How to become green and stay green


Hannah Coles outlines her top tips for businesses seeking to curb their environmental impact

For a multitude of good reasons, businesses are becoming increasingly eager to green their operations and reap the benefits of a reduced carbon footprint. Yet, more often than not, half the battle is staying green and keeping on top of your environmental action plan. What can you do to make it stick? With this in mind, here are some ideas to help your business stay on track.

Avoid the crash diet scenario
Trying to become more eco friendly can be likened to the process of losing weight because most of it is down to habit and mindset. Although one involves retaining pounds and the other involves shedding them (see what I did there), both are long term goals that come into effect gradually.

When looking to get in shape it's tempting to immediately kick several habits at once. No cakes, chocolate, take aways, alcohol (or fun). You're setting yourself up for failure because this is not a sustainable diet. Who has the willpower to overcome four vices at once? Not many of us.

That's why, when setting environmental targets, it's easier to view the changes you make to get there as being permanent. This puts into perspective what is manageable and what, for the time being, is going to be a little more difficult. What actions can you take that will challenge the workplace, but are achievable AND can be maintained?

It's a cliché, but think outside of the box
Although there are plenty of conventional actions that can be taken to reduce your environmental impact, sometimes it takes a little creativity or competition to get staff on board.

Alternative ideas include Meat Free Mondays, supplying your staff with reusable branded thermal cups for their morning coffee, even a swear box (if that's the kind of office you work in) where money collected goes towards some fancy low energy gadget or a tree planting scheme.

Use your credentials as a marketing tool
You have two cleaning services that both carry out exactly the same procedures to limit their environmental impact. The only difference is that one cleaning service tells you about how green they are, whereas the other cleaning service shows you that they have third party environmental accreditation backing their green claims. If you're looking to work with environmentally aware businesses, it's a no brainer.

The ability to separate your business from the rest and rise above the ‘greenwash' makes accreditation worthwhile. If you implement certain environmental standards and wish to put it to good use, get third party accreditation to prove that you are the real deal. I can recommend the Green Achiever Scheme which provides a range of accreditation for businesses of all sizes and industries in the UK.

Get connected, and encourage others to do the same
There are plenty of networks for businesses interested in meeting other like-minded organisations. As well as being great for free marketing tools, information on grants and industry updates, many groups will offer extended advice on environmental matters. Take advantage of this and learn from others; how have other businesses in your sector overcome the barriers that so often delay progress on green issues?

If you are currently a member of a network and feel as though green opportunities are too few and far between, suggest that more is done. Never underestimate the PR benefits of championing environmental awareness.

Money, money, money
Often business are held back by a lack of finances when embarking upon reducing their environmental impact. To benefit from significant savings in the future, it makes business sense to invest in renewable technology and so grants and funding are available. I recommend signing up for a business grants newsletter which makes it easy to find funding opportunities to suit you. Although these things take time, and perhaps some blood, sweat and tears, it's definitely worth doing. If you don't apply, you'll never know!

Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes
Green businesses are everywhere. It's easy to idolise large corporations when the media lavishes praise upon them for making progress with their flash sustainability programmes, yet what the media doesn't cover is how SME's are driving forward significant changes to the way they operate with significantly less resources at their disposal. It takes clever investment, commitment and great efficiency for a small business to offset their carbon and save money through being green. Surely that's where our inspiration should come from and if you like the look of their results, explore the feasibility of following in their footsteps.

This guest blog was written by Hannah Coles in partnership with the Green Achiever Scheme - an environmental accreditation service for UK businesses.

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