Improve your environmental performance
Making your business more environmentally friendly can have significant benefits. By committing your business to comply with environmental legislation, you will avoid any penalties. By using raw materials more efficiently, minimising waste and reducing your insurance risks, you will make important savings.
You will be able to boost your reputation among customers, suppliers, regulators, investors, staff and the local community. You will also increase employee morale - making it easier to attract, keep and motivate staff.
In this guide you will find advice on the different ways you can enhance the environmental performance of your business, and how you can then capitalise on those improvements.
You will also find guidance on long-term steps you can take to making your business more sustainable.
Reduce costs by improving your environmental performance
Good environmental practices can improve business performance and reduce your business costs by cutting your use of raw materials, energy, water and packaging.
Improve environmental performance by using energy more efficiently
Saving energy is the easiest way for you to save money. In doing so, you can reduce the carbon footprint of your business.
Changing employee behaviour, using more efficient equipment and designing more efficient processes are all ways you can lower your bills. You may be able to take advantage of certain tax breaks too.
See our guide on how to save money by using energy more efficiently.
Improve environmental performance by using reducing your waste
Waste is the result of using materials inefficiently. Waste costs are twofold:
- you pay first for materials that you don't use
- you pay a second time to get rid of them
By using raw materials more efficiently, recycling, reducing packaging and making production processes more efficient, you can save money and help protect the environment.
See our guide on how to reduce your business waste to save money.
Improve environmental performance by using investing to save
Paying for regular inspection and maintenance of equipment may save you money in the longer term - for example by improving energy efficiency, reducing your use of raw materials or avoiding breakdowns.
There are also significant benefits to investing in technology that reduces your energy and water use. A lot of equipment costs far more to run than to buy. You could save money by spending more in the first place to buy more energy-efficient machinery and equipment.
Cut your tax bill through environmental improvements
If you invest in energy and water-saving technologies, and environmentally friendly vehicles, your business could qualify for Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs). These can help you to reduce your tax bill.
There are three ECA schemes:
- energy-saving plant and machinery
- low carbon dioxide emission cars, and natural gas and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure
- water conservation plant and machinery
See our guide on Enhanced Capital Allowances for efficient technologies.
Improve employee performance through environmental improvements
Becoming a more sustainable business can have a real impact on your staff. You may see an increase in productivity, as people often enjoy working for ethically driven companies. It could also reduce staff turnover and save on recruitment costs.
Business benefits of good environmental and sustainable practices
Ensuring your business complies with environmental legislation and adopts environmental and sustainable best practice can benefit your business. Going further than your business competitors in embedding environmental responsibilty can set your business apart.
Advantages of good environmental practice
Some of the business benefits of good environmental and sustainable practices include:
- Reducing your energy use can save you money - see how to save money by using energy more efficiently.
- Reducing your use of raw materials can cut your costs, minimise your waste and lower your waste disposal bills - see how to reduce your business waste to save money.
- Reducing your water use can cut your water bills and also lower your waste water disposal costs - see how to use water efficiently - the basics.
- Recycling equipment and materials could make you money and save on disposal costs - you may be able to sell old equipment or parts to subsidise the cost of buying new ones - see how to recycle your business waste.
- Taking steps to prevent environmental damage will reduce your risk of incurring costs and of having to carry out potentially expensive remedial work in the event of an environmental incident.
Your business could also enjoy other benefits. Many government organisations and large companies will only work with businesses who take their environmental responsibilities seriously. You may also find it easier to attract investment from banks and other sources of finance.
Sustainable development can create opportunities for your business. As well as making financial savings, you can enhance your reputation and brand value by fostering customer loyalty and motivating staff. You can also use sustainable development as an opportunity to encourage innovation, increase investment and open new markets.
Reduce environmental risk insurance costs
Being able to show that your business has sound environmental policies and procedures is essential if you want to get competitive insurance premiums.
What are environmental risks?
Some businesses have associated environmental risks - such as gradual environmental pollution, clean-up costs or product liability. These costs can be huge, eg if land has to be decontaminated.
Insurers will want to assess the measures you have put in place to minimise the risks of an incident occurring. This may involve an audit of your premises to assess your approach to health, safety and the environment. A poor audit will result in increased premiums or may even prevent you from getting insurance cover.
On the other hand, if you can show that you take risk management seriously, you may be able to reduce your insurance premiums. One way to do this is to use a systematic approach to managing your environmental impacts. See our guide on environmental management systems (EMS) - the basics.
Improve employee relations with good environmental practices
If you want to improve your environmental practices, it is essential to get the support of your employees - these are the people who will implement any changes.
Also, some good environmental practices - such as cutting carbon emissions from travel to and during work - may significantly impact your employees' lives. So you will need their understanding and approval for such fundamental changes to be a success.
How to win employee support for good environmental practice
It's important to involve employees in environmental discussions. They may have a better understanding of the risks and problems than you do, and will be well placed to offer solutions. They'll also see that you value their opinions and are taking steps to protect their interests.
Staff may also appreciate the fact that they work for an environmentally responsible business. This could reduce staff turnover and cut recruitment costs. It may even help you to attract high-calibre staff.
Find out more about staff engagement and embedding a strong direction for your business in our guide on how to create and communicate business values with integrity.
Taking steps to improve the environmental performance of your business can help you to attract and retain employees, impress investors and may attract new customers. Find out more in our guide on how to market your environmental credentials.
