What is an environmental policy?
An environmental policy is a business document detailing a company’s commitment to eco-friendliness and sustainability, and listing the actions that a company will take to become ‘greener’. Usually, an environmental policy is a relatively short document – just one page or so – that is signed by company directors, and reviewed annually.
Why should businesses have an environmental policy?
Environmental policies are quite simple to put together, and can bring a number of positive benefits to your business.
There may be some legal requirements regarding energy efficiency and eco friendliness that your business has to adhere to as standard, but going above and beyond this minimum has a wealth of advantages. Some of these include:
Boost your bottom line
Your business’s environmental policy may include installing energy efficiency improvements, for example, cavity wall insulation for your business building. Or, it may stipulate that you reduce the amount of energy that your business consumes in daily operation. Changes such as these can prove to be incredibly cost effective, and can actually save your business money – in both the short term and the long term.
Little to no upfront cost
Quite often, many of the eco-friendly changes that can be made don’t actually cost your business that much. Some of the smaller changes may even be free – costing only a little time and effort. With bigger changes – for example, if you installed triple glazed windows throughout your business building –there may be a large upfront cost, but the improvements will come to pay for themselves over time. What’s more, you may be able to receive funding from the government or your local authority to make these changes – making sustainability affordable for everyone.
Long term success and sustainability for your business
Making your business greener can seriously brighten its future. Just about every aspect of modern life involves ‘going green’ in some way, and it’s more commonplace now for businesses to be eco-friendly as standard, when compared to the recent past. This is only likely to accelerate as new green technologies and growing responsibilities develop in the future, and any company who fails to get on board with green culture risks being left behind. Making changes and commitments to environmental sustainability earlier, rather than later, in your business’s lifespan can help to ensure your business’s longevity in the future.
Depending on where your business is based, you may be able to benefit from tax reductions by ‘greening’ your business. For example, in the UK all businesses have to pay an environmental tax called The Climate Change Levy if they consume energy. However, businesses that can prove that they have very low energy consumption may be eligible for a reduction on this tax – an advantage that incentivises many smaller businesses to reduce their usage. Because businesses in energy-intensive industries may not be able to reduce consumption to such a low level, they may have the option to sign a Climate Change Agreement in exchange for the reduced rates. So, no matter the size and energy habits of your business, there’s a chance that you could benefit.
Your business’s image
Being a green business can do no end of good for your business’s image and reputation. Whether this is with your staff, customers, stakeholders, investors or in the media – creating and sticking to an environmental policy has the potential to show your business in a very positive light. If you think of all the largest companies in the world – Apple, Google, Walmart, etc. – they all have some form of commitment or other to sustainability: and they all make sure that everyone knows about it. While your business probably doesn’t have as much money to invest in eco-friendliness as those corporate giants, you can still reap the reputational benefits by making changes and commitments that are within your business’s means.
How do you write an environmental policy?
So, if you’re convinced that your business could benefit from having an environmental policy – or if you just want to seal your green commitments in writing – you should be thinking about creating an environmental policy for your business. If you’re not sure how to go about doing that, here are some steps that you can follow:
The first thing to do is to make sure that you can recognise and understand the environmental issues that affect your business. Make sure that you are aware of all the possible areas that could be targeted to reduce your business’s footprint. This could be anything from energy consumption, to recycling vs waste, to hazardous waste disposal. It all depends on the nature of your business and the industry you operate within.
Assess your environmental impact
Once you’re aware of the environmental issues relevant to your business, you can analyse your business’s impact where these issues are concerned. This assessment can give you a clear indicator of the primary areas that you need to target in order to boost your business’s green creds, as well as areas that are less of a priority.
Get help if you need it
If you’re feeling out of your depth – especially in the assessment stage – remember that you don’t have to go it alone. There are a number of resources available to you that you can tap into to take the first steps of your green journey. For example, The Carbon Trust offers consultancy services, as well as financing options. You can also check with your local council, and keep an eye out for any incentives that the government may have. You could also hire an environmental consultant to help you properly assess your business’s eco flaws, determine how to address them, and ultimately take action.
Write your policy
Once you know which issues your business can tackle, and how it is that you can go about tackling them, you should be ready to put it into writing. You should assign a completion date for each thing that your business commits to doing, that way, you can measure progress and easily see if you are hitting targets.
The main thing to remember is to keep your environmental goals reasonable – you probably won’t be able to make drastic changes immediately, and setting goals that are unachievable will only end in failure and disappointment. There’s nothing wrong with starting small and making the most basic of changes before moving onto the bigger adjustments.
Just to get you started, here are a few ideas of actions that your business could consider taking:
- Minimise waste, maximise recycling
- Minimise energy consumption
- Products – what is their impact?
- Staff – what is their impact? (e.g. transportation to/from work)
- Improve resource efficiency
- Set up environmental management system
- Reduce impact of supply chain
- Pollution prevention and control
- Hazardous waste management and disposal (chemicals, oil, solvents, etc)
All you need to know is that any changes you make – no matter how small – are going to be beneficial to the environment, to your business’s reputation, and more likely than not, to your bottom line.
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