Conduct an audit
The first step any company should take when trying to lower its emissions output is to find out how many emissions it’s producing in the first place.
This is key not just so your numbers are accurate, but to make sure that your current efforts aren’t being concentrated in the wrong area.
Speaking at an event on improving environmental impact for social enterprises, head of Big Issue Invest Danyal Sattar used the example of supermarket chain Walmart to illustrate this point.
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“When Walmart audited their CO2 emissions they immediately thought their trucks were the biggest culprit because trucks burn diesel.
“But when they audited their impact it wasn’t trucks, it was their fridges doing the most damage.”
Cemal Ezel, founder of social enterprise Change Please and Serious Tissues, said auditing is one of the most important things a company can do to reduce its environmental impact.
“I think it has to be a basic requirement for more social businesses to audit and understand exactly how we can reduce our impact on the environment as a prerequisite before we start looking at our social impact. We have an obligation.”
Ezel said working with an external auditor can be very helpful, but Sattar said it’s “never been easier” for businesses to find “toolkits and guides” for helping themselves along with the process.
Your local authority may have a guide on doing this – Somerset council has a toolkit online for example.
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Big Issue Invest are one of the UK’s leading providers of finance to social enterprises, community organisations, charities and businesses that are socially-driven. We invest between £20,000 and £3,000,000 in social enterprises and charities.
Elaine Brown, head of the Edinburgh Remakery, says that companies won’t find success without collaborating with others on making their business sustainable.
“Don’t reinvent the wheel. Start conversations with one another, share what you do brilliantly but also share your gaps – consider where somebody else might be able to add value,” she said.
She lauded the benefits of reaching out to other similar businesses to share ideas about how to work on sustainability – benefiting both of you in turn.
Connect with consumers
Telling consumers directly about the changes you’re making – and inviting feedback – is a great way to improve sustainability in your company, said Ezel.
“There’s never been a time when more consumers want to improve their environmental impact.
“It’s not that they need to be educated but they just need to be told what you’re doing and what already exists – there’s so many channels to reach them directly,” he said.
Be the change you want to see
Sattar said that acting on sustainability on a personal level is a key part of making your company or enterprise more sustainable.
“We’re throwing ourselves at this not just through our businesses or our investments but through our own choices.
“Make those personal choices and live the world that we want to see,” he said.