View of Loughrigg south lakes cumbria

Langdale Estate and the challenge of net zero

How Green Small Business Galvanised our Team to Understand and Plan our Sustainable Future

Dan Visser Director of Sales and Marketing for the Langdale Estate

Dan Visser is the Sales and Marketing Director for the Langdale Estate holiday resort, and part of the senior management team that runs the business.

Part of his role is to lead on sustainability.

This is important to him as he is also a member of the board of trustees for the Lake District Foundation – a landscape and environmental charity for the area.

“This is a great place to work because we have the freedom to be imaginative and to do things differently. Whether that’s in marketing, employment, or looking to be more sustainable and environmentally responsible.”

langdale estate carbon reduction

Set in the Langdale Valley in the heart of the beautiful natural landscape of the Lake District, the historic Langdale Estate offers a choice of luxury hotel and self-catering accommodation. Together with exceptional fitness and leisure facilities, a spa, restaurant, bar and traditional pub.

Surrounded by breath-taking scenery and some of the finest biking, walking and climbing locations in the country, the Langdale understands that the stunning environment on their doorstep is integral to the success of their business.

“We are very mindful of our place within the natural landscape of the Langdale Valley. We need to be respectful of this and aware of our impact. We have a collective belief as a business that we need to do the right thing and this encompasses many areas including the environment, our employees, our community and the wildlife around us.”

Challenge – the best way for us to be carbon neutral would be if the guests stayed at home!

As with many businesses in the Lake District the Langdale Estate is aware that their success means an increased carbon footprint due to the travel of guests and employees.

As Dan explains

“We are conscious that we create a great deal of carbon – there is no public transport to reach us, so guests need to drive, and we bus people in. This has become worse due to the pandemic.”

langdale self catering

But of course, the benefits to well-being and  mental health that the resort provides are much needed. Giving people the opportunity to spend time outdoors, to relax and recharge in the natural environment is vitally important.

Historically the senior management team has given this situation serious thought and taken progressive action on environmental issues.

However a recent change in personnel saw their sustainability champion moving on and the loss of knowledge, skills and experience left the team without direction.

We needed to revisit and revitalise our plans to set a clear vision for the future but the business is busy and we weren’t sure where to start.”

Solution –  Green Small Business Consultancy Service

Tim at Green Small Business supports businesses to better manage their environmental impacts. He works with them to develop environmental policies and action plans and provides an independent certification scheme to help enhance their reputation amongst customers and staff.

Green Small Business also offers a bespoke consultancy service for larger businesses to access support.

In this case, they were commissioned by Langdale Estates to work with their staff via a series of interactive workshops, to develop a new environmental action plan for the resort.

“Everyone was invited to participate – from a part-time barman or kitchen porter to senior managers. We wanted buy-in from the staff, a collaborative, whole team approach.”

The aim was to create an e-steering group that would be able to move plans forward.

Results – a clear plan created as a team

Tim organised a series of workshops which the staff found informative, relevant and fun. The reaction was super positive, very collaborative and the output from the sessions resulted in a clear path of outcomes and a plan of action for the short and medium-term.

“Tim was really well prepared; he collected a lot of data about our business and had a calm and pragmatic approach to the sessions which worked very well. He certainly does his research.”

“Having someone from outside come in and work with us has galvanised the team. It’s information we all know but having someone else say it and coordinating everything is hugely helpful.”

Dan Visser from Langdale Estate

Dan felt that the team had the knowledge and expertise amongst themselves, but under pressure from the impact of Covid and employment challenges, they needed the structure and framework that Green Small Business was able to provide, helping them to focus on what was important.

Tim supported the e-steering group to develop proposals for a commitment to Net-Zero that are realistic, clear and achievable – a massive help.

Our priorities:

  • To declare a climate emergency.
  • To publish our Net-Zero plan in late 2021, a clear and robust framework for action.
  • Working in conjunction with the National Park Authority to align with their Net-Zero aspiration for 2037. Well ahead of the UK target.
  • To use our fantastic network of organisational and community support to achieve our goals.
  • To evidence the requirements for B Corp certification.

