Small and medium-sized businesses account for approximately 25% of UK emissions but find it difficult to know how or where to start to find the right solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. Many perceive the onus to fall on the largest corporations to take responsibility, but we need a collective effort if we have any chance of reaching net zero by 2050. From becoming B Corp certified, to an initiative as simple as recycling more in an office, there are many things small to medium enterprises (SMEs) can do to help in the fight against climate change.
The concept of commitment can often be more daunting to business leaders than the actual action of implementing initiatives to become a more eco-conscious business. If more people understood net zero targets and how their business can make a positive impact, they would understand that regardless of the size of their enterprise, their actions will make a difference.
A survey by Lloyds Bank found that only one in 10 small companies understood what the UK’s 2050 net zero target meant for them in practice. The lack of cohesive understanding has led to business leaders calling on ministers to give clear advice to small companies on cutting emissions. Although there are many simple changes a business can make, due to a lack of consistent guidelines and conflicting information from the government, 8% of the 1,000 companies surveyed said they “comprehensively understood” the implications of the net zero targets for their business. A shocking 14% also said they did not know anything about it at all. The fogginess which looms over government guidelines and a lack of awareness of net zero targets means that small UK companies are inefficiently prepared for the fast-approaching net zero target.
Here at Rumpus, we have taken decisive action before it’s too late. Not only did we begin to make more eco-conscious day-to-day decisions in the office, but we made the leap to become B Corp certified in 2023. Although the B Corp certification is a rigorous process requiring a lot of dedication, there are many initiatives a small business can take from the B Corp framework and that don’t actually need huge amounts of time, money, or resources. In many instances, prioritising the planet means doing less, not more.
Here are a few simplistic practices a business of any size can do:
- Recycling bins: three separate bins to separate tins and glass, cardboard and plastic can be used to recycle properly. Food waste can be disposed of separately to general waste, as this can be recycled.
- Waste: monitoring the amount of bin bags you are throwing away weekly can indicate if your business produces a lot of waste. Tracking this can help a business set achievable targets to reduce waste. Recycling more and reducing plastic consumption will produce less waste.
- Travel: encourage employees to walk, cycle or catch public transport before considering driving to work or meetings. Working from home is also a great way to reduce carbon emissions from travel.
- Printing: only print when you absolutely have to. And when you do, use recycled paper.
- Electricals: make sure all electrical devices, lights and aircon/heating is turned off when leaving the office for the day.
- Office supplies: Look for eco-friendly office products. Cleaning products often contain chemicals which are harmful to the environment, but there are now many eco-friendly alternatives. Keep an eye out for B Corp brands when purchasing supplies for your business.
- Meat free days: Suggesting a meet free lunch day one day a week to employees can have a much bigger impact than you’d ever expect. For two months our team went meat free every Monday lunch and saved 22 tennis courts of forests, 137.04 miles of greenhouse gases and 380.82 bathtubs of water!
As a small company, we are living proof that SMEs can make a significant difference in the fight against climate change. If the B Corp process is even accessible for SMEs, smaller initiatives are more than achievable for businesses to implement when you know what they are and how to start. Willingness to support climate initiatives is not the issue, as 70% of the public support the government’s net zero goal. The issue for business leaders lies within knowledge and understanding of how they can act as a force for good.
Making more sustainable decisions does not have to be complex, take a look at our resources to help out here: [Links to Trackers / sustainability doc Paul wants to use]
To see our impact we have made so far, take a look at our impact report here.