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Member Article

Driving sustainability in business

It’s environment focus week on Bdaily, and we are looking at what the low-carbon economy really means for UK SMEs, as well as picking apart the nuts and bolts of adapting business to “go-green.“

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that somebody else will save it.“ Robert Swan OBE.

Robert Swan’s words highlight the responsibility that every one of us holds over our environment.

Whilst government incentives can stimulate efforts to achieve carbon reduction targets, it is ultimately us as the individuals, the organisations, and as a nation, who must implement and support these solutions.

Delivering an idea which is both environmentally beneficial, and socially acceptable can often come at a considerable cost, however, there are many ideas which require little or no investment; where some may even provide a net cash benefit. Similarly, ideas need not be hugely technological, but may provide simple solutions to simple problems.

Every year RWE npower holds a competition; Pole to Pole in order to encourage sustainability and raise awareness of environmental issues both across the business and elsewhere. The competition is open to internal candidates and University Students, with the winners getting the opportunity to meet Robert Swan as part of the expedition with Team 2041. Robert Swan founded 2041 to engage with the next generation who will be responsible for the future of world sustainability. Working for an energy company, I also feel it is our responsibility to lead the way in innovating, implementing, & increasing awareness of sustainable solutions.

As part of this year’s competition I decided to focus on an issue present in many of the world’s offices: paper. At the current rate, deforestation is likely to destroy the world’s rainforests in less than 100 years. Amongst other uses, trees are cut down to feed the huge appetite for wood based products. From a commercial perspective this means paper cups, envelopes, printing paper, hand towels, posters, packaging…the list goes on.

With hand towels in particular in mind, I decided to investigate the debate over hand towels vs. hand dryers. Whilst traditional hand dryers are slow and heavy on energy consumption, a new breed of hand dryers has evolved in recent years, using significantly less energy, over a dramatically reduced hand-dry period. The advertised benefits of these systems are clear, however, it’s perhaps harder to evaluate the complete sustainable business case.

Many websites offer opinions or advice, though none allow the user to make a customised scenario to accurately evaluate the solution for their organisation, including a custom dryer quote. The website, www.uselesspaper.info, has been designed to do just this.

Environmental credentials are increasingly becoming a selling point in non-price competition, with many sustainability conscious organisations seeking out other like-minded businesses to trade with. A culture of awareness & individual contribution will no doubt help deliver such credentials.

Whilst the people in our organisations are responsible for considering their own contributions to sustainability, it must be ours to consider what measures can be taken to help them do this.

Easy to use video conferencing, efficient hand drying, secure printing, car sharing databases and provision of recycling facilities are all examples of easy to implement facilities that will help individuals deliver these savings.

Without doubt the biggest challenge our organisations face is the engagement of our people in contributing to these sustainable solutions. Whilst there are many larger environmental solutions, it is the combined contribution of every individual in the organisation, both at work and at home that will ultimately breed a culture of awareness and change.

Here are some other environment focus articles that may be of interest to you: carbon reporting in logistics firms; what are the benefits of electric vehicles?; we talk to a print business about why SMEs need to go green; find out how one innovative business is using ozone as a cleaning tool; what does sustainability really mean to your business?; funding support for green businesses; and a green adaptation case study.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Seb Taylor .

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