“Tim managed to pull together what would have taken us up to a year to do as a team.”

“Tim has given us the focus, structure and coordination that we needed to understand what net-zero is, how we are going to get there, and what our plan is. We hope to continue to work with him into the future.”

Book a call with Tim now to discuss how Green Small Business can help your business.

View of Loughrigg south lakes cumbria

Which is the best carbon footprint calculator for businesses?

We often get asked about which is the best carbon footprint calculator for businesses? There are so many to choose from.

For all of our clients that want to incorporate carbon footprinting and offsetting in their environmental action plans, we recommend using ClimateCare. For those wanting to offset their emissions (which should always be a last resort for emissions that cannot be eliminated), we also recommend them for investment in offsetting projects.

We do so for these main reasons:

  1. Their free carbon calculator covers the widest range of emission types of all of the free calculators out there. It includes flights, road transport, energy, events, accommodation, food, freight and waste. For most small businesses, and many large businesses too, it could be the only calculator they need.
  2. Their carbon offset projects are externally verified for carbon and sustainable development outcomes using standards such as Gold Standard and Verra.
  3. Projects can be selected to align with various UN Global Goals to reflect different business priorities.
  4. Climate Care themselves are a B Corp and were recently recognised as one of the ‘Best for the World 2021’ BCorps – they scored in the top 5% of B Corps worldwide for the way they serve their customers, and help them take positive action for people, the planet and their business.

Check them out!

You might also be interested in our complete beginners guide to carbon footprinting for small businesses.

best co2 footprint calculator

The beginners guide to carbon footprinting for small business

We often get asked about carbon footprinting and we provide advice and support to enable small businesses (and some big ones too) to measure their carbon footprint. See more about the service we provide here. In case you want to have a go yourself, all of the questions we are commonly asked are covered in this guide. 

The guide provides all of the information you need to develop a carbon footprint for your small business.

We have tried to use plain English and keep everything as simple as possible. If you are busy or just find it overwhelming, Green Small Business can do the work for you. Book a call to discuss your requirements. We would be happy to help.

Here’s what you will learn:

What is carbon?

In this context, carbon refers to carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a gas which is generated by burning fossil fuels (coal, gas, oil, petrol, diesel etc) in homes, cars, power stations and businesses.

Carbon dioxide is the most common greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases got their name because increasing levels of these gases in the earth’s atmosphere are causing global temperatures to rise.

Other greenhouse gases include methane (the gas produced by cows), nitrous oxide (another gas produced by burning fuel) and hydrofluorocarbons or ‘HFCs’ (the gases used in refrigeration and air conditioning). Each of these gases has a different capacity to cause global warming. This is often measured relative to carbon dioxide, using CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).

In the context of a carbon footprint, ‘carbon’ is often therefore used as shorthand not just for carbon dioxide but for CO2e, i.e. the emissions of all the greenhouse gases being measured.

CO2 in clouds

When you see the term ‘carbon emissions’, it may well be referring to the emissions of all of the greenhouse gases.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint of your business is a measurement of the greenhouse gases which your business produces. 

The activities of your small business produce these gases directly and indirectly. They are directly produced by burning gas to generate heat for your building(s) and using fuel in your vehicles. They are indirectly produced from using electricity, some of which may have been generated from burning coal or gas in power stations. They are also produced indirectly when you purchase goods and services, all of which will have required energy to produce and deliver to you. 

You should always include the direct emissions in your small business carbon footprint but the extent to which you include the indirect emissions will be a decision you need to take. More on that later.

A carbon footprint is a tool you can use to understand the different ways in which your small business is contributing to climate change. It will allow you to identify ways of reducing that contribution in future. Updating your carbon footprint on a regular basis will allow you to measure your progress in reducing the carbon emissions from your small business.

What are Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions?

