Revealed: Less than half of UK businesses promote green initiatives

A new survey has revealed that nearly half of UK respondents (49%) say their place of work fails to offer any green initiatives to help combat the climate crisis.

The research, conducted by business energy experts Love Energy Savings, found that only 51% of more than 1,200 respondents said that their place of work had put anything in place to become more environmentally friendly.

“We were surprised to learn that so many companies are struggling to prioritise initiatives to help the environment,” said Phil Foster from Love Energy Savings. “Despite the progress that’s being made to fight the climate crisis, the majority of businesses are still lagging behind.”

Which green initiatives are business struggling to implement?

The survey revealed that, while some companies did have green initiatives in place, few were properly covering all bases.

  • Only 28% of businesses have recycling initiatives
  • Less than 15% are going paperless
  • Less than a quarter are actively reducing their consumption of single-use plastics
  • Only 17% offer a Cycle to Work scheme
  • A minuscule 9% of companies are using renewable energy

What’s stopping businesses from going green?

There are a few reasons why so many UK companies are falling behind when it comes to sustainability:

  • Up-front cost — Despite the long-term savings, many companies fail to budget for the up-front investment needed to make the change to things like LED lighting and Cycle to Work schemes.
  • Lack of employee buy-in — Managing Directors will struggle to implement a company-wide shift if staff aren’t bought into it. Positive change on a large scale takes a village.
  • Lack of education — Beyond things like recycling, it can be unclear to business owners what options are available to them to reduce their carbon footprint. In the busy day-to-day, it can be hard to set aside time to do the necessary research.

What can businesses do to be more sustainable?

We reached out to sustainability experts to discover what businesses can do to help the UK become 100% green by 2030. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Measure your carbon footprint

Ciaran Kelly and Zachi Brewster, environmental strategists from Earth Rewards

“You can’t reduce what you can’t measure. The main factors of a business’s carbon emissions are energy, raw materials, transport and travel, employees and waste.

“[Effective measurement] can be carried out without consultants or expensive software and can be treated as a cost-reduction review.  

“By grasping this opportunity with both hands, businesses will see the rewards through an increase in customer and employee engagement and satisfaction.”

To measure your carbon footprint, you’ll need to gather information about the following: 

  1. Fuel consumption — Fuel consumed by the organisation in its sites and owned vehicles, such as natural gas, diesel and LPG. You can find this information on bills, meters and fuel card data.
  2. Energy consumption — Electricity used on your sites. Check meter readings and utility bills to get a measure of your onsite energy consumption. 
  3. Top-ups made to air conditioning units — A lot of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment contains a type of fluorinated greenhouse gas, which has a large carbon footprint. You can find the type and quantity of top-ups in the service sheets provided by your air conditioning or refrigeration contractor.

See the Carbon Trust website for more information. 

2. Consider your packaging and postage

Dr Abbie Neilson and Chris Jaume from Cooper King Distillery

“The nature of operating a gin and whisky distillery means it can be an energy-intensive process but having done our research, we found there are ways to drastically reduce energy use. 

“Traditionally, heavyweight gin bottles give the impression of a luxury brand. Whilst we’re proud to offer a premium product, we decided to bottle our gin in a lightweight alternative. Each bottle weighs 300 grams less on average, uses less raw materials and is lighter to transport, thus reducing damaging CO2 emissions. 

“All deliveries are made in plastic-free packaging thanks to a clever origami-style recycled cardboard box developed with a local Yorkshire manufacturer.”

This is also true for leading fashion retailer Cotton Traders.

“While we have a high street and online presence, catalogue mailings are an important medium as part of our marketing mix for customer engagement and sales drivers. It’s very important to us to maintain this level of direct marketing for our customers; however, it’s equally important that we make this process as green as possible.” says CMO Shona Jameson.

“This year we made the decision to remove the plastic poly wrap from our mailings and replaced with 100% sustainably-sourced and fully-recyclable wrap paper. By making this one small change, we will save 65 tonnes of plastic going to landfill every year. It also means that our catalogues are now fully recyclable.”

3. Combat transport emissions

Matt Babic from sustainability consultancy Anthesis Group

“Emissions from transport are a major contributor to the carbon footprint of commercial businesses. Embracing teleconferencing technology can have a huge impact and minimise the need for the most emissions-intensive means of transport such as flying.

“More fundamentally, encouraging a flexible working culture with measures such as working from home for one day a week can help to limit emissions associated with commuting. Many people still drive to work, so incentivising cycling or public transport travel-to-work schemes can have positive impacts on emissions levels, as well as the associated health and wellbeing benefits.”

4. Switch to a renewable energy supplier

2019 was breaking records year for the UK in reducing its use of fossil fuels, with fossil fuels producing less than half of UK electricity in June for the first time. 

However, fossil fuels still make up nearly 80% of the energy used, while renewables account for just 11% of final consumption. This means that the UK is still not on track to meet its 2020 consumption target of 20% renewable energy.

Phil Foster from Love Energy Savings believes that there’s a lack of education for businesses around their energy consumption, which is slowing progress on tackling the global pollution crisis.

“A lot of business owners — especially those that haven’t been operating for more than a couple of years — have a mistaken belief that switching to renewable energy is difficult and expensive,” he says. “Things have changed. There are more 100% sustainable energy suppliers than there ever has been, switching to a green energy provider has never been easier and soon, renewables will be cheaper than fossil fuels. 

“Businesses should feel empowered, not discouraged, by the fact that they have a large role to play in tackling the climate crisis, because they have the power to effect positive change.”

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