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Coniston Stonecraft

Coniston Stonecraft – taking sustainable packaging to the next level!

Sustainable packaging is increasingly being demanded by customers. Making sense of the sustainability claims can be challenging to say the least – compostable, biodegradable, eco-certified, plastic-free etc etc.

With Coniston Stonecraft it’s simple. Every order is shipped with a postcard containing the following explanation of their packaging:

“For packaging we use recycled cardboard from a friendly local bike shop that would otherwise be destined for landfill. We use recycled bubble wrap and fabric cuttings from a Lancashire textile mill that would also otherwise be heading for a refuse tip.

So don’t be disappointed that your Coniston Stonecraft didn’t arrive in an elaborate, decorated box. Be proud that it’s been lovingly made, by a company working hard to preserve the natural beauty of the Lake District”

Their approach involves more effort in terms of sourcing the materials and packaging their items. There’s also a risk of some customers not appreciating the efforts they have gone to or the reasoning behind it. But Coniston Stonecraft are unapologetic and rightly so. It’s the right thing to do, both for the environment and their business.

Sustainable packaging is not easy. For food and drink businesses particularly, achieving a sustainable approach whilst still meeting regulatory requirements and keeping costs manageable is really tough.

We encourage all of our certified businesses to go as far as they can and to be bold about it, making it a core feature of their customer offer. When customers are weighing up what’s important to them, sustainability is weighing heavier all the time and your packaging is one of the clearest indications of how important it is to your business.

plastic waste

50% discount available, plus 3 things all small businesses need to know

For many business owners, your sole focus in these past few months and possibly in the months ahead will be on keeping your business alive and looking after your staff. For any that find themselves with the headspace to think beyond those immediate challenges…

…in the light of the impacts of coronavirus on business trading, until the end of September 2020 we are offering a 50% discount on certification. Email us and we’ll get you started.

If you’re not sure whether this is for you, here’s three things you should know.



1 Green business is the future.

For many years, with the odd exception, committedly green businesses have been on the fringes. But the business world is changing fast.

Apple became the biggest company in the world at the end of 2019 and have made huge commitments to sustainable operations – 100% renewable power, zero waste to landfill etc etc. We ought to be sceptical of many of their claims and commitments but the mere fact that they have made them is an indication of the change underway.

Consumer demands are shifting, supply chains are adapting, and those businesses that don’t follow suit will be left behind.

2 Being a green business is not straightforward.

There are obvious steps that most businesses can take to green their operations. I’m thinking lightbulbs, travel, paper etc. But so many environmental impacts and opportunities can be missed without a structured approach. Most businesses, for example, don’t think about the impacts of who they choose to bank with, who they buy their insurance from or who hosts their website.

Taking a structured approach not only ensures you consider all of your significant environmental impacts but, crucially, also allows you to demonstrate that you have done so to your clients and customers.

3 Measuring how green you are is probably a bad idea.

I sometimes get it into trouble for saying this and don’t get me wrong – bigger businesses should absolutely be measuring their carbon footprint and other aspects of their environmental performance.

For small businesses on the other hand, measurement can be so time-consuming and confusing that it results in environmental policies and plans being shelved. It’s also rarely necessary – in most small businesses, it’s easy to identify what action needs to be taken without any measuring of carbon emissions or anything else.

The Green Small Business approach is actions-focused. It’s light-touch and straightforward, whilst still enabling businesses to make meaningful progress in managing their environmental impacts.

Interested? Email us if you would like to take advantage of the 50% discount

Still not sure? Check out this article – How hard is it to be a Green Small Business?

Some feedback from our lovely clients

“Green Small Business has given us a clear and achievable plan on how to be more ‘green’. It is making us think more carefully about how we do things, and has given us a framework on how to make improvements. This will not only benefit the environment but also hopefully make the business more efficient and cost effective.” (Ed Pinto, Rubix Construction)

“I see this as a great first step for us, in baking sensible and meaningful environmental policy into the business. It also allows us to demonstrate to our clients, particularly our not-for-profit audience, that we do mean what we say. In turn, this is a win, win, win; good for us, good for the planet and good for the bottom line” (Tim De La Salle, Fly Marketing)

“The Green Small Business approach gives us a structure to work with and aim for, rather than feeling the task of being green feeling too big to achieve and beyond our finances. Our customers will appreciate the changes we are making by being able to show the certification and it will attract like minded collaborators into our business. It was a very straight forward process and we are so glad we invested in this.” (Joanne Whithers, St Marks Stays)

 “It was great to get some affirmation for our efforts up to this point. What we found useful was the extra research that Green Small Business did for us and pointing us in the right direction. I feel if I need some advice in the future, I can get in touch with them and discuss.” (Zoe Arnold-Bennett, Shed 1 Gin)

frankly delicious chocolate bar

Making the world better, one chocolate bar at a time

If you’ve seen Netflix’s Rotten or the wonderful Tony, you will know that there’s a big problem with the cocoa industry. Frankly Delicious are doing their best to be part of the solution. Sourcing certified organic and fully traceable cocoa beans from farmers and suppliers who are paid a fair wage (see more details here) is just one aspect of their commitment to ethical chocolate making.