The GHGProtocol is an organisation which has established a globally-recognised standard for measuring and managing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. GHG Protocol distinguishes between direct and indirect emissions but breaks down the indirect emissions into 2 separate categories. Overall, greenhouse gas emissions are therefore divided into 3 categories or ‘scopes’:

  • Scope 1 emissions are the direct emissions. These are the emissions produced by activities which are under your direct control as a small business. This would include emissions from burning fuel in boilers for on-site heating, burning fuel in vehicles owned by the business and gases escaping from on-site air conditioning systems.
  • Scope 2 emissions are the indirect emissions resulting from the generation of electricity which you use as a small business.
  • Scope 3 emissions are all of the other indirect emissions resulting from the activities of your small business. This could include:
    • business travel in vehicles which are not owned by the company
    • distribution of products and services that you buy and sell
    • waste disposal
    • water use

To some extent at least, your small business is responsible for all of these emissions. However, in the case of scope 2 and scope 3 emissions, they come from sources which you do not own or control.

Source:GHG Protocol

How can I develop a carbon footprint for my small business?

Step 1: Decide on the scope of your carbon footprint

It is good to include the emissions from as many of the sources you are responsible for as possible. In practice, what you include will depend on which of these sources you can realistically measure.

As a minimum, you should include all scope 1 and scope 2 emissions. Measuring scope 1 emissions requires a record of fuel used on-site (available via energy bills), refrigerants used in servicing any air conditioning (available from invoices from the service engineers) and fuel used in company vehicles (usually available in financial records).

Measuring scope 2 emissions simply requires a record of electricity used (available via energy bills).

That’s the easy bit.

You should also include as many of your scope 3 emissions as you have the time and data for. A recently introduced UK Government requirement may provide a useful steer.  This is a requirement for businesses to measure their carbon footprint if they want to bid for big Government contracts. They have specified that the footprint must include some scope 3 emissions. This includes the following, which should be feasible for many businesses to measure:

  • Business travel – emissions from transportation of employees for business-related activities. Measuring this would require records of trips taken and the mode of transport used for those trips.
  • Employee commuting – emissions from transportation of employees between their homes and their worksites. Measuring this would require analysis of the commuting trips completed and the mode of transport used.

Two further categories are included which may prove trickier:

  • Transportation and distribution – the emissions from the transportation of products supplied by the business and products purchased by the business. Measuring this would require analysis of all of the trips taken by transportation providers in bringing goods to you and shipping any goods to your customers. For many small businesses, this may be something to aspire to rather than something that could be included in an initial footprinting exercise.
  • Waste – emissions from the disposal and treatment of waste generated by the business’s operations. Measuring this would require data on the quantities of waste disposed of and the type of disposal/management method used (landfill, recycling, composting etc). Again, this may be something that your small business could think about measuring in future but few small businesses will have sufficient data to include it initially.

Following the surge in home-working during the Covid-19 pandemic, we think companies should also account for the emissions from home-working. That’s now pretty straightforward given the publication ofthis guide, which includes useful estimates on which you can base your calculations.

Which emissions you include and exclude may be partly determined by the reasons you are calculating your carbon footprint in the first place. If you are doing it as part of your B Corp application process to improve your B Impact Assessment score, for example, the questions you are asked will depend on the nature of your business. If your business has straightforward environmental impacts, the maximum score can be achieved by measuring and improving the management of only scope 1 and scope 2 emissions.

For small businesses which are measuring their carbon footprint for the first time, we generally recommend that they include all scope 1 and 2 emissions and the scope 3 emissions from:

  • business travel
  • home working – more and more staff are working from home so we encourage inclusion of emissions from home working where this is relevant
  • staff commuting
  • supply chain emissions from purchased goods & services
  • any other scope 3 categories that are likely to form a significant portion of the overall business footprint

We also generally recommend that businesses seek to expand the scope of their footprint over time so that they take responsibility for as much of it as they can.

Most importantly, in any reporting of your carbon footprint you should be transparent about what emissions are included and excluded. 

Step 2: Decide on a baseline year and gather the data

To be really useful in measuring your progress in reducing emissions, you will need to update your carbon footprint on a regular (probably annual) basis. However, initially you will need to decide on a baseline year that you can measure your progress from.

