Prevent climate breakdown: six practical steps your business can take


Rising temperatures, water demand issues, floods and extreme weather, more commonly experienced in recent years, are some of the local effects of global climate change.

Those effects bring increased challenges for companies including disruption to staff and supply chains. Actions by society and government to cut carbon emissions will mean responding to changing business regulations and public pressure to make your operations more environmentally friendly.

Tips for small businesses to make a difference on climate change

Any business who wants to help prevent climate breakdown can take some immediate steps to reduce your environmental impact and become more resilient to change.

1. Exploit reuse opportunities from waste

Producing goods from scratch uses a lot of resources and energy. You can save money for your business and lower your product's carbon footprint by finding ways to use unwanted resources.

Invest Northern Ireland provides a free service to local businesses to match your unwanted resources with other businesses and organisations that can make use of them, and vice versa.

You could offer a take-back scheme to your customers for reusable products or components. The classic example is glass milk bottles but many products have parts which can be reused and saved from landfill. You can also change your product design and production methods to enable reuse.

2. Reduce the carbon impact of your supply chain

Where you obtain your raw materials and products can make a significant impact on climate change. Sourcing from overseas means more transport emissions, even if the cost savings can be attractive. Local alternatives are likely to come with a reduced carbon footprint and they also reduce the risk of transport disruption during extreme weather.

Regardless of supply sources, you can work with suppliers to lessen your overall environmental impact. Check the business methods of your supply partners and work with companies who are committed to environmentally ethical trading.

3. Assess and reduce your lighting, heating and cooling needs

One of the biggest sources of carbon emissions in business is temperature control. Whether it's controlling air temperature or heating water, or different uses of refrigeration, cooling and warming use a lot of energy.

You can make your buildings more energy efficient and identify ways to save money by assessing if your heating and hot water systems are working efficiently. Making your lighting more efficient can be a fast and cheap way to make long term energy savings.

4. Reduce the amount and impact of business transportation

Transport accounts for almost a quarter of Northern Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing travel is a quick way to cut your transport emissions, In situations where travel is necessary, you can consider opting for sustainable modes.

If your business owns or leases vehicles, switching to an electric version is becoming more viable, and financial support is available.

If you are an exporter, getting your goods to customers means transport is unavoidable. Different options for moving goods have different overall carbon impacts, so you could consider routing them by the least environmentally harmful method.

5. Use business networks to work collectively on climate action

Individual efforts to tackle climate change might feel insignificant, but each small action to reduce emissions contributes to the overall goal. You can energise efforts and multiply benefits by collaborating with other businesses and organisations.

Collective contracting for greener waste services, group investing in renewables or using combined purchasing power for sustainable transport can reduce cost burdens.

Business networks can help you learn from others who have reduced their emissions, or you could become an advocate for business climate action among your peers. You can also support local community efforts or resilience groups in fighting climate change.

6. Can you generate your own clean energy?

Investing in renewable energy generation capacity might not be immediately possible, but you can research the options and benefits now.

The main alternatives to fossil fuels are solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal. Your business may have an option to draw on at least one, either alone or in collaboration with others.

As well as these six suggested actions, you should consider making a public commitment and taking action to becoming a net zero business.