The importance of being a sustainable small business

Starting up

4 June 2018

With the UK Government recently discussing a ban on single-use plastic products, it's more important than ever for business owners to take the issue of sustainability seriously.

And beyond the obvious environmental benefits of going green, your small business could even win over customers with your forward-thinking policies too.

To help you get started with going green, here are some first steps you can take as a small business.

Assess the issue

Conduct a complete audit of all single-use plastics you order each month. Ideally this should cover:

This information makes it easier to identify and compare cost-effective alternatives.

Switch to reusable receptacles

If you run a café or coffee shop, you may already be offering discounts to customers who bring their own cups – or you could purchase branded reusable cups, available from sites like Keepcup. But any company can substitute the plastic cups at the water cooler or coffee machine for sustainable alternatives.

Reusable options often create a more welcoming home-from-home ambience too. Ditch sachets of sugar, salt and pepper, and individual milk portions in favour of jugs, mason jars or vintage crockery to add retro style and reduce waste. And swap plastic straws and stirrers for stainless steel alternatives.

Waste not, want not

Plenty of office supplies can be repurposed or re-used. If you have leftover boxes and packing material from a delivery, for example, save it for the next package you send instead of throwing it away.

Employ sustainable suppliers

Compare your suppliers and see if you can reduce waste or negotiate a better deal, as well as cutting down on disposable plastics. It can be as simple as avoiding plastic milk cartons and calling the milkman instead.

Consider compostables

If most of your plastic packaging is wrapped around your own products, consider compostable alternatives. Suppliers like Vegware and Biopac have options for caterers, and companies like Tipa have a broader offering for retailers.

Digitise your paperwork

Switching customers to e-mail/SMS receipts instead of printed documentation will reduce waste – including plastic folders and envelopes with plastic windows. You'll need customer consent under new GDPR rules, but you can use the chance to explain your eco-friendly initiative too.

And to cut out printed memos and notes, and all the filing that goes with them, try digital tools like Slack or Trello.

Follow our tips above and your business could be staying on the right side of the Government’s plans, and helping do your part for the environment too.