By Sam Hampton, Sustainability Consultant
As the realities of climate change become clearer, more businesses are embarking on a journey to reduce their environmental impact. Besides the motivation to do the right thing, and the benefits of saving on energy bills, ‘going green’ can also give businesses an edge when it comes to bidding for new contracts.
So, what can you do to shine a light on your company’s record on sustainability? One of the most effective routes is to seek formal accreditation.
As well as a recognised badge to display on marketing materials and tender proposals, accreditation schemes can provide a structured framework for gradual environmental improvement that doubles as a valuable and motivating employee engagement programme. It also signals your commitment to tackling the climate emergency, making your organisation attractive to other businesses that share similar environmental values. Sharing your sustainability story can also help to inspire other businesses to embark on their own environmental journey.
Demonstrating competitive advantage
It’s not just that successful contract winners need to evidence their sustainability and social value – when tenders are put out in the marketplace, they often require potential bidders to explain their commitment to sustainability and / or be certified as a green business in order to be eligible for inclusion in the first place. Once an organisation has qualified, it will be required to show how it’s reducing its impact on the environment, and general social responsibility policies and practices.
In short, if your company does not meet responsible and green business criteria, and is unable to demonstrate that you understand your environmental impact and performance, you may well lose the ability to submit bids for new business, and new customers as a result.
Document your green practices
As an organisation that wants to save money and build a sustainable future for your business, employees and the environment, you probably already do lots of good. Write it down! Does sustainability influence your decision-making? Do you monitor your energy usage? Have you already switched to a green electricity supplier? These can provide the basis for environmental policies, which are a crucial starting point for seeking any green kitemark.
Once you’ve listed all the pro-environmental actions that you’re already taking, it’s time to identify new changes that you can implement that demonstrate your commitment to reducing your environmental impact. Such changes might be small – if you already have a policy to switch off lights in your buildings, you could go further by installing timers and movement sensors to ensure that internal and external lighting is only used as needed. Our recent blog, entitled, ‘Energy savings made simple’ offers lots of ideas for reducing your energy consumption while cutting your energy costs.
There are many different green accreditations, awards and sector-specific badges available and it can be confusing for organisations to know which ones to pursue. The Ecolabel Index keeps a record of kitemarks across the work, and lists almost 90 that are available to UK businesses. For the purposes of simplicity and the need to start somewhere, we’ve listed a few of the most easily recognised standards that support sustainable business practice.
ISO 14001 is an internationally recognised environmental management standard that can help you identify gaps in your business where you could be more environmentally friendly and make green efficiency savings.
PAS 2038 is a UK framework that specifies requirements retrofitting non-domestic properties for improved energy efficiency.
Carbon Trust provides independent certification and assurance services that recognise real achievements in sustainability, enhance reputation and build trust with customers, investors and stakeholders.
B Corps certification is for organisations that meet the very highest standard of social and environmental performance. Rather than a standard, Certified B Corps businesses form a community of leaders that are legally required to consider the impact of their business actions on their workers, customers, suppliers, their local community and critically, the environment.
Demonstrate your green credentials and gain competitive advantage
There are many different routes available for businesses seeking accreditation. Most schemes are designed so that it shouldn’t be necessary to seek help from consultants or advisors. That said, the majority of businesses can benefit from the advice of a sustainability expert, and in many cases such advice is subsidised by the government.
Smarter Choices, a government-funded initiative, is an end-to-end service package that helps SMEs achieve cost-effective energy efficiency measures easily, quickly, comprehensively, and with no upfront investment. It’s a potential route for any SME to explore if they are looking for how they can save on their energy consumption and energy bills. Smarter Choices can also help your company gain competitive advantage and eligibility for new business contracts by demonstrating your green credentials and commitment to a more sustainable future.