How to make your small business more sustainable

Going green can save your business money, streamline operations and demonstrate to customers, suppliers, and investors that you are committed to playing your part in tackling the climate crisis.

But where do you start? Here are five online tools that can help as you embark on your sustainability journey.

Carbon calculators

Companies everywhere are committing to the global goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

For many, the first step is calculating the size of their carbon footprint; once armed with this data, you can start working towards net zero by reducing and eliminating carbon dioxide and other GHG (greenhouse gases).

Calculating the carbon footprint of a business provides a much clearer understanding of how a company’s day-to-day operations are affecting the environment, helps identify where they’re using large amounts of energy, improves business operations, and provides valuable sustainability data for stakeholders.

There are a number of online carbon calculators available for businesses, including the Carbon Trust’s SME Carbon Footprint Calculator, which has been designed to help UK-based smaller businesses measure their corporate emission footprint following GHG Protocol guidance.

This includes Scope 1 emissions, direct emissions from fuel and processes, and Scope 2 emissions from purchased electricity for the assets they operate.

Both the SME Carbon Footprint Calculator and the SME Climate Hub’s Business Carbon Calculator are free to use.

Carbon offsetting tools

Not all carbon emissions can be eliminated or reduced straight away.

Instead, SMEs can offset them by investing in projects that are designed to counteract emissions.

One of the most popular forms of carbon offsetting is tree planting, which can be done through schemes such as Ecologi and Treeapp.

As trees grow, they remove carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen into the atmosphere, meaning every tree planted effectively grows into a carbon store.

This is not a perfect solution though as any business that aims towards net zero needs to reduce all the emissions they can and offset only what they absolutely can’t.

Done well however, carbon offsetting can be a positive action as part of a wider environmentally conscious approach.

Another way to compensate for your emissions is through carbon sequestration (ie the long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils, geologic formations, and the ocean).

Intrigued to find out more? provides access to a wide range of carbon credit projects across a range of approaches, locations, and UN sustainable development goals.

Impact assessment tools

Officially, the B Impact Assessment questionnaire is the first step towards B Corp certification – which requires businesses to meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

But even if you’re not planning to apply for certification, this free online questionnaire is a valuable exercise for any smaller business serious about improving its sustainability credentials.

David Morel, founder and CEO of Tiger Recruitment, described the B Impact Assessment as useful for his own business.

“It forces you to examine your business in five key areas; community, customers, environment, governance, and workers,” he explains.

“It’s not a quick tick-box exercise; it requires thoughtful responses with supporting documentation but rewards you with a report on your performance, highlighting areas for improvement.”

The B Corp Climate Collective, in partnership with Oxford University, has also developed the new B Climate Tools Base – a set of tools to guide businesses towards achieving net zero emissions.

E-waste management

Responsible recycling practices help reduce GHG emissions and use less energy than the manufacture of new gadgets and devices.

Thousands of devices, appliances, and other pieces of electronic equipment are disposed of every single day, many of them by businesses.

Electronic trash, or e-waste, is now one of the biggest sources of waste in the world.

Stone Group is a circular IT provider with an IT asset disposal (Itad) facility where it can refurbish or recycle old IT hardware such as desktops, laptops, monitors, printers, and servers etc.

The company is committed to ensuring that zero waste ends up in landfill.

Using the Stone 360 app, businesses can easily arrange collection of their broken or redundant IT equipment.

Items that can be salvaged are given a second life, and those that can’t are recycled down to their core components.

Reusable packaging

Sustainable packaging can be a smaller business’s greatest contribution to the environment.

However, while cardboard has superseded plastic as an eco-friendlier option, the massive surge in online shopping over the last few years has led to questions about cardboard’s green credentials, as increasingly, it’s become a large part of landfill.

Reusable packaging firm Boox provides an alternative to single-use packaging products, by making boxes that can be folded up and returned for reuse.

Customers simply scan a QR code that tells them how to return the box sustainably, and when the box reaches the end of its life, the corrugated polypropylene is broken down into plastic flakes that are turned into new Boox boxes.

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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