< back to news page

Can you afford to go green? The real question is ‘can you afford NOT to?’

Going green isn’t a luxury.  It’s a business imperative.  Nick Woolley explains why and gives some pointers to get you started:

So, what’s in it for you to run your business in a more eco-friendly way?

A well known global firm of accountants is on the hunt for a substantial new London HQ.  One of its priorities is to ensure its new offices are constructed in an eco-friendly way.  It’s not just doing this for the sake of being environmentally friendly or because it will ‘tick a corporate social responsibility box’.  It’s doing it for hard commercial reasons – we’re talking about accountants after all.

The firm is looking to make a huge and long term investment in its new offices and it knows the costs of running conventionally constructed buildings are likely to increase prohibitively over the next 20 years.  We’re currently a fossil fuel dependant economy and this is not economically tenable in the long term.  In view of this and  – given that it’s looking for a cost-effective, efficient and future-proof investment – the firm realises that going green is the best way to achieve this.

The fact that big City firms are starting to think this way is a harbinger of change to come for businesses of all sizes – even small ones.  We may not always have the flexibility of a large company to define and manage our business premises, but adopting greener ways of running our operations and our buildings may be a critical factor in helping us survive in a fast changing environment.   For example:

It will help you control costs

We all know that successful small businesses are those which keep a close eye on their costs and an even closer eye on their profits.  Consider these facts:

  • Energy costs have increased by 700% per cent over the last ten years.  They’re likely to increase by a further 400% per cent over the next five years.
  • Water costs are also increasing significantly and will probably increase even faster
  • Business waste also costs hard cash – anything up to 4% of turnover – according to sustainable business experts Envirowise

So, adopt greener policies and your business will reduce its energy and water costs significantly.   Better resource management and tight waste reduction policies will also ensure you’re running your operation in a more eco-friendly and more profitable way.

Don’t – and your bottom line will take an ever deeper hit.

It will boost your corporate reputation both internally and externally

Most people are convinced by the climate change arguments and are keen to do their bit.   It’s affecting the way they behave and the purchasing choices they make.  A recent survey from the Co-operative Bank put the market for green goods and services at £29 billion and rising.

You only have to look at the enthusiasm of the big supermarkets to demonstrate their ‘green credentials’ to realise that there are good business reasons for you to do the same.   Showing that you are taking steps to operate in a greener way will:

  • differentiate you from your competitors
  • increase staff morale and motivation
  • boost your company’s reputation and profile

Want to get started?  There’s a lot of help available, much of it free, so use it!  In the meantime, here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Give one person responsibility for energy usage and reduction and ensure that they have the full support of the owner/manager to implement changes
  • Monitor energy consumption to check how effective the measures introduced are.  It can be very motivating to see a positive change!
  • Programme change in!  Not everything has to be done at once but, if it’s your own building for instance, and the time comes to renew your boiler, ensure that you opt for a new, more energy efficient model
  • Reduce the temperature in your building by one degree.  This could cut your heating bills by as much as 10%
  • If it’s your own building, check the insulation is effective, particularly around windows, chimneys and fire places which are huge sources of heat loss.   Draft proofing can also be a cost effective measure – use automatic doors and plastic strip curtains for heavy traffic areas
  • If windows are a problem area, consider secondary glazing.  It’s widely used in European countries with a cold climate.  It’s highly efficient because when the weather is good, the internal glazing can be opened to let natural heat penetrate the room.  When it cools down again, the internal glazing can be shut, trapping the heat inside
  • Turn off or reduce heating outside working hours and reduce heat in areas that need less such as store rooms.  Ensure all rooms have thermostats fitted to all radiators.  Again, this can reduce energy use by up to 10%
  • Using air conditioning could double your energy bills.  The higher you set the air conditioning ‘switch on’ temperature, the more you’ll save so set the lower temperature to 24 degrees or higher
  • Switch off lights, IT equipment, mobile phone chargers when not being used or overnight.  Leaving a photocopier on overnight uses enough energy to print over 5,000 copies of A4, according to www.netregs.gov.uk
  • Maximise natural lighting by ensuring windows are clean and window sills uncluttered.  Plan your office layout to make the best use of natural and artificial lighting
  • Install energy efficient light bulbs and consider Passive Infra Red detectors (PIRs) in areas that are not frequently used, such as store rooms or toilets.  In retail premises, lighting accounts for up to 60 per cent of energy costs.  Using high pressure sodium lights for external use is five times more efficient than using tungsten halogen lamps
  • Join your local Resource Efficiency Club (REC).  It can help you obtain free advice and support to achieve resource efficiency improvements and reduced costs
  • Carry out an audit of your water usage.  Most water companies can advise you on how to do this and provide you with a self-assessment form.  Once you know how much you use, you can look at ways to reduce it
  • If you’re planning a new factory or office or converting an existing building, congratulations!  You have a fantastic opportunity to create an inspirational, cost effective and future-proof working environment!  Don’t think that eco-buildings are more expensive to build – they need not be – and they can be cheaper.
    • Work with an architect and builder who understands sustainable building and can help you design in the energy efficient features in the building structure itself, required to help you become,  if not entirely self-sufficient in your energy requirements, then closer  to it
    • Simple water harvesting techniques could help you provide at least a proportion if not all of you business’ water requirements
    • Many new and exciting developments in power generation technologies will be coming onto the market over the coming months.  These include new more cost effective materials for solar panels; wind power generation and photo voltaic energy production
    • There’s a great deal of free advice, as well as tax breaks and even interest free loans, available for businesses from organisations such as The Carbon Trust and Envirowise.

Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco recently said:  You can be green and grow.  And I think if you look into the future you may have to be green in order to grow.”   We would all do well to heed his warning.

Nick Woolley RICS is the founder of Woolley & Company and a sustainable building expert


Tel: 01638 721540

Email: nick@woolley.co.uk


Better Business | March 2008


March 5th, 2008
Contact Us