The green incentive: Why your business should install green working practices

How far should the government go to encourage businesses to be eco-friendly?

It's becoming harder to ignore the daily reminders of our planet's dismal future.

The unseasonably warm weather, the talk of our rather mysterious carbon footprints, and the gradual social ostracism of anyone who admits that they don't recycle, have all meant that ‘going green' is creeping up businesses' agendas.

Either your business has bitten the bullet and started to install green working practices, or it's more preoccupied with day-to-day to give the energy consumption of computers left on standby a second thought.

But what does it take for firms that have so far ignored the calls of the green brigade to start seriously making an effort to cut down on their energy use? New research suggests that the government is to blame for the poor green credentials of many businesses. Think-tank The Tenon Forum has found that 48% of UK owner managers believe the government isn't doing enough to support firms' efforts to implement environmentally friendly policies.

“Small and medium-sized enterprises need government to motivate and reward best environmental practices with tax credits so green behaviour also makes a difference to the bottom lines,” says Andy Raynor, chief executive of Tenon.

Some go further, claiming profi t will almost always be the main driver to change working practices. As Roger Southam, chief executive of residential property managers Chainbow, says: “Unless it makes good business sense to go green, many will merely pay lip-service to green initiatives.”

Many suggest that, as well as tax credits, there are other incentives that eco-friendly firms can benefit from. Paul Allen, author of Your Ethical Business, cites costs saved through lower energy use, as well as changing consumer trends.

“Businesses should look at the huge rise in ethical consumerism and the desire to trade with companies that actually do things the right way,” he says. “Do we really need government to give us an incentive when the incentives should already be there? People increasingly want to do business with companies that take their environmental impact and their carbon footprint very seriously.”

Businesses are making greater efforts to cut energy consumption and recycle. But smaller firms are generally unable to follow the example of the uber-green businesses to become a shining beacon of environmentalism.

Adnams, for example, puts the issue at the top of its agenda. Its entire building is designed to regulate the internal temperature, and it even recycles its excess rainwater. Although this is unlikely to be in reach of most fi rms, marketing manager Steve Curzon insists that smaller firms can still ‘take a pro-active approach to being more environmentally aware, in a way that supports their businesses.'

This could suggest that government initiatives are not necessary. Some even claim that to blame the government is nothing more than a bad excuse. “It's rather lame of businesses to say that they need the government to help them with this – I mean are they really entrepreneurs?” says Dale Vince, managing director of green energy supplier Ecotricity.

But perhaps businesses are realising that recycling can only do so much, and are calling on the government to help them go much greener. “I think businesses know to turn heating down and switch off computers, but I don't think it extends much more than that,” says Andy Raynor. “They recycle, but don't think about where they source materials, for example. And although they think about electricity, they don't think about how they source it.”

For this kind of change to happen, it seems likely the government will have to help further, either by providing incentives, or just information. Perhaps, as Raynor says, only the government “can kick-start what is already becoming a cultural imperative e for businesses”


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