How Green Small Business Galvanised our Team to Understand and Plan our Sustainable Future
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.”
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.”
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 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.
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.
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 to 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.
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 trapping more heat from the sun, causing global temperatures to rise.
Other greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide 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.
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 all 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, if you have any. 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. Ideally, you would also include all of the indirect emissions but this isn’t always possible. 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. The 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:
purchasing of goods and services
business travel in vehicles which are not owned by the company
distribution of products and services that you buy and sell
To some extent at least, your small business is responsible for all of these emissions. With Scope 1 emissions, you have alot of control and action to reduce them is often more straightforward. However, in the case of scope 2 and scope 3 emissions, they come from sources which you do not own or control so they can be more difficult to manage.
How can I develop a carbon footprint for my small business?
Step 1: Decide on the scope of your carbon footprint
As a minimum, you should include all scope 1 and scope 2 emissions in your carbon footprint. 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).
Sometimes, utilities such as gas and electricity are shared with other businesses in the same building. Where this is the case, a percentage of the overall usage can be allocated to your business which is equivalent to the percentage of the overall floorspace of the building that your business occupies.
That’s the easy bit.
You then need to determine which Scope 3 categories are relevant to your business. They are listed below.
Summary of what’s included
1 – Purchased goods and services
Emissions from the products and services a company buys from other businesses.
2 – Capital goods
Emissions associated with the production and disposal of equipment, buildings, and other physical assets.
3 – Fuel and energy related activities
Emissions from the extraction, production, and transportation of fuels and energy that a company uses. The emissions which stem directly from the use of the fuels are included in other categories.
4 – Upstream transportation and distribution
Emissions from transporting and distributing products to the company from suppliers. Unless the transportation relates to products which are then sold by the business or used in a manufacturing or production process, transportation emissions are usually included in category 1.
5 – Waste generated in operations
Emissions from waste generated during a company’s operations, such as solid waste, wastewater, or hazardous waste.
6 – Business travel
Emissions from employee travel in vehicles not owned by the business, including flights, train rides, and rental cars for business purposes. Emissions from travel in vehicles which are owned by the business are included in Scope 1.
7 – Employee commuting
Emissions from employees’ daily travel to and from work, such as driving personal vehicles or using public transportation. Emissions from any commuting in vehicles which are owned by the business are included in Scope 1.
Employee tele-working (homeworking) is a sub-category of Category 7.
8 – Upstream leased assets
Emissions which have not been included in Scope 1 and 2 from leased assets like buildings, vehicles, or equipment used by a company but owned by someone else. We usually encourage clients to include emissions from leased assets in Scope 1 and 2, as it implies taking a greater sense of responsibility for them.
9 – Downstream transportation and distribution
Emissions from transporting and distributing a company’s products to customers.
10 – Processing of sold products
Emissions resulting from activities associated with the processing or use of a company’s products after they are sold, such as customer use of appliances or vehicles.
11 – Use of sold products
Emissions resulting from the use of a company’s products, such as the energy consumed by customers when using appliances or vehicles.
12 – End of life treatment of sold products
Emissions from activities related to the disposal or recycling of a company’s products after they are used by customers.
13 – Downstream leased assets
Emissions resulting from the use of leased assets by customers or other end-users.
14 – Franchises
Emissions associated with the activities of franchisees that are directly linked to the company’s brand.
15 – Investments
Emissions resulting from the investments made by a company, such as funds invested in projects or companies that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
Having worked out which categories are relevant, you then need to decide which ones to include in your footprint. 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:
home working – more and more staff are working from home so we encourage inclusion of emissions from home working where this is relevant
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.
Source of data
Heating / cooling company facilities
Total 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 vehicles
Litres 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.
Number of employee days worked from home, which might be available from timesheets or might just need to be estimated.
Mode 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.
Commuting 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 services
Amounts 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
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. 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.
Once you have converted all your business data into greenhouse gas emissions in each category, you can add them together to arrive at your small business carbon footprint. Nice work!
What should I do with my small business carbon footprint?
There are three main potential uses for your small business carbon footprint:
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.
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.
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? And should we offset?
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, at least in theory, 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.
The concept of carbon offsetting is being increasingly scrutinised. It has been criticised for two main reasons:
Carbon offset projects do not always deliver the promised carbon reductions.
Carbon offsetting is used by some businesses as an excuse for carrying on business-as-usual.
At Green Small Business, we are not fans of the concept of carbon offsetting. We always encourage businesses to invest in high quality environmental projects. We just don’t think they should be thought of as ‘offsets’. To do so risks false or exaggerated claims being made and/or there being less of an emphasis on reducing the carbon footprint of the business.
Our recommendation: Don’t use the term ‘offset’ and don’t make any claims about offsetting your carbon. Focus on reducing your carbon and financially supporting the best environmental projects – not because it will magically offset your carbon but because it’s the right thing to do.
Why not formally commit to giving a percentage of your revenue to environmental charities? You can do this via the 1% for the Planet initiative. 1% for the Planet is a global movement working to drive investment in the charities that are addressing some of the most urgent challenges of our time.
Giving in this way is a clear statement that you recognise the environmental impact of doing business and of our long-term reliance on a healthy planet.
Green Small Business is proud to be a member.
If you are specifically interested in planting trees, we love 9Trees. Their vision is to tackle climate change by restoring new woodland habitats, promoting biodiversity, creating jobs within the countryside sector and connecting more people to nature.
They won’t sell you carbon offsets but they will plant trees on your behalf and in the best way possible. They only plant trees in the UK and they continue to look after your trees, so they store as much carbon as possible.
Their specialist knowledge in conservation means they’re able to create woodlands that support local wildlife and improve biodiversity. They work with local authorities and organisations to plant on carefully selected land, not destroying vital flower meadows, peat land or other Special Sites of Scientific Interest.
They work directly within communities, using local specialists to give your trees the very best start in life. All of their trees are native and grown in the UK, with the species of tree chosen to suit each site. They are also a Community Interest Company, ploughing any profits back into good schemes, training and education.
We don’t benefit financially in any way from recommending 9Trees. We genuinely just like what they do.
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.
If you are going to use the term (and we don’t recommend it) always be clear about what is included in your carbon footprint calculations and what isn’t.
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. By radical, we mean 90-95%! Net zero can therefore rarely be achieved in the short-term, with most businesses setting long-term targets to achieve it.
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, its 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.
Book a call
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.
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 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.
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.
Although the number of environmental questions varies, the categories of questions seem to stay the same, and cover:
Air & climate
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
You have an environmental policy and environmental plan that incorporates all of your significant environmental impacts.
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.
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.
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:
too time-consuming; and
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
“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)
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!”
Luxury hotel and eatery 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”