How to make your business more sustainable in 2021


As a responsible business owner, you’re no doubt keen to do your bit to help the environment. But at first glance it can seem impossible to juggle green principles with the need to grow your business while keeping your customers and shareholders happy.
However, business leaders are increasingly recognising that sustainability is essential to building resilience. Plus, the government has set the UK stringent environmental targets – and businesses will be expected to play their part.
So how can you go greener in 2021? What key principles and pointers can put you on the path to sustainability?
We’ve listed our top 12 tips below, covering everything from your business strategy right down to your lightbulbs! Don’t forget to protect your sustainable business with commercial insurance.

The UK’s climate goals

You may have heard that the UK has set a target of net zero emissions by 2050. That means we must either cut or offset all emissions of the greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.
So, businesses can expect to see new laws penalising those firms which continue to produce emissions, as well as new incentives for companies which introduce environmentally friendly technology and schemes.
It’s vital that your business is ready for change. What steps can you take to thrive in the new green economy?

1. Make the environment a priority

First up, sustainability needs to be embedded into your business principles, strategies, and values.
If your business partners or shareholders are sceptical, you can win them over by pointing out how going greener makes sound business as well as environmental sense.
For a start, it future proofs your company. Businesses which introduce green measures now will be best placed to adapt both to our changing climate, and to new environmental laws.
Secondly, major multinationals are already making the shift. The world’s largest fund manager, BlackRock, has announced it is exiting investments that “present a high sustainability-related risk”, and others are following suit. If you fail to demonstrate that you are taking sustainability seriously, you could see funding sources dry up.
Then there’s the fact that going green can save you money. By streamlining processes and reducing energy usage (see below) you can make cost savings, as well as do your bit for the environment.
And finally, it improves your brand – and raises your profits. Some 66% of consumers would spend more on a sustainable brand, with Millennials and Generation Z especially committed. So, companies which want to grow need to prove their green credentials.
A person holding a tree sapling in their hands representing sustainability

2. Carry out an environmental audit

Haven’t a clue where to start on greening your business? You’re not alone.
If you want to set targets to reduce emissions, you’ll need to establish a benchmark. That’s where an environmental audit is a useful tool: it gives you a broad view of where your business is now, and where you want to be in the future.
You can find several toolkits and templates online to help you conduct an environmental audit yourself. However, you’ll get a more accurate assessment if you employ a consultancy to carry out the work for you. External experts will also be able to help you draw up plans to transform your company.
And if the task ahead still seems too daunting, start by making some small changes. Perhaps you could cancel your order for plastic disposable cups in the staff kitchen, and tell your employees to bring in their own mugs instead? Or how about turning down the heating by one degree? On their own, these steps might be only small – but they should turn out to be the start of your journey towards sustainability.

3. Set yourself targets

So, with your principles and benchmark established, you need to draw up an action plan. As a business person, you’re used to striving for targets – and hopefully beating them! So, set yourself some environmental goals to match those you have for your revenues.
Perhaps you want to cut energy use by 20% by the end of the year? Introduce a cycle to work scheme? Or train up three employees as Green Champions?
And how about longer term: switch to an all-electric fleet? Diverge from fossil fuels? Ensure a sustainable supply chain?
There are lots of suggestions in this article, but of course it’s up to you to choose targets that make sense for your business. And remember: if you’re investing in new energy-efficient equipment, make sure it’s covered under your commercial insurance policy.

4. Reduce, reuse, recycle

Every business produces waste – some more than others. But try your very hardest not to send it all to landfill: it’s a huge drain on the planet’s dwindling natural resources. Instead, follow the ‘waste hierarchy’ of reduce, reuse, and recycle.
If you can reduce what you use then that’s the best solution, so try writing a meeting agenda on a whiteboard instead of printing out dozens of copies. Reusing is second best, so if you must print out agendas, then perhaps you could use the reverse side as scrap paper after the meeting? And finally, if you really can’t manage either of the two preceding steps, then remember to collect those agendas for recycling.
What would that process look like for other everyday activities in your business?
Screwed up waste paper next to a paper bin

5. Make energy efficient changes in your premises

One of the biggest and best changes you can make is to ensure your premises are energy efficient.
First up, it’s easy to make the switch to getting your energy supply from a renewable source. There are several reliable green energy companies out there which provide electricity from wind, water and solar power, and gas from biogas. Or perhaps you could install your own solar panels or wind turbine?
Then consider whether you can reduce the lighting you need. Maybe you could make better use of natural light by converting your office to an open plan layout? And it’s easy to change lightbulbs to low-energy LEDs.
How about heating? Again, you could cut the amount required – and your costs – though improving your building’s insulation. How about a ‘green roof’ to keep out the cold, provide a habitat for wildlife, and clean the air?
Then consider your appliances. Could you replace them with energy-efficient versions? And are you remembering to power off at the end of the day?
Added together, all these measures could really transform your business into a leaner, greener operation that’s ready for Net Zero!