Much of the data which you will use for your carbon footprint will come from your financial records so you may want to align your baseline year with your accounting period.

Your baseline year needs to be the most recent year for which you have the data BUT it also needs to be as near as possible to a typical year for the business. If you choose a year in which business was significantly impacted by the Covid pandemic or some other major event, it will not provide a useful basis for monitoring future change.

Having decided on your baseline year, you then need to gather the relevant data from that year. The likely data sources for the emissions included in a basic carbon footprint are shown below.

ActivitySource of data
Heating / cooling company facilitiesTotal kilowatt hours used from gas bills.

Total litres and type(s) of top-up gases for any air conditioning units, from servicing bills. 

If you rent part of a building and do not have a separate bills, you will need to estimate your usage – a percentage of the overall bill which is equivalent to your percentage of the overall floorspace of the building, for example.
Operating company vehiclesLitres of fuel purchased from invoices and receipts (more accurate); or 

Vehicle mileage from vehicle log books/odometers (less accurate)

Plus the vehicle type(s) used for the journeys.
Electricity use in company facilities Total kilowatt hours used from electricity bills.

If you rent part of a building and do not have a separate electricity bill, you will need to estimate your electricity usage – a percentage of the overall bill which is equivalent to your percentage of the overall floorspace of the building, for example.
Home workingNumber of employee days worked from home, which might be available from timesheets or might just need to be estimated.
Business travelMode of travel (car, train, plane etc) and distance travelled for each journey taken.

Mode of travel can be identified from expenses claims. If distance travelled isn’t also captured in those claims, this can be calculated using Google Maps or equivalent.
Staff commutingCommuting distance, frequency and usual mode of transport for all staff

This data is usually gathered via a staff survey
Supply chain emissions from purchased goods and servicesAmounts of spend in broad categories – food & drink; computing; insurance etc

This can usually be extracted from financial management software

Collating all of your data in a single spreadsheet will help keep you organised and make for easier updating in future years.

Step 3: Calculate your emissions (do the math!)

Having gathered data on all of the activities of your small business that have generated greenhouse gas emissions, you then need to do some simple calculations to convert the activity data to emissions. This is done using conversion factors.

Activity data x Conversion factor = Greenhouse gas emissions

This can be done in one of two ways or a combination of both.

  1. Using an online calculator. You are spoiled for choice when it comes to carbon calculators. Use Google to find one you like. Conversion factors vary from place to place because of distinctions between how electricity is produced, the efficiency of vehicles etc. So make sure that the one you choose uses conversion factors which are relevant to the country you operate in. We usually refer small businesses to the brilliant Climate Impact Partners calculator, which allows calculations of emissions from flights, road transport, energy use and various other categories, and also allows you to specify the country you are in.
  2. Manually, using officially recognised conversion factors. Many Governments issue conversion factors to make carbon calculations more consistent. The UK Government updates conversion factors for the UK on an annual basis and publishes them online here. Factors fir calculating emissions from the supply chain of purchased products and services can be found here. Some conversion factors are published by the Australian Government – the factors for 2020 are here. Emission factors for the USA are included in this (unfortunately rather complicated) GHG Protocol spreadsheet. Various other country-specific spreadsheets and tools can also be found on the GHG Protocol website. Try Google searches too.

Calculators like the Climate Impact Partners calculator allow the calculation of emissions from most of the activities that will be relevant to a small business. Doing the calculations manually will enable a slightly more accurate calculation (e.g. through allowing more specific details of vehicle type). A manual approach will also allow a wider set of activities to be included but this may not always be necessary when you are starting out on your carbon footprinting journey.

One activity which might require some manual calculations is home working. This super-useful guide to measuring emissions from homeworking provides two calculation methods for each of emissions sources: use of office equipment; heating the home office space; and cooling the home office space. The two methods are described as ‘Base Case’ and ‘Enhanced Data Collection’. The easier ‘Base Case’ approach should be more than sufficient in most cases.

