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How Businesses Can Achieve Greener Goals for 2021

Though the UK has made considerable progress towards its 2050 “net zero emissions” goal, there’s still a long way to go. Businesses across the country have done their best by setting their own green targets for the year ahead, and what better year to commit to going green than 2021. Reducing your environmental impact as a small or medium business can seem daunting at first, but with a little forethought, financial planning and careful strategy, your business can start making a real difference, and maybe save money in the process.

Set your priorities

Whatever your most important environmental goal is, it’s important to understand that it will take time to achieve. The trick is to balance the ordinary status quo while gradually introducing improvements – some endeavours may take years or even decades to begin to show an impact. Going slow, however, can give you time to learn and spread out any large upfront costs and risks.

In the beginning, it’s worth figuring out what you’d most like your business to do, and then brainstorm exactly how it can be done. Break the larger goal into smaller targets and prioritise what’s most important. You might decide, for example, that it makes sense to install solar panels for your business. At Mypower, we know that commercial solar panel ROI has risen from 13.6% to 16% in just under a decade, while the payback period has gone from 6.8 years to just 5.8 years. Effectively, an initial investment could start generating savings and what is essentially free electricity within just 6 years.

Stagger your investment

Realistically, your targets need to take your ROI into consideration. A financial planner or accountant can help you iron out the details of an investment strategy that your business can comfortably manage, given the sometimes-lengthy timescales at which you can start expecting a return.

To return to the solar panel example, you could set a target of energy self-sufficiency, but hold back on further investments, even if they are for other green upgrades. This doesn’t mean you can’t tackle more than one environmental angle at a time, but rather that you prioritise only one at a time.

In this case, you could still commit to saving water, increasing your paper and cardboard recycling or improving the efficiency of your cold storage. After this time, you could re-order priorities and increase your other targets, focusing on the next most important goal.

Consider tendering requirements

Especially if you’re in the public sector, you’ll need to be aware of sector-specific standards and make sure you’re compliant. The Modern Slavery Policy, for example, is non-negotiable for public sector tenders in the UK. Essentially, you need to demonstrate that you’re routinely paying close attention to your full supply chain to exclude the possibility of recruiting forced labour.

The situation is similar for climate and environmental requirements. The 2011 “Energy Management Systems – Requirements with Guidance for Use” or ISO 50001 is a guide on the necessity of green targets for business. Though there are no fixed targets in the guide per se, you will need to generate your own industry-specific objectives and compile an appropriate plan to set up, maintain and monitor your progress. 

Set small goals and evaluate them regularly

Making green targets is not something to do once and then forget about. Rather, start small and find practical ways to quantify and track your progress, so you can make realistic adjustments as you go. Consider a particular metric you want to monitor and figure out a concrete way to measure it. For example, you could count the number of bins sent out for collection each week or check monthly energy bills to record your approximate waste production or money spent on electricity, respectively.

From there, exactly how to make efficiencies should become clearer. The best solutions can often be the most obvious and simple ones, like going paperless in the office, using recycled shredded paper for packaging, switching to a local supplier, installing water-saving taps in the bathrooms, or using energy efficient bulbs on the premises.  Once you have an idea of your baseline performance, you’ll be able to monitor whether any interventions are actually working or not and adjust accordingly.

Achieving your green goals in 2021 isn’t impossible – but it does take some forethought and a careful strategy. Though there are some initial investments, and returns don’t happen overnight, there’s never been a better time to take your business to the next level and go green.