Small business environmental policy guide

Small business environmental policy guide

UNSPLASH, KARSTEN WURTH

Businesses looking to thrive today have to be adaptable, resilient and responsive to the changes taking place around them. 

Consumer expectations are changing, with over 70% of the UK public thinking that business should have a legal responsibility to the planet and people alongside working to increase their profitability. 

Employees are starting to demand more from their employers – not just around environmental impact but also around social justice and mental and physical wellbeing. 

And governments around the world are making changes to legislation and regulations for how businesses operate. 

All of these changes – although they may feel separate at times – are interconnected. And one way you can respond to the present day and prepare for tomorrow is by creating an environmental policy. 

Environmental policy for small business

As part of your overarching sustainability strategy, your environmental policy outlines how you are managing, measuring and improving your impact on the natural world through your business operations. 

Ensuring proper waste management
The UK government is increasing landfill taxes in an effort to decrease the amount of waste sent to landfill and encourage businesses to reduce, reuse and recycle. Make sure your environmental policy is clear about how you can reduce waste in your businesses. 

Run a waste audit to identify the type and amount of waste generated by your business and look for ways to swap out single-use items for reusables, buy in bulk or look for refill schemes, implement recycling programmes and engage employees to find creative solutions. 

Reducing transportation emissions
Starting in London, but possibly extending to other major cities in the UK, there is anow an Ultra Low Emission Zone with hefty fees applying for large vehicles that need to move around the city. 

As online shopping increases, so do the delivery requirements for businesses. Start to think about your suppliers and couriers – are there low carbon transportation options? How can you modify your packaging or logistics to ensure they’re environmentally friendly? 

You may also want to consider the travel patterns of your employees. Would you be able to introduce flexible working hours so people don’t have to commute during rush hour? Could your employees work from home more often? And could you reduce the amount of business travel by using video calls rather than face-to-face meetings?

Breaking our reliance on plastic 
In addition to the plastic carrier bag tax introduced in 2015, the UK has banned microbeads – tiny pieces of plastic added to personal care items like face scrubs, soap, toothpaste and shower gels – as well as plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers from July 2021. In 2022, they will introduce a tax on plastic packaging produced in the UK or imported that doesn’t contain at least 30% recycled plastic. 

While some of this legislation doesn’t go far enough, fast enough, it’s only going to get more stringent at time goes on and the public demands more action. Look at the ways your business uses plastic and do the work now to find alternatives to single-use plastic in your business operations and the packaging you use in your operations. 

Sustainable development has been defined as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. Businesses that can get this right will reap the benefits with loyal customers, engaged employees and a resilient business model that can adapt to the challenges of the future.