traders we spoke to said upgrading their vehicles was a challenge due to the cost and business needs.

Instead, they aim to be more sustainable by checking vehicle emissions standards when they buy or replace their vehicles.

Use sustainable companies and products

When purchasing a sustainable product, you should consider the product itself as well as the process by which it was created. 

When purchasing, look for products that:

  • Use fewer natural resources
  • Contain fewer hazardous materials
  • Have a longer lifespan
  • Consume less energy or water in production or use
  • Can be reused or recycled.

Sustainability is not just about buying ‘green’ products, it’s about minimising the negative social and economic effects of your purchasing decisions. In light of this, it’s also worth considering:

  • Choosing ethically sourced and fairly traded products – this ensures decent minimum labour standards were met in the production of a whole range of products Fair Trade is primarily concerned with the trading relationship
  • Choosing goods that are created and supplied locally, benefiting the local job sector and minimising travel costs
  • Utilising products and services from the community and voluntary sectors 
  • Choosing companies with a good employment ethic – for example, those that offer opportunities for training and skills development, or the use of apprenticeships. 

Encourage employees to make changes

One of the simplest ways to encourage sustainability is by rewarding employees for green behaviour. 

You could offer awards, prizes or financial incentives for activities such as reducing waste and minimising energy consumption.

Cycle to work scheme 

This government-backed scheme encourages employees to cycle to work by offering savings on bikes and accessories.

The business will pay for an employee’s bike in the first instance and then collect monthly payments to come tax-efficiently from the employee’s salary. 

Employers recoup the full cost of the bike and are able to save on employer NICs at 13.8%. Take a look at the government website for further guidance on how the Cycle to work scheme works, as well as the benefits to employees and employers.  

Get help becoming sustainable

As part of its COP26 Presidency Programme and beyond, the government is supporting all businesses as they sign up to the globally recognised United Nations Race to Zero campaign. 

This helps organisations become more energy efficient, switch to electric vehicles and become landfill-free. By doing so, they can protect the planet and their business, while helping us deliver a green business revolution.

UK Business Climate Hub

Launched in May 2021, the UK Business Climate Hub encourages small businesses to go green. These actions are supported by the government’s Together for Our Planet campaign, where businesses can get advice and support and commit to become net zero. 

So far, the campaign has helped drive 3,894  sign-ups to the UK Business Climate Hub website, representing 80% of sign-ups worldwide, and played a critical role in encouraging more than half of the country’s largest businesses to make climate change commitments, announced during COP26 in late 2021.