Going Green: How Small Businesses Can Manage Their Environmental Impact

going green small business environmental impact eco-friendly company sustainability

Over time, we've seen a persistent stream of environmental disasters occurring across the globe, accompanied by an ever-increasing demand for resources. In order to meet the challenge of a sustainable future, businesses will have to follow the three classic principles of sustainability: Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling. 

Although small businesses are facing significant financial pressure and economic uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some are already making headway by going online and taking advantage of opportunities to reduce costs and save valuable resources. 

In the past year, people and companies alike have faced many obstacles affecting their job security, finances and quality of life. However, the pandemic has also forced us to slow down and take a deeper look at our daily habits. When we do this, it becomes obvious how wasteful we've become as a society. 

During the pandemic, people from all over the world transitioned from office-based work to working remotely from home. For many, this was the first chance they had in a long time to slow down enough to notice their surroundings. Lunch breaks that were previously spent in an office cubicle were now spent walking around the neighbourhood, and according to sales statistics, interest in gardening activities increased considerably. 

While the year was difficult, it did provide us with a glimpse of what life could be like if we took better care of not only ourselves but also our planet. Committing to a greener, healthier lifestyle means devoting resources to protecting and improving the health and well-being of people and the environment they live in. 

Get An Environmental Audit 

Environmental audits aim to highlight areas of business operations that have a detrimental impact on the environment and establish a baseline for future improvement. You can use it to figure out which aspects of your business have the highest environmental impact. You can also manage company risk by checking how effectively you comply with environmental standards. 

An environmental audit can help you: 

• Determine the origin and extent of environmental damage caused by your company 
• Examine how you can manage and improve the situation 
• Demonstrate your company's accountability to the government, consumers, and shareholders. 

An effective environmental audit has to be independent, impartial, reliable and transparent. You should get regular audits that accurately gauge progress compared to your benchmark or initial evaluation. You can include the information from these audits in your company's environmental plan. 

Set Up An Environmental Management System 

The next step is to set up an EMS or environmental management system - a tool to help you keep track of your company's current and prospective environmental impact. 

Your EMS can assist you in implementing your environmental management plan, figure out better ways to use available resources and achieving your environmental objectives. It will also make it easier to obtain licensing and permits. 

What Should An EMS Include? 

First of all, your EMS should determine your company's environmental implications and set environmental goals that align with your business strategy. It should also provide you with information on operational and emergency procedures pertaining to environmental issues. 

A company's EMS outlines reporting structure, responsibilities and areas for improvement. 

You can get your EMS accredited as per the ISO 14001 standard. The price depends on the complexity of your business, but it can go up to several thousand dollars, so you'll want to consider how much time and money you'll have to invest in this process, whether your competitors have accreditation and whether your customers consider it an important aspect. 

Managing Waste 

We already mentioned the three Rs – reducing, reusing and recycling. These three principles will help you manage your waste better. 

You'll first need to know what your waste is. This means evaluating the type of waste your business produces and in what quantities. This aspect will be part of your environmental audit. 

The next step will be the separate the different types of waste your business produces into items that can be recycled and items that will have to go to the landfill. You can find a wide range of compactors and balers for sale that will help you reduce waste pick-up and cost. 

You'll also want to create cooperation and communication amongst your workers by instituting a waste reduction program and appointing a waste management coordinator who will handle your company's waste needs. 

If your company makes products, evaluate them to see if you can use fewer materials for packing and if any of those materials could be reused or recycled. Talk to your suppliers about using eco-friendly materials. 

Managing Hazardous Waste 

As you may already know, hazardous waste refers to materials that can cause harm to the environment and people. This category includes computer equipment, batteries, fuels, solvent-based paints and garden chemicals. 

You'll need to inform yourself about how to dispose of hazardous chemicals your company works with, such as: 

• Electronic Waste – You can find recycling facilities and drop-off points in your area. 

• Car Tyres - There are several independent groups and government organisations that handle the recycling of old tires. 

• Radioactive Waste And Chemicals – If your business handles radioactive waste or chemicals, you need to have procedures in place on how to properly categorise, store, handle and dispose of them. 

• Medical Waste – This category includes blood, bodily fluids and other materials that can cause infection. The most common method of disposal is incineration, and the alternative is to work with a licensed waste transporter that will collect them for you from prescribed containers. 

Build An Eco-Friendly Company Culture 

Transitioning to more sustainable business practices usually starts at the top, but it must permeate through the whole company to be successful. Each and every employee has to understand the value of these changes and participate. 

There are many aspects that affect an organisation's sustainability throughout time. A simple analysis of your present company procedures is the best way to get started. You'll need to review employee behaviour, find ways to reduce the environmental impact for every department and check the practices of your suppliers. It would also help if you learned more about the environmental issues and sustainability practices in your industry and discuss these topics with other business owners in your social circle. 

Once you know where you are presently, you'll be better able to talk to your team about your business sustainability approach. You should provide employees with incentives as well as a clear picture of the future for the organisation as a whole.

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