How to create an environmental policy statement for your small business
This environmental policy template will help you get started if your business wants to boost its green credentials
Today, more than ever, there is a growing demand for companies to demonstrate a responsible approach to business.
And although as a small business you’ll have lots of pressing tasks to undergo – meaning an environmental policy might not be top of your priority list – a commitment to green practices doesn’t have to be a lengthy undertaking and it could have far reaching effects.
Creating an environmental policy provides the perfect opportunity to review if your day-to-day activities are both environmentally responsible and meet legal requirements. It also helps to keep employees informed of their environmental roles and responsibilities, lowers cost through reduced consumption and waste and helps save even more money by improving the efficiency of your processes.
Beyond internal operations, demonstrating a commitment to managing your environmental impact can help improve your reputation with existing clients and other stakeholders. You never know, in an ever more challenging financial climate, your environmental credentials could be the difference between winning work with a new client, or not.
The importance of buy-in
Many businesses can and do simply produce an environmental policy simply to satisfy a tender requirement. But as demonstrated by the potential benefits mentioned above, this would be wasting a great opportunity.
For an environmental policy to have full affect, integration into the business is essential, as is buy-in from the top down. A way of improving general staff engagement is by incorporating environmental responsibility into staff inductions and job roles.
To help integrate the environmental policy into the day-to-day running of your start-up, include a review of the policy, where you review any progress and developments, within management meetings. Approaching your environmental performance just like any Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is the way to do things.
Bringing awareness and responsibility to your policy can be achieved by integrating any developments within any internal communications.
Creating your environmental policy
Put simply, an environmental policy is a statement outlining your business’ environmental strategy and the driving force behind your objectives. It should include time-related targets and a measurable management programme, which should result in effective implementation.
An in-house risk assessment should bring to light most issues. Ask yourself how your business’ existence and output affects the environment and what risks face it?
Although your organisation’s environmental policy should be formed by your founding and senior team, it’s certainly worth including all staff at the ideas stage too. After all, your staff are stakeholders in the organisation, including them may prove motivational, turning your policy into positive action.
There isn’t an agreed set layout on how you should write an environmental policy. The key is to have a policy that is both easy to understand and that clearly states your business aims and objectives, similar to a mission statement. It needn’t be longer than a single page.
A tip for any organisation keen to become part of a supply chain is to try to obtain policies from key customers so your statements can reflect their requirements.
An effective environmental policy allows your senior team to communicate its aims and objectives to employees, shareholders, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. All goals should be measurable, realistic and have accountable actions with deadlines.
Your policy should outline:
- Your business’ mission and information about its operations.
- A commitment to continually improve and monitor environmental performance.
- A commitment to managing your environmental impacts.
- Your compliance with relevant environmental legislation.
- Your expectations from suppliers and sub-contractors.
- A commitment to employee awareness and training.
Your policy could be categorised by different business activities, such as:
- Choosing like-minded suppliers.
- Energy usage (incl. water).
- Recycling and waste management.
- Use of stationary and other goods.
Using an environmental policy template
To help you get started writing your own environmental policy, you can use the below template. You can also check out the policies of well-known organisations below.
- Hewlett Packard’s Environmental Policy and Goals
- Going Green at Google
- Age UK Hounslow Environmental Policy(PDF)
- McDonalds Environmental Policy
- Travis Perkins Environmental Policy
The template is designed to be free of industry bias. There may be some tweaks or inclusions (or deletions!) you wish to do in order to make the policy more relevant to your business.
The end result should be a policy that is both easy to understand and clearly states the organisation’s aims and objectives, similar to a mission statement. It needn’t be longer than a single page.
Environmental policy template
Last Reviewed : DD/MM/ YY
Next Review : DD/MM/ YY
[Organisation] recognises that it has a responsibility to the environment beyond legal and regulatory requirements. We are committed to reducing our environmental impact and continually improving our environmental performance as an integral part of our business strategy and operating methods, with regular review points. We will encourage customers, suppliers and other stakeholders to do the same.
[Name and Title] is responsible for ensuring that the environmental policy is implemented. However, all employees have a responsibility in their area to ensure that the aims and objectives of the policy are met.
We endeavour to:
- Comply with and exceed all relevant regulatory requirements.
- Continually improve and monitor environmental performance.
- Continually improve and reduce environmental impacts.
- Incorporate environmental factors into business decisions.
- Increase employee awareness and training.
- We will minimise the use of paper in the office.
- We will reduce packaging as much as possible.
- We will seek to buy recycled and recyclable paper products.
- We will reuse and recycle all paper where possible.
Energy and water
- We will seek to reduce the amount of energy used as much as possible.
- Lights and electrical equipment will be switched off when not in use.
- Heating will be adjusted with energy consumption in mind.
- The energy consumption and efficiency of new products will be taken into account when purchasing.
- We will evaluate if the need can be met in another way.
- We will evaluate if renting/sharing is an option before purchasing equipment.
- We will evaluate the environmental impact of any new products we intend to purchase.
- We will favour more environmentally friendly and efficient products wherever possible.
- We will reuse and recycle everything we are able to.
- We will reduce the need to travel, restricting to necessity trips only.
- We will promote the use of travel alternatives such as e-mail or video/phone conferencing.
- We will make additional efforts to accommodate the needs of those using public transport or bicycles.
- We will favour ‘green' vehicles and maintain them rigorously to ensure ongoing efficiency.
Maintenance and cleaning
- Cleaning materials used will be as environmentally friendly as possible.
- Materials used in office refurbishment will be as environmentally friendly as possible.
- We will only use licensed and appropriate organisations to dispose of waste.
Monitoring and improvement
- We will comply with and exceed all relevant regulatory requirements.
- We will continually improve and monitor environmental performance.
- We will continually improve and reduce environmental impacts.
- We will incorporate environmental factors into business decisions.
- We will increase employee awareness through training.
- We will review this policy and any related business issues at our monthly management meetings.
- We will involve staff in the implementation of this policy, for greater commitment and improved performance.
- We will update this policy at least once annually in consultation with staff and other stakeholders where necessary.
- We will provide staff with relevant environmental training.
- We will work with suppliers, contractors and sub-contractors to improve their environmental performance.
- We will use local labour and materials where available to reduce CO2 and help the community.
Once your environmental policy has been finalised you should make sure it’s visible to all staff.
All businesses have suppliers. You can use your influence as a client (if applicable) to encourage suppliers and contractors to uphold similar environmental standards; you may even want to make it a requirement to do business with you.
You could integrate your green message into your marketing materials, encouraging customers to adopt a similar ethos. By communicating your aims and objectives, it may even bring your organisation more work.
Robert Fenn is a business expert at The British Assessment Bureau, an ISO 14001 certification body.