Once you have added up the emissions from each of the emissions sources, that is your small business carbon footprint. Nice work!

What should I do with my small business carbon footprint?

There are three main uses for your small business carbon footprint:

  1. To identify priority areas for improving your environmental performance. Your carbon footprint should give you a clear idea of which activities are generating the most emissions and, therefore, where you might be able to make improvements.
  2. To monitor progress. Recalculating your carbon footprint on a regular basis will enable you to monitor your progress in reducing the carbon emissions from your small business.
  3. To establish how much carbon offsetting you would need to do in order to be a ‘carbon neutral’ business – more on this below.

How can I reduce the carbon footprint of my small business?

The answer to this question will be different for every small business. At Green Small Business, we take a structured and systematic approach to understanding all of the different business activities that generate an environmental impact and work with businesses to develop policies and action plans to address those impacts. Our free guide provides a step-by-step process for you to do the same, or you could get us to work with you.

From our work with dozens of different small businesses, there are some common areas for action, including:

  • Reducing energy use in buildings, e.g. through improving energy efficiency.
  • Developing a principled approach to business travel through reducing travel and using more sustainable modes of transport.

But there are lots of other areas that are commonly overlooked, including the choices made about things like company pensions and web hosting. Depending on how you have measured it, action in such areas may or may not make a measurable difference to your carbon footprint but they are crucial to ensuring your business has real integrity in its environmental management.

What is carbon offsetting?

The main purpose of calculating a carbon footprint for your small business should always be to better understand how you can reduce carbon emissions. However, you will not be able to eliminate all of your carbon emissions. Carbon offsetting provides a way of compensating for the emissions that you can’t eliminate by investing in projects that result in a reduction of carbon emissions. Such projects might include tree planting or new renewable energy.

Not all carbon offsets are the same. Standards have been developed as a way of independently verifying the carbon emissions reductions promised by the offsets. Two of the biggest verification schemes are the Gold Standard and the Verified Carbon Standard. We often refer clients to Climate Impact Partners for the purchasing of carbon offsets as all of their projects are externally verified. 

What does carbon neutral mean?

‘Carbon neutral’ is a label that is sometimes claimed by businesses that have offset all of their carbon emissions. ‘Climate neutral’ and even ‘climate positive’ are also used and seem to mean similar things.

These terms are being used by businesses more and more. To be used with integrity, you must always be clear what is and is not included in your calculations. Once all indirect and lifecycle emissions are taken into account, it is unlikely that any business will be fully carbon neutral. So if you are claiming that your business is carbon neutral and want to avoid accusations of ‘greenwash’, always also include a short explanation of what is and is not included in your calculations.

carbon neutral logo

What does net zero mean?

‘Net zero’ has been described as the most important metric of the 21st century but there is a lot of confusion about what it means.

A net zero world would be one in which the amount of greenhouse gases coming into the atmosphere was equivalent to the amount being taken out, e.g. through being absorbed by plants and trees. In that sense, it is very similar to ‘carbon neutral’ but the key difference is that net zero relies on carbon offsetting only once radical reductions in direct emissions have been achieved.

The term also implies reference to an important global movement. In Paris in 2015 a global target was set of achieving net zero by 2050 in order to prevent dangerous levels of global warming. The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) subsequently stated that an interim target of achieving a 50% reduction by 2030 was necessary.

Businesses and other organisations have since been encouraged to set targets which are consistent with these global net zero targets. The United Nation’s Race to Zero campaign has been established to support this. Numerous country-specific initiatives have also been set up to encourage businesses and other organisations to set targets which are aligned with these global goals. 

For net zero to be achieved, clearly it requires consistency in the way it is measured. The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTI) is attempting to standardise and verify the setting of these targets by individual businesses and organisations. Use this methodology if you can but beware that for many smaller businesses, meeting SBTI requirements will be extremely challenging due to the often limited control over some emissions sources, e.g. when operating from rented premises.

What is carbon intensity?

In the context of carbon footprinting, carbon intensity is a measure of carbon emissions relative to business turnover. It is usually measured in CO2e per $million revenue.

