How to make your startup more sustainable? Earth Day 2022 Guide
If you’re running a startup, you might think your environmental impact is inconsequential. But the people buying your products don’t see it that way. Faced with compounding environmental crises, consumers are starting to vote green with their wallets. Businesses of all shapes and sizes need to continually analyze consumer sentiment because as people learn more about climate change and its effects, they are changing their buying habits.
In a survey by U.S. shipping service Sendle, 57% of responders said climate change had somewhat or fully caused them to reassess their purchasing habits, and nearly 71% said they had set goals to purchase more sustainable products. And sustainability is an important issue for consumers of all age groups, with at least 75% saying it is moderately to extremely important to them.
It’s hard to think about sustainability as a startup when you’re in the testing and growing stage, especially if you want to keep costs and time spent to a minimum. To celebrate Earth Day 2022 we’ve compiled a list of suggestions for startups to become more environmentally friendly.
Research your vendors, partners and suppliers
From software companies and food and beverage brands to apparel labels and shipping carriers, carbon-neutral vendors can be found across every major industry. For many small businesses, their supply chain also will have a big impact on their own footprint. Becoming a sustainable business depends on the companies they support.
Become a B-Corp
One of the boldest actions you can take as a business is committing to becoming a B Corporation. B Corps are businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance and are legally obliged to consider the planet in all their decision making alongside people and profit.
Joining the B Corp community and becoming a Certified B Corporation is a rigorous process and involves completing the B Impact Assessment which looks at different areas of your business such as your supply chain, employment rights as well as your carbon footprint.
“Local is the new global”, says Forbes. Local produce, for example, can fuel restaurants, grocery stores and even local food startups. It’s not always easy to find a local option, especially outside major metropolitan areas, but entrepreneurs should look carefully at the resources around them before turning toward more conventional hubs.
Whether you are looking for office supplies or selling physical products, local delivery will often be more environmentally friendly than shipping from abroad.
There are many benefits to sourcing local goods including improving your business’s environmental impact, as couriers don’t have to travel as far. It’s also a great way to take advantage of the opportunities available in your local area – you never know – perhaps a local business has developed just the product or solution your company needs! Partnering with local suppliers can also do wonders for your business’s brand and is great for supporting your local community.
Measure and reduce your carbon footprint
The UK is aiming to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, so this should be one of your business’s goals too. This target has been met with a positive response by businesses agreeing that Net-Zero is an achievable target. So what can your company do to meet this goal?
The first step is to start measuring your carbon footprint. This will tell you exactly how far away you are from reaching Net-Zero, so you can plan your environmental strategy in a more efficient, targeted way. You can find a carbon calculator here.
Consider any ways you can reduce your carbon emissions. Investing in a local supplier, reducing travel or switching to renewable energy is a great place to start.
Once you’ve exhausted ways to reduce emissions you should consider offsetting the remaining emissions and becoming a carbon-neutral business. You can do this by supporting sustainable reforestation projects in the UK or abroad.
You could also check out companies like EcoAct that will help you identify steps to achieve Net-Zero.
If you’re ahead of the curve and have already achieved Net-Zero, your next target might be working towards reaching Zero Carbon – this means you’ve eliminated all carbon emissions entirely.
Reduce energy and supplies
Firstly, it’s important to be aware of the amount of energy you’re using so you can identify areas where change is required. Be sure to make good use of your smart meter, now provided by most UK energy suppliers, to monitor your business’s consumption and consider the changes you can make to reduce it. Also, make sure you have an up-to-date EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) for your premises. This will provide you with a detailed assessment of your business’s energy efficiency and highlight areas for improvement.
Perhaps the biggest uses of energy in office-based environments are essentials such as lighting, heating and electrical appliances. If your building has a lot of windows, make good use of the natural light and consider whether you need to have artificial lights on at all. A bigger change could involve replacing older lighting with newer, more energy-efficient alternatives such as LED units.
You can also consider using laptops instead of desktop computers where possible to reduce energy consumption through mains electricity. Little things like unplugging laptop chargers when they’re not in use will have a bigger impact on your energy consumption than you might think.
Switching to renewable energy is a simple way to reduce your business’s carbon footprint. According to Friends Of The Earth, renewable energy use has grown ten-fold since 2004, and 37% of electricity now comes from renewable sources.
Education and awareness
The outcomes of education and awareness are not as immediate and “visible” as, for example, changing to renewable energy, but they might be one of the most important and the easiest steps. Internal education of your employees about how to become more sustainable, will not only make them more eco-friendly in the office, but also outside of it. Once habits are acquired in the workplace, they are often adapted at home by other family members and housemates. Such actions can have a huge long term effect!
Your employees and colleagues are not the only ones that can be made aware! Make sure your clients and partners also know that your business is planet-friendly. Raise awareness about your sustainability policy or environmentally friendly actions, by posting about it on your socials or on your website. This way, others can follow your lead and try to become more sustainable themselves!
Instinctively, working from home feels like it must be a positive thing for the environment. After all, the average commuting time in the UK is 1 hour and 38 minutes, much of which will be spent in a car. With the average petrol car in the UK producing around 180g of CO2 per kilometre, this adds up. The situation is even worse in the United States, where larger vehicles mean an average of 650g of CO2 is produced per kilometre.
The study found that working from home four days a week would reduce the amount of nitrogen dioxide, which is the main pollutant generated by traffic emissions, by around 10%. Even with the lower levels of home working seen as workplaces have opened up again would still generate a reduction in air pollution of around 8%.
While consuming digital resources, such as video conferencing, burns a considerable amount of energy in data centres, the researchers argue that the net impact is still positive, with Zoom calls emitting just 0.6% of the carbon emissions generated on a typical commute.
The study does indeed find that for many of us, home working can be significantly greener than our usual commute into the office, with home working reducing our personal emissions by up to 80% in some cases.
This is not the case for all of us, however, and indeed, for some of us, working from home may actually increase our energy usage. This is largely because some of us can use our newfound flexibility to increase our travel for recreation and other purposes, while also using more energy at home.
This means that working remotely CAN be more environmentally friendly when arranged with adequate sustainability policies and training. That being said, we want to make sure that you know about our tool PitchMe, which allows you to hire remote workers from all over the world.
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