What is a green business?

A look at why and how companies can become more sustainable, reduce climate change and become a 'green' business

A green business is one which takes measures to reduce its impact on the environment.

This could be done in numerous ways – from having a ‘last man out’ routine to make sure the printer is switched off at night, to carbon offsetting, to investing thousands of pounds in solar panels and going completely carbon neutral.

Businesses have various reasons for going green. While many businesses have a genuine desire to reduce their impact on the environment, some larger companies have been criticised for their cynical ‘greenwashing’ tactics – using the term ‘green’ to justify lower-quality products and cost-cutting tactics.

Many small businesses have found that going green is a way to compete with larger, less scrupulous, multiples; and advertise their green credentials as much as possible.

Green, greener or greenest business?

There is a difference between advertising yourself as a ‘green’ business and simply making sure your business practice is as green as possible.

Marks and Spencer is an example of a business which is making an effort to be green, without marketing itself as a green business. The company has set green goals for itself, which it wants to meet by 2012. These include reducing the waste it sends to landfill to zero, becoming carbon neutral, and sourcing more of its materials from sustainable sources.

Compare this to a company such as Onya Bags which has a product motivated by climate change and was one of the first businesses to produce an alternative to plastic bags, and it’s clear that while Marks and Spencer’s goals are commendable and will no doubt have a positive effect on the environment, its products aren’t specifically created to improve the environment.

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Whether your business is inspired by the need to combat climate change or you just want to make your practices more eco friendly, Daniel Brousson, who founded Onya with his brother, Jon, in 2005, says consumers are recognising business’ green credentials more than ever before.

“It’s a whole industry now – people know the words ‘fair trade’, they know the word ‘organic’, they know the word ‘ethical’ – it’s part of modern language.

“In five years we’re going to see massive changes in all sorts of things,” he says.

“Whether you’re in a co-op or a small gift shop or organic wholefoods, it’s all changed.”


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