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SMEs and sustainability: more than just a buzzword

Businesses ‘going green’ and becoming more sustainable was all the rage a few years ago. It was trendy, but it also produced meaningful long-term results.

This year, 9 UK companies were rated in the top 100 most sustainable businesses around the world in independent media company Corporate Knight’s annual rankings.

Today, more and more businesses are incorporating green strategies, such as cutting down on waste, replacing office lighting with more eco-conscious alternatives, and using low-flow toilets, for example.

These are businesses with the resources to invest in the more sustainable, but often also more expensive solutions. For most startups and SMEs, sustainability isn’t a primary concern when the focus is more about getting things off the ground and generating a profit.

However, even startups can implement and benefit from the push towards sustainability in business. Because SMEs make up such a large percentage of business in the UK (approximately 5.4 million private sector businesses that constituted 47% of the total annual turnover in 2015), their impact on the environment should not be overlooked.


So what can you do to make your business more sustainable?

Creating an action plan may be the best way to ensure your business is doing what it can to function sustainably. Making a commitment to developing a green company will make it easier to make more environmentally-conscious decisions.

Consulting with your accountant is a great first step towards evaluating your business and determining what changes can be made to make it more sustainable today and as it continues to grow.

Working with an Environmental Management System (EMS) is a useful way to track your company’s progress and set new goals for maintaining and improving sustainability.

Setting up an EMS for your business may take a little extra effort, but can pay off in the long-term as it will have an impact across all aspects of your business.

What are the benefits for your business?

The decision to implement a strategy to work towards a more sustainable business can have numerous, far-reaching positive impacts on the growth of your business.

Aside from the moral rewards of running a green business, there are several other benefits for creating and following a strong EMS.

The financial benefits are many. Your accountant can give you information more closely related to your particular business, but a few basic outcomes of implementing a sustainability system include:

  • Finding and eliminating excess raw materials, or materials with high rates of waste during production will allow you to cut back on supply costs.
  • Your business will be eligible for lower insurance premiums.
  • Risk of noncompliance with environmental regulations is minimised, preventing possible penalties.
  • You will be in a better position to be granted a bank loan.
  • Potential investors are often more attracted to businesses making an effort to adhere to sustainable practices.

While there are some upfront costs involved in setting up an EMS and ensuring that at least one person within the business has some training in the system, the long-term benefits are more than just financial.

The positive impact on PR, on employee awareness of environmental issues, and on avoiding penalties for pollution are just a few of the additional benefits of implementing a sustainable business strategy.

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