6. Reduce manufacturing impact

If you produce anything, you should consider how to reduce your manufacturing emissions.
Could you replace plastics with more sustainable materials, or certain chemicals with greener alternatives? How about investing in better pollution control measures?
Again, the cost of transforming your manufacturing processes might look alarming at first glance. But stricter controls on emissions are more-or-less inevitable in the coming years, so you’ll need to adapt.
When investing in new machinery or stock, do make sure it’s covered by commercial insurance.

7. Introduce a green fleet

Most businesses involve some kind of transport, whether it’s for your sales reps, your deliveries, or your tradesmen. So, switching to electric, hybrid or natural gas to fuel your fleet is a great way to reduce emissions.
Again, it might seem like a major investment to make – but as more and more cities follow London’s example and introduce low-emissions zones, you’ll find it could soon pay for itself.
Plus, a fleet of branded green vans is a great travelling advertisement for your business! Insurance for commercial businesses arranged by Insurance Choice can include cover for your vehicles.
Another way to cut fuel usage is by grouping deliveries together wherever possible or sharing transport.
And don’t forget: increasingly, it’s possible to avoid travelling for work meetings by hosting them on video conferencing platforms instead. It’s a great way to cut travel emissions – particularly for companies which do business internationally.

8. Green commuting

Commercial vehicles aren’t your only consideration. What about your workers’ own cars?
Perhaps you think that the way your employees get to work is none of your business. While that’s true to an extent, the more you can do to incentivise green modes of transport, the better.
So, consider taking part in the government’s cycle to work scheme, offering your employees a way to save money on the purchase of a new bike plus equipment. Interest-free loans for public transport season tickets are another great perk you can offer.
And if you don’t already do so, you should also consider limiting car parking spaces, or charging staff to use them. You might worry that this will be an unpopular move with your staff, but many local authorities are already exploring workplace parking levies.

Can you encourage car-sharing among your employees – perhaps with guaranteed parking spots? Or install charging points in your car park to enable staff to travel by electric vehicle?
Finally, don’t forget that many employees can do a lot of their jobs from home.
A commuter cycling to work on a busy city street

9. Check your supply chain

It’s hard enough keeping an eye on your own carbon footprint – but to be truly responsible, you need to check that of your supply chain, too.
Fortunately, as environmental principles become more and more mainstream, it’s becoming easier to do this. Many companies now carry out environmental audits, giving you a handy at-a-glance way to see what measures they are taking.
Choosing suppliers that share your green principles is also a great way to ensure a strong relationship, boosting your business productivity and resilience.

10. Package wisely

This measure is a very high profile one. Getting it right demonstrates to your customers that you’re serious about reducing your carbon footprint.
So, try to limit packaging, and reduce your use of plastics. Use recycled materials where possible, and make sure they are easily recyclable, too.
And don’t forget the printing process: these days, it’s perfectly possible to give your products a great look using sustainable inks.

11. Engage your people

Whatever business you run; your people are your biggest resource. So, educating and engaging them on sustainability issues is a crucial step to greening your business.
Your senior staff and shareholders must lead from the top, creating an eco-friendly culture. If junior staff see bosses sidestep environmental measures, perhaps by continuing to drive gas-guzzling vehicles, then they’ll be less inclined to go green themselves. If, on the other hand, senior management team members arrive at work on their bikes, then junior staff may well follow their lead.
Consider creating Green Champion roles within your organisation, tasking them with leading on climate action. This will reward those staff members who are prepared to go above and beyond by giving them more kudos and something to put on their CV.
And how about extra environmental awareness training, or guest speakers on eco issues? Again, this offers personal and career development opportunities for your staff and helps embed an eco-friendly culture within your organisation.

12. Make a wider contribution

If you’re really committed to green issues, then there’s no need to limit your activities to your own workplace, products, or processes. Why not make a bigger splash and contribute to a green community scheme?
Perhaps you could sponsor tree planting in your local park? Or training in bicycle repair skills to unemployed youngsters? Or maybe you could give your staff paid time off to contribute to community clean-up operations or other eco initiatives?
Whatever action you take, you’ll be making your area a better place to live – and raising awareness of your brand. A real win-win!

Get a quote from Insurance Choice today

At Insurance Choice, we know how hard business people have to work to protect both their trade and the environment. So we want to take some of the strain by helping you find commercial insurance that suits your company.
Whether you run a beauty salon, a roofing company, a hotel, a garage, a shop, or any other business, we can search our panel of trusted insurance providers to find the right policy for you.
Benefits can include public and employer’s liability; cover for premises, stock and equipment; and business interruption insurance, among many other features.
Contact us today for a quote.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.