As a business grows and the levels of its different activities increase, it’s carbon emissions are also likely to grow. Measures that have been taken to reduce carbon emissions might not then show in the business carbon footprint as they could be outweighed by the extra emissions from the growth in business activity.

Similarly, if a business was shrinking, this is likely to result in a reduction of emissions. 

Carbon intensity is therefore an important measure for getting an accurate understanding of the success or otherwise of your carbon reduction efforts. If carbon intensity is decreasing then it is an indication that carbon reduction efforts are succeeding (bear in mind though that there will be a natural reduction in carbon intensity anyway as the level of renewable energy in the grid increases, the efficiency of vehicles improves etc). If carbon intensity is increasing then it is an indication that your efforts are not having the impact you intended.

Our advice – unless your business is growing really fast, keep an eye on your carbon intensity as it’s easy to measure and can be useful but always aim to reduce your absolute carbon footprint year-on-year.

carbon footprinting service

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We would love to hear from you. If you need help with your carbon footprint or have any questions or comments about any aspect of Green Small Business, please contact us. Book a call with Tim or send us a message using the contact form.

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Help with B Corp environmental requirements

How Green Small Business can help improve your B Impact Assessment Score

B Corp environmental requirements are driving more and more businesses to seek Green Small Business certification. More and more of our clients are using Green Small Business as a way of meeting the environmental requirements in their B Impact Assessments. This article provides an overview of what B Corp is all about and how Green Small Business can help.

What is B Corp?

The B Corp movement is huge and its momentum is growing. B Corps (‘certified B Corporations’ to be precise) are ‘businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose’. Big companies you will have heard of are B Corps (Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Danone and more), as are a myriad of smaller companies that will not yet have crossed your path. The number of certified B Corps is growing at a rapid rate, as evidenced by the current warning of certification delays on the B Corp website. The movement is truly capturing the shift in business toward ‘people, planet and profit’.

What are B Corp environmental requirements?

B Corp certification can be achieved by businesses of any size, from start-ups to multinationals. The process of achieving it starts with the completion of the B Impact Assessment, an assessment which spans community, customers, workers, environment and governance. To achieve B Corp certification, a score of at least 80 points is required across the various categories or ‘Impact Areas’.

The Impact Areas covered in the B Impact Assessment are: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, Customers and a Disclosure Questionnaire.

The B Corp environmental requirements are tailored to the size and type of business. When creating an account (which is free and confidential), you need to specify the sector, industry category, industry and number of employees in the business. These choices determine the questions asked in the impact assessment.

The choices of sector when opening an account for the B Impact Assessment are: Agriculture/Growers, Manufacturing, Service with Minor Environmental Footprint, Service with Significant Environmental Footprint and Wholesale/Retail.

I tried creating logins for a few different types of companies to see how the B Corp environmental requirements varied. Sensibly, there seemed to be most questions for businesses in the ‘Agriculture/Growers’ sector. The questions for businesses in the ‘Service with Minor Environmental Footprint’ seemed suitably light-touch.

There were 69 environment questions for my spoof Happy Carrots agricultural sector company, but only 31 for my real Green Small Business company (which sits in the ‘Service with Minor Environmental Footprint’ category)

Although the number of environmental questions varies, the categories of questions seem to stay the same, and cover:

  • Environmental management
  • Air & climate
  • Water
  • Land & life

How we help

The Green Small Business process is supporting a number of business to meet B Corp environmental requirements. Through conducting a light-touch but systematic review of the environmental impacts of a business, we identify where action needs to be taken and where priorities should lie. We then provide a tailored environmental policy that can be used to communicate environmental priorities to customers, staff and others. The policy is accompanied by a practical environmental action plan, which provides a clear and structured route for the business to deliver the policy and improve environmental performance. With the environmental policy and action plan in place, the business is then eligible for Green Small Business certification.

The most direct benefit of this for the B Impact Assessment score is in the Environmental Management section and, in particular, the sub-section on Environmental Management Systems.

