Nine Sustainable Business Goals for 2016

17 May 2016

Image by Oliver Wendel.

2015 was a historic year for sustainability. In September, the United Nations released the Sustainable Development Goals, a series of targets aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all over the next 15 years. Hot on the heels of this came the historic Paris Climate Agreement – the first ever universal, legally binding climate deal.

Now that sustainability is firmly established as a mainstream issue rather than a fringe concern, being a green business is increasingly the norm. Indeed, according to one survey, 68% of Brits agree that businesses, together with governments and nonprofits, ‘need to deliver more social and environmental change’.

Are you a looking for ways to make your business more sustainable? We’ve put together nine sustainable business goals to help you become more green in 2016.

1.Recycle more

Recycling is an important activity for any green business, and plays a key role in efforts to develop a circular economy. While many businesses already have a recycling policy in place, it’s essential to stay on top of new technological developments that open up the amount of products that can be recycled, and the efficiencies that can be achieved.

It may seem hard to believe, but zero waste to landfill is possible – at OCS, we’ve managed it for the majority of our OCS Wasteline customers, which include Ofgem, NEC Birmingham and Fujitsu. 

2.Use less energy

Everyone’s talking about energy, whether it’s reducing energy use, improving energy efficiencies or switching to clean, renewable fuels. Indeed, 81 major international businesses – including Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Nike and Ikea – have committed, amongst other targets, to purchasing 100% renewable energy as part of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge

For a business, even relatively small reductions in energy use can lead to big cost savings. For example, introducing simple low- and no-cost energy saving measures – such as turning equipment and lighting down or off when they’re not in use – can reduce a business’ energy expenditure by as much as 10%. Switching to a more modern hand-dryer can greatly reduce your Carbon Footprint. Older dryers require more power and take longer to dry hands. Other easy and cost-effective strategies include improving your building’s thermal insulation, investing in more energy-efficient technologies, or signing up for an energy audit.

3.Cut your water usage 

Water is a precious resource and you may also be looking for areas in your business where you can reduce costs. There are plenty of ways you can reduce your company’s water consumption, from regularly maintaining the plumbing to installing efficient flush toilets. 

For example, Cannon Hygiene you could save up to 90% on your water bills whilst supporting your greener business goals with its Intelligent Water Solutions.  

Remember: even a small decrease in water usage can result in big savings, both environmental and financial!

4.Source your food sustainably

Unsustainable farming practices can cause soil erosion and environmental pollution, contribute to climate change, and guzzle through water and energy resources. By ensuring that your business only sources its food from sustainable sources, you’ll be doing your part to curb these harmful practices. 

Indeed, many of the big players in the food and beverage industry have pledged to make 2016 the year they start sourcing their food more sustainably – McDonald’s has vowed to only use sustainable beef in its burgers, and Dunkin’ Donuts has made the same promise about palm oil. However, even companies outside of the food and beverage sector have a power to make a difference – for example, by hiring sustainable suppliers to cater for your staff and corporate functions. At OCS, we hold the Soil Association Food For Life Bronze Catering Mark across a number of our client sites, working to responsibly source food sustainably. 

5.Reduce food waste

At present, it is estimated that one-third of all food grown globally ends up being thrown away. As such, food waste is something businesses are increasingly taking notice of. Earlier this year, 400 of the world’s top food and drink companies pledged to halve the amount of food they waste by 2025, and France became the first country to introduce pioneering legislation banning supermarkets from destroying unsold but edible food.

There are plenty of ways you can reduce the amount of food your business wastes, from taking steps to prevent over-ordering to introducing on-site composting. In Bristol, for example, OCS has worked with Cabot Circus Shopping Centre to successfully divert 80% of food waste from the landfill by installing a ‘Waste2Water’ food digester system.

6.Go digital to save paper

Did you know that the average UK office worker gets through 50 sheets of paper a day – much of this through unnecessary printing. That’s a lot of trees being cut down for nothing. With figures like that, it’s hardly surprising that big businesses such as O2 are striving to go paperless.

With the wealth of digital technology available to us, it’s never been easier to avoid paper, especially with so many people carrying smartphones, tablets and other cloud-connected devices. At OCS, we’ve managed to achieve a 63% reduction in paper usage at our UK offices simply by switching to digital processes like electronic invoicing and data storage – and we’re working on the remaining 37%.

7.Clean green

As a green business, it’s essential that you take note of how you clean your business premises. This is often an area in which significant improvements can be made, as lots of conventional cleaning products and practices are bad for the environment. OCS use green technology as part of our cleaning methods, which can mean up to 70% less water being used compared to conventional methods. By ensuring that your premises are cleaned using environmentally friendly cleaning products, and by swapping disposable wipes and cloths for reusable ones, your business will be doing its part to promote sustainability.

8.Re-think packaging

Another major source of waste is packaging, which accounts for around 20% of UK households’ waste stream. While packaging often plays a vital role, by using less packaging and ensuring that whatever packaging is used is made from sustainable materials, businesses can make a big difference. For example, Jaguar/Land Rover managed to save seven tonnes of waste from the landfill, simply by switching to 100% recyclable, biodegradable food boxes.

9.Reduce your reliance on cars

Cars contribute to carbon emissions and reduce air quality, so it makes sense to take steps to reduce the amount of hours your business has cars out on the roads. One obvious way you can achieve this is through your staff – for example, by promoting a car sharing scheme, or installing on-site shower facilities and secure bike sheds to encourage more employees to cycle to work. Another positive course of action is to invest in low-emission company vehicles, to minimise the environmental damage of necessary journeys, such as deliveries. 

As you can see, there are plenty of steps your company can take to become a more sustainable business. Importantly, most of these goals will not only benefit the environment, but also your business’ bottom line as well. So, what are you waiting for? Make 2016 the year your business goes green.

Want to find out more about the ways in which sustainability is good for business? Download our free eBook, The "Convenient” Truth about Sustainable Business: Why it Pays to Be Green.