14 Ways to Reduce Carbon Footprint for Businesses
Originally uploaded on December 02, 2021
There’s no denying that the world is facing a climate crisis, so employers are actively searching for ways businesses can reduce their carbon footprints. Customers are also becoming increasingly tuned in to the business practices of the companies they shop from, so by failing to take climate action, you risk losing business. Although it may feel daunting, there are many simple ways for businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce their carbon footprint. Here, we share 14 ideas to get you started.
What is the average carbon footprint of a company?
The average carbon footprint of a company completely depends on the type of company, the size of company and their business processes. However, to give you an idea, according to Small 99, SMEs in the UK have a carbon footprint of at least 6% of total UK annual carbon emissions. Compare that with the fact that just 20 firms are behind a third of all carbon emissions, contributions from SMEs are relatively conservative.
As more studies have been done and climate change has become better understood, many countries have implemented policies to reduce pollution on a national or international scale, with fuel and alternative sources being put under the spotlight.
14 ways businesses can reduce their carbon footprint
1. Switch to electric vehicles
If your business has any company vehicles, whether that’s a fleet or a couple of company cars, it’s time to consider going electric . Research from Cambridge shows that, in 95% of the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than a petrol car. Plus, as part of the UK government’s plan to be carbon-neutral by 2050, petrol and diesel vehicles will be phased out, so it’s a switch we all have to start thinking about. Although there are many alternative fuels for vehicles that you could consider, electricity is probably the most popular and accessible option.
2. Use a fuel card
If you are a fuel-dependent business looking to go green, a fuel card is a great way to start minimising your carbon footprint. Fuel cards can be used in most businesses, including sole traders, small businesses, trucking companies and start-ups – they’re not just for large fleets. With a fuel card and vehicle telematics, you can monitor how much fuel your vehicles are using and assess if the most efficient routes are being taken. Plus, you can cut down on paperwork with a ‘walk around’ vehicle checks app and digital invoices.
One of the most obvious ways businesses can reduce their carbon footprint is through recycling. Set up a recycling centre in your workplace and make it clear to employees what they can recycle and how they should separate their waste. If you’re recycling confidential documents, remember to shred them first and set up a confidential recycling bin if needed.
4. Virtual meetings
‘Zoom’ became a verb during the pandemic as most of us started working from home. We learnt how easy it is to conduct virtual meetings, whether that’s with colleagues, clients or suppliers. When you’re organising a meeting or event, ask the people who are joining you if they’re happy to go virtual and make it easy for them to do so. Likewise, make it clear to your stakeholders that you’re also more than comfortable conducting business over video call. This is a simple way to cut down on business travel, slashing greenhouse gas emissions and saving you time and money in the process.
If your employees work in an office, encourage them to car-share for reduced emissions and a cheaper commute. Although you can’t implement a car-sharing policy, you can make it easier for employees who have similar commutes to connect with one another. For example, when you’re onboarding a new starter, make it a point to ask them about their commute and if they would be open to car-sharing with colleagues.
6. Cycle to Work scheme
You’ve most likely heard of the Cycle to Work scheme that was launched by the government in 1999. It’s an extremely popular scheme that is used by businesses up and down the country, making it easier for employees to improve fitness and lower their carbon emissions. You can learn more about how it works on the government website, but the concept is that an employer purchases a bike and their employee ‘hires’ it through salary sacrifice – this provides a saving as the employee does not have to pay income tax or National Insurance on the bike. Once the hire period is over, the employee can either return the bike to the employer or purchase it from them.
7. Avoid single-use products
Single-use products, especially non-recyclable items, are one of the worst things for our planet, and we often see them in the kitchen. Encourage employees to bring reusable water bottles to work, and offer a convenient way to refill throughout the day.
Likewise, if you have a hot drink machine in the office, stop buying single-use cups and provide enough mugs or reusable travel cups for employees. If you have an on-site cafeteria, offer a discount for employees who bring their own mug, just as most high-street cafes do, and provide reusable cutlery rather than plastic, throw-away alternatives.
8. Keep documents digital
One of the easiest ways businesses can reduce carbon emissions immediately is by keeping documents digital. You should avoid the urge to print a hard copy of your work unless absolutely vital! Paper copies are more wasteful, cost you more money, and are less secure than digital files. But, if you do really need to print something, be sure to print double-sided and switch off the printer when not in use.
9. Switch off and unplug
Leaving lights on in an unused room in your office is no good for the environment or your budget. If you’re noticing lights are not being switched off when employees leave a room, give frequent, gentle reminders until you notice a change. You could even ask for eco-monitor volunteers to undertake regular checks around the office.
You should also remind employees to unplug devices that aren’t in use - leaving chargers that aren’t charging plugged into the wall still drains electricity.
These are two quick and easy ways to reduce the carbon footprint of any business.
10. Invest in energy-efficient lighting
Replacing your light bulbs with energy-efficient lighting can cut your carbon emissions by up to 40kg a year! LED lighting is the most efficient you can buy and, although LED bulbs have a greater upfront cost compared with CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and halogen bulbs, the annual running cost is significantly less.
11. Invest in energy-efficient appliances
You’re probably aware that many appliances in the UK are sold with an energy efficiency rating. This is a legal requirement, helping customers make informed decisions while encouraging manufacturers to design more low-energy products. If you’re in the market for a new appliance for your business, such as a fridge or dishwasher, be careful to choose one with the best energy efficiency rating for reduced emissions and cheaper running costs.
12. Turn down the thermostat
Turning down the thermostat by just one degree can make a significant difference to the amount of energy your office uses every winter, and you probably won’t feel any colder. If your employees wear a uniform to work, you could also provide them with a thicker uniform during the colder months, such as a fleece or thermal top. This is a simple, quick way to reduce the carbon footprint of your business – just don’t make it so cold that it’s uncomfortable or unsafe!
13. Offset carbon emissions
Transitioning to zero carbon emissions is not a quick process, and for many businesses it’s simply not possible. However, aiming for net-zero carbon emissions is more feasible. There are numerous programmes available for businesses to become carbon-neutral certified, typically done through funding projects that remove emissions. Although this would incur a financial cost to your business, it’s an impactful way to make a difference and shows customers you’re serious about minimising your contribution to climate damage.
14. Plant trees
Another way to offset carbon emissions is by planting trees (trees absorb carbon dioxide). According to One Tree Planted, the average tree absorbs an average of 10 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year for the first 20 years. Trees also provide other environmental benefits, such as habitat for animals and regulating temperatures. There are plenty of organisations that can help you with a tree planting initiative. You could either provide a donation to plant trees, or you could turn it into a company activity for your staff, serving as a great morale-boosting and team exercise.
We hope these ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your business inspire you to take action! It may not feel that way, but every small change can make a big impact, especially when we work collectively.
If you are a fuel-dependent business looking to improve fuel efficiency and minimise your carbon footprint, please contact our fuel card experts and we’ll see how we can help you. We also have a Chargemate card for electric vehicles to improve efficiency and streamline your processes.