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Published on February 6th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor

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The Secret Ways Your Business is Damaging the Environment

February 6th, 2013 by

How can your organisation lower its environmental impact?

Business owners can no longer escape the need to ensure that their companies fulfill their environmental commitments. From high-profile, multi-national brands to small, independently-owned businesses, demonstrating green credentials is now an important part of a brand’s image.

Your business probably already uses energy-saving light bulbs, recycles paper and even uses recycled ink cartridges in printers. In short, you’re trying to be as green as possible; but are your business practices actually harming the environment?

There are many ways in which small and medium businesses are damaging the environment, often without business owners realising it. The good news is that there are often simple solutions that can enhance your business’ green credentials.

Energy

A combination of lights, computers, photocopiers, fridges, microwaves, and other electrical equipment means that the workplace uses tons of energy every day. Of course, most of these are essentials; they’re vital to the running of a modern business. There are, however, ways of lowering the emissions these produce.

Simple things like turning off staffroom lights, or making sure employees turn off computers and photocopiers at the end of the day, will have a huge impact on lowering energy emissions your business produces – and will have the added bonus of helping to reduce your energy costs.

Hazardous Waste

Although business owners often encourage recycling in order to reduce the amount of waste their companies produce, many overlook hazardous waste.

Although most have the misconception that hazardous material is only caused by large, multi-national companies; the reality is that even relatively small businesses create hazardous waste.

Batteries, aerosols, and bulbs are classed as hazardous waste, and if they are just thrown away, they usually end up in landfills, which results in harmful toxins being emitted into the environment.

To prevent this, there are companies that dispose of hazard waste legally and safely for businesses. Hazardous waste management companies like Enviroco, for example, will safely dispose or recycle aerosols, batteries, tubes and bulbs, chemicals solvents, and WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment).

Air Pollution

Most people are aware of how damaging air pollution is to the environment. What most don’t consider is how much just travelling to and from work can increase the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.

According to research commissioned by EDF Energy in 2011, which was compiled by Imperial College London, UK rush hour carbon emissions equal 32.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year (which the report states is the equivalent of carbon emissions produced flying 16,750,264 people from London to Sydney).

Of course, you are not responsible for emissions caused by your employees getting to work. However, there are ways you can encourage greener alternatives.

The same report revealed that London had the lowest rush hour emissions in the UK, mainly due to its transport system. This highlights the importance of having your office in a location where employees can get to work using public transport, cycling, or even walking. Alternatively, if this is not possible, then encouraging carsharing among staff or introducing home-based working might be beneficial.

Suppliers

Even if your business is doing everything possible to be environmentally friendly, without even realising it, the suppliers you use could be damaging your green credentials.

A high-profile example of this happened in 2010 when a BBC documentary on Unilever (which provides the ingredient palm oil to many high-profile brands, including Dove and Flora margarine) revealed that its supplier Duta Palma was clearing protected rainforests in Indonesia to create plantations used for the production of palm oil. The negative publicity caused by this not only harmed Unilever, but also some of the brands that used its ingredients (in particular, Dove).

Unilever ended up committing to using sustainable palm oil in the future and, in 2012, it pledged that it would buy all its palm oil from traceable sources by 2020.

About the Author: Derin Clark is a writer, journalist and blogger with many years’ experience writing for business publications. She is particularly interested in how businesses are improving their commitments to being more environmentally friendly.

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