How to make your small business greener for the long term

These are tough times to be an environmentally-conscious entrepreneur. With costs and cash flow pressures rising, many small business owners who want to operate ‘greenly’ may find they’re simply unable to afford it.

Short term measures such as moving to LED lighting and reducing avoidable business travel can be cost-effective but the transition to net zero is going to require a more strategic, long-term approach.

We asked Philip King, former Small Business Commissioner and Tide Cash Flow Expert, as well as environmental data company Connect Earth for some help getting started.

Here are 5 ways you can make your small business greener in the long-term, without it costing the Earth.

1. Switch to a green web hosting company

Did you know the internet accounts for 3.7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions? That’s roughly the same as the aviation industry. Loading a web page requires energy to power up the servers (and their cooling systems) that keep the websites running.

More hosting companies than ever are now offering greener solutions that rely on renewable energy sources. In 2022, we teamed up with environmental data company Connect Earth to search for some of the greenest web hosting companies around, which highlighted Eco Hosting, Greenhouse Web Hosting, and Green Geeks as three highly-regarded green hosting companies that are worth considering.

Some firms – including Eco Hosting and Green Geeks – also use methods like carbon offsets or tree planting to counterbalance the impact of their commercial activities.

2. Make your website load faster

One of the key contributors to a website’s carbon footprint is page load speed. So, it follows that faster-loading websites are typically better for the planet. But website speed should be front of mind for your bottom line as well.

Speed is so critical to the user experience that Google ranks fast websites higher than slow websites in search results. Research suggests that slow-loading websites cost UK retailers nearly £60 billion in lost sales each year.

You can optimise your website by caching web pages, compressing image files, and using efficient file formats. If you’re not sure where to begin, speak to your web hosting provider.

3. Reduce your digital waste

It’s easy to assume that digital files and resources are ‘green’ simply because they haven’t been printed. But this ignores the masses of computers that are running 24/7 to create these digital experiences – and to store the data they produce.

One way to make your business more sustainable in the long term is to change the way you think about ‘digital’. Educate yourself (and your employees, if you have them) on the environmental cost of emails, instant messages and file downloads – and try to become more mindful of your digital activity.

You could start by deleting old files you no longer need to keep, as long as you’re not required to keep them by law. Also, consider streamlining the list of apps and software programs your business uses.

“Every time I download an email I contribute to global warming. Every time I tweet, do a search, check a webpage, I create pollution. Digital is physical. Those data centres are not in the Cloud. They’re on land in massive physical buildings packed full of computers hungry for energy. It seems invisible. It seems cheap and free. It’s not. Digital costs the Earth.”

Gerry McGovern, leading web consultant and author of World Wide Waste (2020)

4. Choose a greener energy supplier

It may seem obvious, but it’s worth remembering that not all energy is created equal when it comes to sustainability – and that you do have options as a consumer. Some providers are investing much more heavily in renewables than others.

Again, in 2022 we worked with our friends at Connect Earth to identify some of the UK’s greenest energy suppliers. To do this, we used a range of criteria and combined Connect Earth’s knowledge of company emissions with our understanding of small business banking habits.

Our research revealed that Octopus Energy, Ovo Energy, Ecotricity, Good Energy or Green Energy UK are a good place to start. They’re all making efforts to increase our use of renewable energy, while also investing in a range of environmental initiatives.

5. Give your product or service a green reset

How might you give an environmental angle to your current business, to make it more unique in its market? Could your products be created or manufactured in a carbon-neutral environment? Could your service be delivered with low-carbon equipment?

Absolutely is a London courier that makes much of its sustainability commitment to differentiate it from other couriers. Over time, this kind of USP can help the business recover the costs of investment, generate business and increase its profitability.

With a proposition like this, you have a brilliant opportunity to promote yourself in your marketing as a responsible corporate citizen. After all, customers like businesses with a social conscience.

Ready to get ahead of the pack on sustainability?

Increasing regulation in this area is likely to put more pressure on small business owners like you to reduce your energy usage. Waiting until there’s no choice but to comply is one option, but it may be better to invest now and establish yourself as a leader.

Keep an eye on government support becoming available through low-cost loans or grants to help small businesses become greener. The Government has committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050 – so supportive measures will be coming.

You can also check out Tide’s Net Zero Plan to learn more about our pledges and get some inspiration for your business.

Disclaimer: Our research with Connect Earth was conducted in 2022, and we can’t guarantee that our findings reflect the current offerings of the web hosting and energy providers listed. Please refer to individual company websites for further information.

Please note that the information in this blog post isn’t intended to be financial advice. Please be aware that you are solely responsible for the decisions you make. You should seek independent financial advice before making any decisions about your financial future.

Photo by Jem Sanchez on Pexels

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