Why it’s time for small firms to embrace ‘the green dream’

Entrepreneur William Berry insists that going green could boost profitability and help your company stand out from the crowd

Being a small company doesn’t mean you have to give up on sustainability or the green dream.

Eco-credentials are increasingly important in a sustainability-aware world so it is no surprise that a quarter of all small and medium-sized businesses plan to go green in 2014.

A survey by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking showed that sustainability will be one of the top three priorities for 25% of smaller business in the UK.

How can you ensure your business is green?

There are lots of small changes you can make day-to-day in your business from buying energy saving light bulbs to recycling and making sure computers are switched off overnight – leaving a photocopier on overnight uses enough energy to produce over 1,500 copies, according to the University of East London.

There are also myriad sustainable energy companies that are servicing residential and business premises, and in the days of sky-high electric bills, you may be able to negotiate a better deal.

If your business runs vehicles, there are an increasing number of electric and biodiesel vehicles on the market, which may require an initial layout but aim to reduce costs alongside carbon footprints.

Staff can also be encouraged to reduce their own carbon footprint through the use of Cycle to Work scheme that allows employees to purchase a bicycle and pay it off out of their salary but provides business owners with a healthier workforce.

Adapting your business to incorporate ethical elements

These are the small changes you can make in your immediate working environment and are relatively easy to do. What is harder is adapting your manufacturing or chain of supply to incorporate ethical elements.

One of the main changes you can make is operating an ethical sourcing policy that means everything you bring into your business is sourced for its green and/or cruelty-free credentials.

You can also adopt a policy of working responsibly within a supply chain to make your business more attractive to other businesses and customers that wish to purchase items or services that do not exploit the environment or other people.

For those business owners serious about going green, you can commit your intentions in a green code of conduct, which all employees and suppliers must adhere to.

And for those that are trying to be as green as possible, even banking can be eco-friendly. Move Your Money offers a comparison of the most ethical banks in the UK, providing a rating out of 100 for ethical credentials: Cumberland Building Society, Reliance Bank and Coventry Building Society take the top three spots as offering the country’s most ethical current accounts.

For savings accounts, the Ecology Building Society gets 100 out of 100 from Move Your Money and you can’t say greener than that!

Be proud of your green credentials

If you do plan to ‘go green’ make sure you promote it. Of course, adopting ecologically sound credentials is good for your business from a green point of view but it is also a way to set yourself apart from your competitors.

The Lloyds’ research showed 54% of small firms believed there are clear benefits to adopting a green policy, with 30% believing it increased profitability and 42% saying they make a positive contribution to the environment.

Being green is pushing to the forefront of small and medium sized-businesses minds and 44% say they will start investing in green practices over the next five years. While the main driver is profitability, a further 28% said they want to make a positive contribution to their community.

As companies become more community-centric, and new communities develop via the advent of social media, it becomes imperative that your community see you giving something back.

William Berry is a serial entrepreneur and in 2006 was named a Young Gun by Growing Business. He is the founder-director of accommodationforstudents.com, and Vincentbond.com. William is also CEO of the new video start up p6.com, based in California.

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