Gain marketing benefits through improving environmental performance
Your approach to the environment is an important factor in developing a good reputation for your business. Some businesses have built their success largely on a reputation for doing the right thing.
Benefits of a good environmental reputation
The advantages of a good environmental reputation include:
- helping you attract and keep customers
- making it easier to recruit new employees and improves employee motivation
- improving your relationship with suppliers
- improving your standing with your local community
- improving your relationship with your shareholders, if you have them
- increasing the chance that banks or investors will provide financial support
See the page in this guide on how to improve employee relations with good environmental practices.
Communicate your environmental performance
Your business will benefit from making customers, employees, the local community, suppliers and other stakeholders aware of your environmental commitment. Publicising measures taken to become 'greener' are becoming an essential part of marketing your business. Customers in particular might be interested in:
- how you minimise and reduce waste
- what you have done to make your business energy - and water - efficient
- the environmental credentials of your raw materials and supply chain
- what you have done to minimise the environmental impact of your products or services
Read our guide on how to market your environmental credentials.
Environmental reporting is another way to communicate this information to business stakeholders. It may even be mandatory for your business to include this information in your annual report. To find out whether you should report on your environmental impact, see our guide on how to produce environmental reports for your business.
Open up new markets
By improving your environmental performance, you may also be able to access a wide range of government-sector contracts. Many tender competitions will include minimum standards for environmental compliance at the pre-qualification stage. Find out more in our guide on how to prepare your business to tender for contracts.
Finding an environmental consultant and what they offer
An environmental consultant can provide expert help and advice to your business. Environmental consultants are often used for specialist and more complex projects.
Environmental consultant services
Examples of services offered by an environmental consultant can include:
- identifying the environmental laws you need to follow - and ensuring you do so
- reviewing your business' impact on the environment and suggesting ways to improve this
- assessing your business' carbon emissions and helping you minimise them
- helping you apply for any relevant permits or licences
- carrying out a waste or energy review of your business
- giving advice on specific issues, such as pollution, resource efficiency or waste management
- helping you write environmental strategies, policies and procedures
- liaising with regulatory bodies, attending meetings and giving presentations on your behalf
- producing reports and statistics on your environmental performance and opportunities for reducing costs
- training your staff and identifying how changes to the way they work can save money and improve environmental performance
How to find an environmental consultant
If you're looking for a suitable environmental consultant it's best to get recommendations from businesses with similar needs to your own.
Alternatively, there are a number of resources you can use to help you find the right consultant:
The ENDS Directory can be used to locate specific and specialised environmental experts across the UK. Search for environmental consultants on the ENDS Directory website.
Edie.net provides details of suppliers providing environmental products and services. Search for environmental consultancy services on the Edie.net website.
The Energy Institute (EI) is the leading professional body for the energy industries. Find an energy consultant on the EI website.
United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited testing organisations can assist with analysis of environmental samples such as those suspected of containing asbestos, assessment of contaminated land, testing of waste water and effluent, or environmental noise assessments. Use the UKAS accredited testing laboratory directory search facility on the UKAS website.
- The Association of Noise Consultants (ANC) is a representative body for the noise consultancy industry. Find a noise consultant near you on the ANC website.
Conservation and biodiversity issues for businesses
Biodiversity refers to all species of plants and animals, including any genetic variations within those species, and the complex ecosystems they live in.
The world is losing biodiversity at an ever-increasing rate as a result of human activity. All types of business operating near protected areas should be aware of their responsibilities for conservation and protecting biodiversity. This doesn't just apply to land-based industries such as forestry or farming, but to all offices, factories and other business activities based on or near these areas.
Advantages of conserving biodiversity
The business benefits of conserving biodiversity include:
- a competitive advantage - businesses that can demonstrate that they are committed to environmental protection will attract and retain customers, suppliers and employees who share those values
- compliance with environmental legislation
- environmental reporting - your business will be able to report on its environmental performance and management
Protected areas include:
- Local nature reserves - places with wildlife or geological features that are of special interest locally.
- Areas of outstanding natural beauty - areas of particular natural beauty in need of conservation.
- National parks - tracts of the countryside that have been given protection for the conservation and enhancement of their special qualities.
- National nature reserves - important areas of wildlife habitat.
- Sites of special scientific interest - good examples of natural heritage of wildlife habitats, geological features and landforms.
- Special areas of conservation - strictly protected sites for habitat types and species that are considered to be most in need of conservation at a European level.
- Special protection areas - strictly protected sites classified for rare and vulnerable birds.
- UNESCO biospheres - areas of terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems which are internationally recognised under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere programme.
To find out whether you operate on or near a protected area, you can call the NIEA Biodiversity Helpline on Tel 028 9056 9605.
There are also a number of species that are protected. You can find a list of priority species and habitats at the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) website. For information about importing endangered species, see our guide on enforcing CITES controls.
Enterprise Europe Network biodiversity advice
If you are planning on setting up in another European country, there may be specific national laws to protect a particular area or natural resource. These laws will affect your business if you deal in animal, plant or timber products, or if you use genetically-modified materials.
You can get advice on an individual EU country's biodiversity laws through the Enterprise Europe Network (EEN). This is a network of business advice partner organisations across the EU, with the Northern Ireland branch hosted within Invest Northern Ireland.