Gaining Green Small Business certification would typically allow a business to tick all the boxes in the Environmental Management Systems sub-section, earning all of the available 1.33 points in this section.

With a Green Small Business environmental management system in place, many of the other questions in the Environment section of the assessment will also have been addressed. Since our action plans cover all of the significant environmental impacts of a business, the actions included within them will significantly improve the B Impact Assessment scores in the other sub-sections such as those on waste, recycling, transportation, water use etc.

For example, the section on ‘Facility Improvement with Landlord’ asks about efforts to implement or maintain energy, water and waste improvements within leased/rented facilities. These are precisely the kinds of actions which we explore with businesses and include within our action plans.

The sub-section on Reducing Carbon Emissions from Transportation includes questions on the policies in place to manage transport emissions. All Green Small Business action plans include action on these aspects, including the adoption of transport policies where relevant – we even supply templates for these policies!

As well as using the standard Green Small Business process to improve B Impact Assessment scores, we also offer consultancy support in key areas, including energy, emissions and water use.

Richard Hatfield, founder of e-commerce start-up Ventorq, outlined how Green Small Business was helping his business:

“As a small start-up, the requirements of B Corp can feel a bit overwhelming. We needed a simple but robust way of addressing our environmental impacts and identifying ways to improve. Green Small Business provided exactly what we needed. As well as helping us with our B Corp plans, Green Small Business certification helps to position Ventorq as a trustworthy and responsible business that does not place profit above ethics.”

Check out these examples of businesses that have already gained Green Small Business certification.

certified b corporation pending

Book a call or purchase

We would love to hear from you. To find out more about how we can help with your BCorp application, book a call with Tim or send us a message using the contact form.

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How hard is it to be a Green Small Business?

Green Small Business was established to enable all businesses to think about their environmental impacts, take steps to address them and maximise the business benefits from doing so.

Lots of businesses have now benefited from getting Green Small Business certified but plenty more have thought about doing so and not taken it any further. We don’t take it personally…

From talking to some of those who have downloaded our free guide or made enquiries, one of the barriers to taking the plunge is a fear that they are not ‘green’ enough and that going green could be too challenging.

We do want the process to be challenging. Being Green Small Business certified means something.

BUT we recognise that every business has to start where they are and to move forward at a pace they are comfortable with.

That’s why becoming a Green Small Business involves meeting only two criteria:

  1. You have an environmental policy and environmental plan that incorporates all of your significant environmental impacts.
  2. That the actions in your environmental plan demonstrate a commitment to addressing those impacts in some way.

The scale and the pace of change in becoming greener is up to you. All we look for is an honest and genuine commitment to continuous improvement.

You might well be an eco-warrior with a radical approach to doing business.

You might equally be a newcomer to thinking about the environmental impacts of your business and with unknown scope for change.

Either way, Green Small Business is ideal for your small business.

frustration with current standards

Book a call

We would love to hear from you. If you need help with greening your business or have any questions or comments about any aspect of Green Small Business, please contact us. Book a call with Tim or send us a message using the contact form.

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Is ISO 14001 good for small businesses?

Implementing ISO 14001

Already fed up with ISO 14001 or convinced it’s not for you? Skip the article and go straight to our alternatives:

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?

We have decades of experience as environmental consultants, advising governments, other public agencies and private businesses on topics such as energy, waste and climate change. We have helped develop environmental management systems for organisations and businesses, large and small.

The irony is that even in the small environmental consultancies we 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 we’re 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 our frustrations with mainstream environmental management systems, but with a firm belief in their potential, we have 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, get in touch (see below for your options). Otherwise:

man fed up with ISO 14001 implementation

Book a call or purchase

We would love to hear from you. If you have any questions about Green Small Business or about managing the environmental impacts of your business, book a call with Tim or send us a message using the contact form.

Get in touch

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Next level sustainable packaging

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.

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.

coniston stonecraft at work

50% off + 3 tips businesses must 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)

sea pollution

Making the world better via chocolate

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!”

ethical cocoa