How to make further changes on your sustainability journey

Businesses across the country are looking at their sustainability more than ever. But beyond those first steps, there is an array of further tweaks that eco-ambitious leaders can go for. So once businesses have taken a look at the most obvious changes, where do they go next?

We gathered a group of business leaders who were already on the road to net zero but looking to take things further. We asked them what their challenges were and how they planned to move forward. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Create circular products

The end-of-life of products is an important consideration. For businesses to take charge of this they need to encourage customers to send their products back when they have finished with them. “We’ve just released new packaging and we've got a QR code so customers can scan it and then register their shoes at the point they receive them for recycling in advance,” explains Trash Planet founder, Holly Boxall. “Our boxes are flat pack, so we've designed them for customers to hold on to and use to post shoes back in a few years.”

2. Go direct to suppliers and build relationships

To fully understand where your products are coming from and how they are made, you can start to build direct relationships with suppliers rather than going through third parties. “I’ve stopped using an (large online retailer) and deleted my account and now I go directly to suppliers and build relationships,” explains Suzie Hacker, founder of natural skincare brand, Soothe Me. “I’ve just tried to strip it right back.”

3. Try to influence your supply chain

Creating a green supply chain is top of the agenda for many companies but for smaller ones it isn’t without its challenges. “If you’re a larger company it’s easy to influence suppliers but it’s more challenging as a smaller company and you have to put more time into convincing people,” explains Simeon Pollard, Business Development Manager, Ripple Energy.

4. Tackling digital economy waste

We’re well-versed in the challenges around physical waste and the harm caused by things like single-use plastics but little mention is made of energy waste by massive data centres. “We're seeing a lot more demand for blockchain developers but it's an incredibly energy intensive technology,” explains James Hodgson, CEO, 300Brains UK. “I think it really comes down to encouraging more renewables in the energy mix and I've come across at least one fully renewable data centre, based out of the Nordics. We're encouraging clients to their activities (at these data centres).”

5. Talk to your local recycling centre

For small businesses trying to create recyclable packaging and products, it can be tricky to understand exactly what is recyclable and not. Using local and accessible expertise can help. “I went to Tower Hamlets Recycling Centre where I live and they helped me to understand how to adapt my packaging,” explains Hacker. “They were really helpful.”

6. Watch out for green washing

With sustainability increasingly becoming an issue for supply chains, some suppliers are finding creative ways to look and sound eco-friendly but sometimes not all is as it seems. “It’s a case of chipping away at suppliers and peeling back the surface to decode what they actually mean,” says Boxall. “Some people say things are recyclable and they are technically but you have to perform some kind of crazy science to make that happen.”

7. Seek out B-Corp suppliers

Some companies are quite far into their sustainability journey and a good way to spot these is the B-Corp certificate. If you can align yourself with these companies they can not only clean up your supply chain but inspire other changes. “A big step we’ve taken is prioritising suppliers with really strong sustainable and ethical practices and who require the same from their supply chains,” explains Pollard. “We’ve been using Seacourt for our direct marketing campaigns which helps us to mitigate any damage from our mailouts which are key in areas where we have wind farms.”

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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