All business owners are finding that green issues are rapidly creeping up their agenda, as they represent a burden in terms of complying with laws and regulations, as well as representing threats to the future growth of the business.  Some of the potential issues are:

  • Climate change, including flooding which can increase insurance premiums.
  • Limited natural resources, causing rising raw material and energy prices.
  • Green taxes, such as land fill tax and fuel duty.
  • Increased regulation, such as the carbon reduction commitment and other environmental measures to reduce emissions and waste.

Although these are serious issues for businesses, they can also be viewed as an opportunity.

What are the green opportunities for my business?

There are a number of ways that the green agenda can be used to reduce costs, leading to higher profits.  The following are some examples of simple steps that your business could take to reduce its environmental impact, and drive down costs:

  • Transport – reduce fuel consumption and emissions by using more efficient vehicles and sourcing from local suppliers.
  • Packaging – reducing packaging and the use of plastic bags.
  • Recycling – reducing waste levels saves landfill tax and waste collection charges.
  • Travel – encourage staff to car share or use public transport.
  • Education – increase awareness amongst staff to change their behaviour.
  • Buildings – improve insulation to reduce bills, install energy efficient plant and equipment.
  • Raw materials – reduce, re-use, recycle and seek alternatives.

What if I want to go one step further and use the green agenda to grow my business?

The green agenda brings new business opportunities, allowing businesses to generate higher turnover and create new jobs.  This can be achieved through:

  • Innovation – developing new products, processes and services that solve green issues.
  • Collaboration – working with other businesses, for example, sharing transportation costs with your competitors.

As well as increasing profitability, there are also a number of government subsidies and tax saving opportunities for businesses that engage in innovation and collaboration, further enhancing the economic benefit of maximising these opportunities.

Are there any other benefits?

By implementing simple changes like these the business can also enhance its reputation on the back of the green agenda.

Who’s leading the way with sustainability?

A number of leading Worldwide organisations are amongst the first to recognise the value of promoting sustainability as one of their core values, including:

  • In 2007 Marks and Spencer’s launched Plan A, which seeks to work with their customers and suppliers to combat climate change, reduce waste, use sustainable raw materials, trade ethically, and help their customers to lead healthier lifestyles.  The Company have announced that in the 2010/11 year the net benefit of the plan to their business was in excess of £70 million.
  • In November 2010 Unilever launched their Sustainable Living Plan which seeks to reduce their environmental impact across the full life cycle of their products.  The Company state that, “Our plan isn’t just the right thing to do for people and the environment. It’s also right for Unilever: the business case for integrating sustainability into our brands is clear.”
  • The brewing group, SAB Miller, have introduced a sustainable policy which focuses on reducing their use of water, increasing the level of recycling and re-use of its packaging, as well as combating alcohol misuse.
  • Coca-Cola are seeking to build sustainable communities by focussing on initiatives that protect the environment and empower women in the community.  In September 2011 they launched their 5 BY 20 programme which seeks to create 5 million female entrepreneurs by 2020.

With some of the largest companies in the World recognising the business opportunities presented by the green agenda, it is clear that, with the right mind set, smaller businesses can also capitalise on this growth market and enhance their profitability.