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How to net zero your business: 5 key focus areas for reducing emissions

Sustainability

How to net zero your business: 5 key focus areas for reducing emissions

Updated: 14 November 2022

Small99 guides small businesses to net zero through practical tips that build a more resilient and profitable company at the same time. In this two-part series, they’ve been guiding us through the basics of net zero and, in this second article, they’re focusing on practical tips to help your business on the journey to becoming net zero.

We should already have a good foundation of what net zero is and the benefits of it from our previous article. Now, it’s time to take a deeper dive into some of the actions you can take to reduce your carbon footprint and get closer to net zero.

How to reduce your emissions: where to start

There are a few main areas that’ll likely have the biggest impact that we’ll want to focus on here: energy, transport, supply chain, and waste. Let’s explore these in more detail.

Energy

  • LED Bulbs — While replacing them can be a big upfront cost, typical payback periods now are less than 1 year in energy savings (eg. swapping out 20 Fluorescent T8 tubes being used for 12 hours a day, could save you £1,000+ a year if you pay £0.80 per kWh)
  • Solar Panels —  Generating your own electricity can be incredibly cost effective with short payback periods. However, it’ll depend on your premises and setup
  • Smart Plugs — Anyone can install smart plugs, which makes them a fantastic way to automate energy usage, but also to measure how much energy individual devices are using. For example, turning off TVs or computers overnight when not in use

Transport

For any business, transport is typically a significant chunk of emissions. While action is better than measurement, increasingly suppliers and legislation are demanding that include this data as part of the Scope 3 requirement. 

It can be a bit time consuming, however starting to track your travel emissions is pretty easy. Tools like Fleet News Calculator can quickly build a picture of how many miles you, and your staff take. 

Start to think about:

  • Business travel — How many trips for work have you taken? This is the easiest to start working out, and often can be found in accounts data (eg. conferences, overnight stays, flights, train trips etc.)
  • Staff commuting – How far do your staff travel into work? (eg. 4 staff, driving in 8 miles a day is 15,000 miles a year. In a SUV, this is 5tCO2e per year. In a small electric car, it’s 1.1tCO2e. On an eBike, it’s 360kg. Seeing the size of these savings can be good motivation and calculations can be done quickly using Government data)
  • Customer travel — How do your customers get to you? In my recent work at Small99, we spoke to a Gym where customers were driving less than 500 metres for their workout. A few small conversations with customers nudged this into them walking, and getting a warm up in! We also worked with a campsite and identified that customers were generating 65,000 miles per year getting to the site

Customer travel can be a big one to think about because you can’t directly control it. However, you can influence it by ensuring you offer EV charging or secure cycle storage for example. Once you understand how people get to you, you can start to accommodate and align your business accordingly to become more profitable too. 

A study in Berlin of business owners showed that 93% of customers came on foot or public transport, yet business owners thought over 20% drove. This misunderstanding could damage their business, if for example they protested about car spaces being taken out when in fact, just 7% of customers came by car. 

Supply chain

Who you choose to work with will have a big impact on your carbon footprint. Working with companies not on a net zero journey risks putting you in a position where they’re a risk to your own decarbonisation journey. 

Using accounts software, look at who your biggest suppliers are and ask them where they’re at on their net zero journey. It’s likely they’re also struggling to know where to start, and it can be a great opportunity for building a better relationship and collaborating with them. 

Waste

Waste is the most visible source of emissions, however often quite a small part of a total footprint unless you’re in a heavy industry. There are three key rules in approaching your waste and going far beyond recycling.

  • Reduce & use less — All material has a carbon footprint, even paper, so reducing the amount you consume down through smarter packaging or more thoughtful processes will save you cash and reduce your footprint
  • Reuse — The processing of products into other items is energy intensive, so recycling is the last resort. Reusing the packaging that suppliers ship or finding alternative uses for items is always the best thing to do
  • Segregate — A huge amount of problems with waste come from materials being mixed together, leading to poor quality material collection and ultimately being burned rather than fully recycled, which has a higher carbon footprint

So, what does this all mean for me?

There’s been a lot to take in so far over this series, but there are three key things to remember around net zero, and why you should find out more:

Net zero isn’t going anywhere — Corporates, Governments and increasingly larger private businesses are under pressure to have net zero strategies and plans in place. Working with suppliers, getting investment or bidding for new tenders, and contracts will all start to require smaller companies to also have these in place — and we’re likely to see this in the next 18 months.

Adopting it will give you a competitive edge — Building on this, those who have ambitious and well-documented action plans will stand out from the crowd. Increasingly consumers want to see examples of action, not pledges, so even small steps for a small company can be a big edge over others. 

Adopting it will build more resilience into your business — Finally, net zero is all about building resilience into the company. Reducing emissions goes hand in hand with reducing waste, and many of the technologies to adopt on the way also increase your ability to survive the external shocks the market may throw at you. After all, sustainability is all about the ability of your business to sustain.

Want to get an idea of where your emissions sit within your company? Take Small99’s free 3 minute questionnaire to measure your business footprint

14/11/22: While we want to help as much as we can, the information found here is provided solely for informational purposes and should not be considered financial or legal advice. To the extent permitted by law, Funding Circle does not accept any liability for any loss or damage which may arise directly or indirectly from the use of, or reliance on, the information contained here. If you have any questions, please speak to your professional adviser or seek independent legal advice.

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