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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 over 1,200 respondents work in places that have eco-friendly programmes.

“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.”

According to Harvard Business Review, being green “is a catalyst for innovation, new market opportunity, and wealth creation.” So why are so many businesses failing to become more eco-friendly and what measures can they take to improve?

What are the benefits of going green?

There are multiple advantages to going green. By becoming more eco-friendly, businesses could benefit from the following:

  • Helping the environment – This is the key benefit of going green and ultimately the primary aim. The UK has targets to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 and in order to meet this goal, both households and businesses must seek to lower their carbon footprint. Implementing green initiatives in the workplace will help businesses do their bit for the environment.
  • Saving money – By taking steps to become more energy-efficient, businesses could benefit from lower utility bills. Additionally, measures such as going paperless or investing in refillables instead of continuously purchasing disposables could reduce costs.
  • Making money – The government has created schemes to encourage people to use renewable energy sources. The Feed-In Tariff and Smart Export Guarantee schemes pay businesses and households for the energy that they export to the National Grid. This can be a great way of making your business more eco-friendly, and you’ll be able to make a profit whilst doing so.
  • Improved reputation – With there being such a heavy focus on combatting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, people across the world are becoming more environmentally-conscious. Due to this, the steps you take to make your business greener could boost your reputation and make your brand more favourable.

Which green initiatives are business struggling to implement?

Whilst some companies have green initiatives in place, few properly cover 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, typical challenges they face include:

  • Up-front costs — 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, business owners may be unclear on the options that 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?

Contrary to what some business owners may think, becoming more sustainable isn’t excessively difficult or complicated. Not to mention, the long-term benefits of becoming more eco-friendly can far outweigh the effort it takes to get started.

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

According to 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’ carbon emissions are energy, raw materials, transport and travel, employees and waste.” So in order to effectively improve your business’ eco-friendly strategy, you must target these specific areas and measure performance before, during and after you put energy-efficient measures in place.

Kelly also states that “[Effective measurement] can be carried out without consultants or expensive software and can be treated as a cost-reduction review.” So businesses don’t have to fork out thousands of pounds in order to find out how they can improve their sustainability. Areas for improvement can be identified by conducting simple business reviews.

Businesses could further generate employee engagement by distributing periodic reviews throughout the business based on sustainability performance. You could also offer incentives to groups, individuals or departments who perform particularly well.

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

  • 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.
  • Energy consumption — Electricity used on your sites. Check meter readings and utility bills to get a measure of your onsite energy consumption. 
  • 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

As well as targeting elements within your workplace, you should also review your products and services to see if there are ways in which you can make them more sustainable.

For example, Cooper King Distillery in York made the decision to reduce the weight of their gin and whisky bottles and made changes to their packaging and postage to make their business more eco-friendly.

Dr Abbie Neilson and Chris Jaume from Cooper King Distillery said:

“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.”

Leading fashion retailer, Cotton Traders also made steps to make their products and services more environmentally sustainable.

“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

“Emissions from transport are a major contributor to the carbon footprint of commercial businesses,” says Matt Babic from sustainability consultancy Anthesis Group.

The carbon emissions generated by employees when they travel to and from work have a significant impact on a business’ overall carbon footprint. Naturally, these emissions are even greater when a business has multiple sites across the country and staff are required to commute to different offices for events such as meetings or conferences.

To combat this, Babic suggests that companies should “embrace teleconferencing technology” as this “can have a huge impact and minimise the need for the most emissions-intensive means of transport such as flying.”

Babic also highlights the benefits of homeworking and travel to work schemes as ways of lowering businesses’ carbon footprints. He states:

“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.”

Furthermore, due to the impacts of COVID-19, a large number of employees have been working from home. This may become a new normal for many even after the pandemic, which will help businesses reduce their carbon footprint for travel.

4. Become carbon neutral

According to Vox.com, a company becomes carbon neutral by “removing the same amount of carbon dioxide it is emitting into the atmosphere.” By doing this, you can help your business achieve net-zero carbon emissions and help to combat climate change.

The most common way of doing this is by purchasing carbon offsets and funding projects that help the environment and prioritise carbon savings, such as wind turbine farms and reforestation projects.

Businesses such as Microsoft, Sky and Logitech are among those who are actively taking steps to become carbon neutral.

5. Switch to a renewable energy supplier

2019 was a record-breaking year for the UK as it reduced its use of fossil fuels. In June, it was reported that  fossil fuels produced less than half of the UK’s electricity 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.

He states: “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.”

“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.”

If you’d like to find a suitable renewable energy tariff for your business, try our free online comparison tool. Alternatively, visit our renewable energy guides for more information on sustainable energy for your business.