Frankly Delicious is therefore a fitting addition to the Green Small Business family.

The process of gaining Green Small Business certification was enlightening on both sides. We learned a lot about sourcing and using cocoa beans (did you know that cocoa bean husks can be used in beer brewing!?) and we were able to provide some pointers on other aspects of the business – printing of packaging, energy use, banking, insurance and more. Best of all, we got to sample the chocolate – this rather wonderful 40% India Milk Chocolate in fact.

Owner Frank Laws sees benefits for the business of having independent environmental certification:

“The certification will provide a talking point and will back up the environmental values Frankly Delicious. No planet = no chocolate!”

Jamie and Jenna from Rothay Manor

Luxury hotel and eatery in the English Lake District goes green

Rothay Manor is an idyllic and luxurious hotel providing high class, relaxed country manor stays, nestled in the beautiful hills of the English Lake District. Co-owners Jamie and Jenna are keen to build an environmentally aware and active company while still providing a luxury offer.

The hotel is aiming to be as green as possible, including by wrestling with the challenges of heating, lighting and powering a large, historic building. Green Small Business has allowed them to see the potential for greener options across their business, including simple, quick-wins as well as longer term actions.

Rothay Manor now has a clear vision for environmental sustainability. Jenna welcomed having “clear and concise actions so we know exactly how to make the right changes

land and sky family photo

Multi-award winning media company now producing green-certified film & video!

Land and Sky media, a family-run, innovative and extremely successful production company are committed to low impact practice and align themselves with companies and organisations who strive for a more sustainable future for people and the environment. Green Small Business certification provides some independent verification that their ethos is being translated into action.

Dom Bush and Helen Lawrie set up the business in 2011 and now have an awards list that makes for a lengthy web page! With the help of Green Small Business, an audit of all of their activities allowed them to identify short, medium and long-term actions to improve sustainability across all aspects of the business. Business Development Manager and Producer Helen was delighted with the process and the outcome:

‘To have an environmental policy drawn up for us and a clear EMS developed has saved us a lot of time and given us really achievable targets to work towards. Having a Green Small Business accreditation in place gives us increased credibility and allows us to show to clients and collaborators that we can deliver on our values.’

Abbey Office Solutions logo

Alternative to ISO14001 for office supplies company

Our aim has always been to provide a small business-specific alternative to ISO14001. We know that most small businesses don’t have time to dedicate to developing, implementing and monitoring an elaborate environmental management system. It’s one more thing on top of an endless list of other things. Green Small Business was designed to allow small businesses to develop an environmental management system which is proportionate to their size and the scale of their environmental impacts.

Our approach really worked for Hampshire-based Abbey Office Solutions:

“We were looking for a way to make us stand out from our competitors on the environmental side of things but found that the ISO14001 route too costly and time consuming. A lot of the detail was irrelevant to our size of business. Green Small Business has given us an ideal platform to develop our EMS system that is relevant to us. It was a quick and straightforward process and Green Small Business were a great help in advising me on some of the sections. I would definitely recommend Green Small Business.”

See their case study for more details.

We have worked hard to make sure that Green Small Business does not feel like a burden, whilst making a genuine difference to the environmental impact of small businesses. To find out how it all works, see the How? section of our website.

Shed 1 Gin logo

Passionate about gin and passionate about the environment

Shed 1 Gin is an award-winning distillery on the edge of the English Lake District. They produce ‘small batch, classically distilled gin with a contemporary style’. We normally provide all of our services remotely, but we took the time to go visit this ‘green distillery’ and we may have sampled some of their fare…

The pride in their gin-making was evident. Equally evident was their honest and committed approach to managing their environmental impacts. They work hard to ensure the most sustainable packaging, source all ingredients as locally as possible (including foraging for blackberries!), are re-jigging their distillery so that all cooling water is recycled in a closed loop system, have joined the Recorked UK scheme to encourage recycling of their corks and are working towards a bottle re-filling system for local customers. They really are a green distillery. For more, see their sustainability page.

Every Green Small Business is different. Some are just starting on their journey towards becoming more green. For others, like Shed 1 Gin, Green Small Business certification is as much about recognising and celebrating their efforts as it is about identifying new ways of improving environmental performance. See their case study for more details.

Gin-maker extraordinaire Zoe was delighted with the outcome of the process: It has always been important for us to be as sustainable as we could be. It was great to get some affirmation for our efforts up to this point. What we found useful was the extra research that Green Small Business did for us and pointing us in the right direction.

Chatham House logo

World-leading policy institute gains Green Small Business certification

Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, is a world-leading policy institute, with a mission to help governments and societies build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

Their work includes a focus on energy, environment and resources. Recognising that they needed to demonstrate that they operated responsibly in this area themselves, they developed an environmental management system to meet the requirements of Green Small Business certification.

Paul Curtin, Chief Operating Officer and Finance Director, explained the benefits: “Our Green Small Business EMS allows us to more clearly demonstrate as an organisation that we adequately address the environmental impact that we have, help us formalise more clearly our environmental credentials as well as demonstrate to our members / stakeholders / suppliers that we are serious about this important area.”

