It’s environment focus week on Bdaily, and we are looking at what the low-carbon economy really means for UK SMEs, as well as picking apart the nuts and bolts of adapting business to “go-green.” Here, Jude Thorne, CEO of Ice - a unique loyalty scheme which rewards consumers for spending with eco-friendly partners and retailers - shares her views on small business and environmental sustainability.
Within the past thirty years, some of the biggest companies in the world have embraced environmental sustainability in a way they never did before. They have invested millions in making sustainability a key part of their business strategy, placing a focus on the world’s future.
Although some might say this has been for positive PR, it’s still fantastic to see these corporations put sustainability at the front of their minds, raising awareness of key environmental issues and setting an example of the rest of the world. However, as big companies are being praised for their efforts, the efforts of smaller organisations to be green are being overlooked. Is it unfair that they are seen as the bad guys?
I think so.
It may seem obvious but one of the reasons smaller businesses sometimes find it harder to be sustainable is the issue of cost. Being environmentally sustainable often requires both time and money and many smaller businesses simply don’t have the resources. Many large corporations have specialists working for them whose job is to source more efficient energy plans and report on the environmental impact, but most small companies just won’t have the extra £30k a year to take a specialist like this on. In addition, membership of some of the recognised environmental standards is expensive and often beyond the reach of small businesses.
Some have found ways around these cost issues – by taking on interns to help them put together initiatives, or consulting charitable organisations to advise them on how to be greener. Putting cost aside, it is possible for small businesses to be more sustainable because they have more independence in the decision making process. Having worked with many small businesses with my company, Ice, I know that there are many small businesses whose owners have a real passion for sustainability and the company’s entire brand ethos reflects this passion. It’s great to see that they are growing as their base of loyal customers grows too.
For example, two brothers set up Rapanui, based on the Isle of Wight, to design and make natural, organic cotton clothing with full traceability. Vintage Roots, a family run business, is the leading UK distributor of organic wines, beer and champagne (they are real connoisseurs who want to change the way we see wine). Little Green Sheep sell natural and organic mattresses, furnishings and toiletries for babies and toddlers. There are also many farm shops created by real farmers with a passion for local food, who learnt to become successful retailers over time.
These are just a few examples of fantastic business successes set up and run by eco entrepreneurs, designed specifically to help the environment. So, are small businesses the bad guys? Absolutely not, in my experience. Perhaps the problem is that they don’t have lots of money to spend on marketing and PR to tell us their stories. All the more reason why we should seek them out and support them.
Here are some other environment focus articles that may be of interest to you: carbon reporting in logistics firms; what are the benefits of electric vehicles?; we talk to a print business about why SMEs need to go green; find out how one innovative business is using ozone as a cleaning tool; what does sustainability really mean to your business?; funding support for green businesses; a green adaptation case study; why innovation is needed to finance energy efficiency and become sustainable for profitability, not just green credentials.