Green business is no longer the domain of Greenpeace crusaders - it's a concern for governments, millions of consumers and thousands of businesses determined to stay at the forefront of their markets. Whether it is a personal passion of yours or not, going green can be a great way to take your business forward, and even increase profit margins - and in some cases, avoid breaking the law. This guide explains:
1) What green business is
Green business means doing things in a more environmentally-friendly way and reducing the impact you have on the environment. Within that definition there is huge variation in how green you can go - from something as simple as recycling paper to ensuring that the entire business and its premises are carbon neutral and using energy from wind turbines and solar panels.
2) The pros of going green
Being able to say you're green is good from a marketing and sales point of view, as customers become increasingly environmentally-conscious. Be aware that if you're going to use greenness as a USP, you need to be truly green - sustainable and making a big positive effect on the environment. Going green can also be economically advantageous - turning off lights and computers overnight and when not in use, for example, saves 20% of the average office energy bill. Regulations brought in such as the Climate Change Levy are geared towards making bills cheaper for greener businesses.
3) The cons
You need to be aware that if you market yourself as green without being truly green, you may be accused of 'greenwash' - corporate environmental spin that has little substance. Making big environmental changes such as switching your energy source to solar power can be expensive - you need to invest in new equipment. Implementing any changes takes some organisation, and checking up and researching greenness can sometimes be time-consuming.
4) Your legal obligations
You're legally obliged to store waste securely and safely and ensure that it's collected by an appropriate authority. If you handle more than 50 tonnes of packaging per year and you turn over more than £2 million, you're also required to register with an environmental regulator (the Environment Agency in England and Wales) and prove that you're recycling. You must avoid causing a statutory nuisance such as producing smoke or gases, lots of noise, dust, bad smells, light pollution or big heaps of rubbish. If you plan on disposing of any chemicals or harmful detergents through your drains, get permission from your water company. And check the NetRegs website for legislature that may apply to your specific industry.
5) How to do it
How green you want to go shapes the measures you take, but for most businesses it's easiest to start with small steps: turn of all appliances when not in use, switch off lights and printers overnight, reduce and recycle paper and waste - use www.recycleatwork.com to find recycling centres in your area. For bigger steps, switch to an energy company such as GoodEnergy, who only use renewable energy, and reassess the materials you use in products - switch from toxic and non-renewable to recyclable and sustainable.
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