Boathouse Design Studio logo

Co-working space goes green to stand out from the crowd

Surely one of the most beautiful workspaces in London, the Boathouse Design studio was originally designed for building and maintaining boats. The space now offers a unique office experience for the companies who work there, with its natural light, stunning view over the Thames and its carefully restored and converted interiors.

Amaze Property, the owners of the space, sought Green Small Business certification as a means of gaining recognition for, and adding structure to, their efforts to be environmentally responsible. It provided them with “an incentive to go greener” as well as being “a good promotional tool which sets us apart from other co-working spaces”.


Is ISO 14001 good for small businesses?

Already fed up with ISO 14001 or convinced it’s not for you? Skip the article and go straight to downloading our free guide to the alternative approach! Otherwise, read on…


ISO 14001 is the international standard for environmental management systems. Many small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are certified to the ISO 14001 standard. The figures suggest that this can be a brilliant business move. But that is just part of the story…

A certified environmental management system can deliver thousands of pounds worth of cost savings for SMEs. Take into account the new business sales generated and the payback period for a certified environmental management system can be less than one month (see Defra, 2011 Evidence-based study into the benefits of EMSs for SMEs). Yes, the cost of getting a certified environmental management system can be recouped within one month in some cases!

Which begs the question, why doesn’t every small business have a certified environmental management system?

The evidence suggests that, when it comes to businesses at the smaller end of the scale, standard environmental management systems aren’t fit for purpose. Specifically, they are:

  1. too complex;
  2. too time-consuming; and
  3. too expensive.

Too complex

A major report examining the use of environmental management systems in SMEs across North America found that a successful environmental management system can deliver multiple benefits. However, the report also found that experiences varied considerably. It concluded that:

“most SMEs face.. many difficulties in implementing environmental management systems… Even if they are familiar with the concept of an environmental management system, many smaller businesses lack the technical expertise and resources needed to develop and implement one.” (Commission for Environmental Cooperation (2005) Successful practices of Environmental Management Systems in Small and Medium-Size Enterprises: A North American perspective).

Developing and implementing a standard environmental management system is a complex task for any small business.

One commentator speculated as to whether ISO (the authors of ISO 14001) stands for ‘irritate small organisations’.

Achieving a standard that was designed to meet the needs of all companies, including hugely complex multinational operations, is always going to be a daunting challenge for small businesses. Reflecting on the tendency of procurement managers to require the ISO standards, the same commentator suggested:

“By specifying ISO14001 certification to any keen SME that wants to be green, the procurement manager is crushing their spirit… Don’t demand they wade through pages of documentation and fill out forms – at least not at the start.(Large, C (2012) ISO14001: loved by procurement, hated by SMEs).

And even where a small business successfully manages to wade through the guidance, interpret all of the jargon, carry out their risk assessments, develop all of the necessary procedures and produce all of the documentation, a standard environmental management system will often feel like an ill-fitting suit for most small businesses. Particularly for those who have limited environmental impacts, a standard environmental management system will feel disproportionate in it’s size and complexity.

Too time-consuming

Disproportionate complexity leads to disproportionate time being needed both to prepare and to manage standard environmental management systems.

Bigger businesses often appoint dedicated environmental managers or pay external consultants to look after environmental management systems on their behalf. For smaller businesses without that luxury, developing and implementing a standard environmental management system can simply be a step too far. Just getting through the multiple daily challenges of running the business can be quite enough.

Too expensive

A standard certified environmental management system isn’t cheap. Even six years ago, a UK Government study found that initial costs to small businesses were more than £2,700 ($3360), followed by annual certification costs of more than £1,100 ($1370) (Defra, 2011 Evidence-based study into the benefits of EMSs for SMEs). Even those convinced about the potential payback may struggle to find the necessary finance to cover the upfront costs.

Interestingly, the study found that the costs of an environmental management system implementation do not fall proportionally in line with turnover. This means that smaller businesses have to spend a higher proportion of their turnover to get the same output. This is as clear an indication as any that standard environmental management systems are simply ill-suited to the small business sector.

So what are the alternatives?

I have been an environmental consultant for many years, advising governments, other public agencies and private businesses on topics such as energy, waste and climate change. I have helped develop environmental management systems for organisations and businesses, large and small.

The irony is that even in the small environmental consultancies I have worked in, whilst advising others on protecting the environment we have struggled to manage our own environmental impacts. The mainstream standards and approaches have simply been too onerous and expensive.

Alternatives to ISO 14001 are now available, including many offered at the local level. However, not many are genuinely fit-for-purpose in the case of businesses at the smaller end of the scale. And none that I’m aware of would be realistic options for sole traders or the self-employed. Yet there are many such businesses with a desire to be ‘green’ and to be seen to be green.

On the back of my frustrations with mainstream environmental management systems, but with a firm belief in their potential, I have now developed Green Small Business. It provides small businesses and other small organisations with a simple system which is proportionate to their environmental impacts and recognises that their finances and time are precious.

For more information, download our free guide.