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5 ways to run a greener business

Last updated on 
February 3, 2020

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As a society, we’ve never been more eco-conscious. At home, most of us recycle, carry reusable bags, and buy from brands we believe are doing their bit – and at work, things aren’t very different. Taking steps towards becoming a greener, more sustainable business isn’t only great for the environment; it’s also good for your bottom line, and is an effective way to set yourself apart from competitors while also saving money. But these days, to be a green company you need to do much more than just change your light bulbs and cut down on paper. Here are five ways to run a greener business.

1. Adopt a remote work model

Adopting a remote work model might not be the thing you first think of in the quest to becoming more eco-friendly, but it’s actually one of the most efficient methods. When people have to drive to and from work every day, or even get public transport, not only are they contributing to carbon emissions, they’re also wasting time and energy on the commute (plus, remote workers are reported to be happier, more productive, and more loyal, so this step has myriad benefits).

The latest statistics from Global Workplace Analytics show that if people in the US worked remotely even half the time, the country would save around $700 billion each year. The reduction of greenhouse gases would be comparable to every single New York State employee going off the road – forever! If you’re genuinely interested in becoming a sustainable business, remote working must be considered. While going fully remote might not be an option, these stats show that just working remotely some of the time has an enormous impact.

With the rise of flexible workplace tools, it’s easier than ever to work together no matter where you are. Consider which meetings have to be in person, or whether a video conference could work; just reducing in-person meetings can slash local and international commuting costs. Now most of the world is agreed that flexible, remote work is the future, adopting this type of model sooner rather than later can only be a positive.

2. Embrace a shorter working week

If you fancy yourself as a really forward thinking company, consider embracing a shorter working week. The ‘Degrowth’ theory might sound radical – and in many ways, it is – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t grounded in science. Unbridled economic growth is the root cause of overconsumption and climate change – and the facts show that the more a country is worth in Gross Domestic Product, the more it harms the planet (for every 10% rise in GDP, there’s a 6% increase in use of resources).

Downsizing your working hours can have big benefits. By accepting the fact that infinite growth simply isn’t possible in a world with finite resources, you’re showing true commitment to becoming a sustainable company. It also doesn’t necessarily have to come at any productive cost to your business, as several work experiments have shown. Considering that Paris held the first International Degrowth Conference back in 2008, and Finland’s new Prime Minister is welcoming debate about a four-day week, this is a progressive step that might soon become normalized.

3. Work with green food suppliers

In 2018, the biggest ever analysis of the impact of agriculture on the planet found that moving to a plant-based diet was the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact. The facts that meat and dairy are the leading causes of species extinction, habitat destruction, ocean dead zones and water pollution are becoming more and more widely known, which means that businesses who are sincere about being known as green companies are now factoring food into the equation.

Lobbying work canteens to switch to a plant-based menu and using vegan caterers for events will inevitably slash a company’s costs, as well as their use of resources, but there are other big perks. “The long-term benefits would be the overall employee health and wellbeing, plus the social goodwill of having a lower carbon footprint and being more animal-friendly,” plant-based business advocate Cole Delote told Forbes. The plant-based movement is here to stay, and to be seen as a credibly sustainable business, going green increasingly means eating green.

4. Run a greener office

Running a more eco-friendly office used to simply mean just recycling paper. Then it amped up to becoming paperless. But in 2020, green companies need to do more – much more. Recycling now must include e-waste – unwanted phones, laptops, tablets etc., that often end up in landfills, or being shipped to developing countries where they’re burned and dismantled, causing destructive emissions. Aiming for zero office waste shouldn’t be a pipedream in our current climate.

Use green cleaning products, too – many of the most popular brands are toxic to the environment – and choose 100% renewable energy suppliers. Moving over to solar, wind or geothermal power won’t only soften your footprint, it’ll also save you big bucks in the long run. Do your research when it comes to green web hosting; using the internet places a significant strain on the planet, and companies like Google and Facebook have already swapped over to renewable energy.

5. Subsidize green transport for employee commutes

We’ve already covered how adopting a flexible, remote-focused work model is one of the most effective ways a business can up their green credentials – but for many companies, going totally remote just isn’t possible right now. If this is the case for you, and your employees do need to come into the office, consider how you can make this more sustainable. Subsiding green transports for commutes is one of the easiest and most popular ways to do this.

Numerous companies around the world are introducing green incentives like free bus tickets passes, ride sharing, or to ride to work cycle schemes. Take tips from the companies who have already nailed this technique – e.g. Sky offer employees free shuttle buses, bike shelters, showers, and an on-site cycle shop. Another big plus of cycle to work schemes is that as well as supporting greener commutes, they also encourage employees to lead healthier, more active lives. Win-win.

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