June 5th marks the UN’s World Environment Day 2023

May 31, 2023

5 June marks the UN’s World Environment Day 2023. It’s fashionable to be sustainable nowadays, but does it make business sense?

One US shipping company conducted a survey and found that, across all age groups, 57 per cent of people would change their shopping behaviour to reduce their environmental impact; and 71 per cent said they would pay more to purchase sustainable brands.

Conversely, we imagine few people make conscious decisions based on seeking to deliberately worsen their environmental impact. So from a sales perspective it makes sense. What about recruitment and retention though?

As far back as 2016, data was indicating just how important sustainability is to staff.

An employee engagement survey for a communications firm found that half of respondents wouldn’t work for a company which doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments. Three quarters said that their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work.

As more Gen Z enter the workforce, such views are likely to become even more prevalent.

Ways for SMEs to be (and be seen to be) sustainable
The great news is that it is easier than ever to demonstrably show your sustainability. Here are five ideas you could consider:

Offer a cycle-to-work scheme
Where distance permits, cycling is one of the best ways for people to commute to work. It is cheap, fast, zero-emission, skips the congestion and helps people stay fit and healthy.

As an employer, you can sign up to a government scheme which allows your employees to buy a bike under a salary sacrifice arrangement, which brings significant tax savings. Google “Cycle to work scheme” to find out more.

Choose sustainable suppliers
Often, it just takes a bit of research to pick out the sustainable option with little to no cost impact. From choosing a website hosting company which offsets the carbon emissions its servers produce, to partnering with businesses which are cutting down on their plastic packaging, you can make a big difference with small steps.

Let your employees shine at CSR
Employees love to make a positive impact. So give them the opportunity through your corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. Make sure there are some sustainability causes in there (or let your employees choose), and get fundraising or volunteering.

As well as doing good in itself, these are great stories to share on social media, your blog or via a press release to create buzz and goodwill for your business.

Remote working
While there is a growing realisation among businesses that getting staff working together as teams back in the office is best, remote working remains a popular choice with employees whose role can be performed at home some of the time.

It also carries environmental benefits by reducing the carbon footprint caused by commuting. Even allowing a day a week of remote work could enable you to say that you facilitate a 20% reduction in emissions from commuting.

Reduce, reuse, recycle
Adopting a reduce, reuse, recycle policy at work is a visible way of communicating to employees that your business cares about sustainability.

Reducing consumption of materials, encouraging reuse where possible (say by donating old office furniture and equipment to charity), and having recycling bins throughout the workplace are all simple things you can do to make a difference and send out a positive message.