Connecting SMEs for a green economy

An Environmental Management System (EMS) for micro-businesses

Environmental Strategies's picture

A management tool designed for small businesses to demonstrate green credentials, save costs on energy and reduce environmental impacts.

Environmental Strategies is a family run business that has been trading for 16 years from a home office environment. We are professional environmental consultants who help organisations large and small to reduce their environmental impacts, save energy, cut resource costs and put in place management systems focussed on the environment, energy and carbon.

Our biggest positive contribution towards the environment is through the work we undertake with our clients. But we decided to implement our own Environmental Management System (EMS) through a scheme called Investors in the Environment, in order to demonstrate our own environmental credentials. The standard environmental management systems, such as ISO14001, BS8555 and EMAS are very difficult to apply meaningfully to a micro business that provides a consultancy service, but by developing our own EMS with Investors in the Environment we can publically demonstrate all the positive things we are doing to minimise our impact on the environment. This was our core driver for implementing an EMS but we have also made cost savings through better awareness and control of our energy use.

As a home office we took a different approach to our energy use, incorporating not just the working environment, but the entire house. We measured our gas and electricity use based on the number of people in the property. We have compared business as usual trajectories to what actually happened in terms of gas and electricity use, from when we joined the scheme in August 2012 until January 2014 – 18 month period. Between Aug 2012 - end Jan 2014 we have saved 2752kWh of electricity = saving of £390.78 @ average 14.2p/kWh. Our 2012/13 target was a 10% reduction in electricity use per person per day, measured against 2011/12 figures. Our actual reduction achievement was 20%. Between Aug 2012 - end Jan 2014 we have saved 33,407kWh of gas = saving of £1273 @ average 3.81p/kWh. Our 2012/13 target was a 10% reduction in gas use per person per day, measured against 2011/12 figures and our actual reduction achievement was 30%.

Although the figures do not represent huge savings, they are significant for a small business as the savings go straight to the ‘bottom line’, increasing profit. How did we do it? First we mapped where the energy was being used and then worked out how we could reduce this: 

• LED replacement of light bulbs in a number of areas in the house, not just office area, including external lights also. Exchanging 50w for 5w LEDs in most cases.
• Procured a new A-rated fridge.
• Launched a ‘Switch off’ initiative focussed on computer screens e.g. when leaving the office for a meeting or lunch; printers/scanner turned off unless required; switch off at the socket at the end of the day.
• Reduced the temperature in the office to 19˚C. Also replaced additional 2kw fan heater with 0.5kw oil-filled convector heater.
• Fitted thermostatic radiator valves to all the radiators so unoccupied rooms could have the heating turned down.
• Insulated hot water pipes in the boiler room.

We set ourselves annual objectives and targets in relation to the EMS to demonstrate that we are continually trying to improve the system and reduce our impact on the environment.What else have we done to reduce our environmental impact?
1. We can’t measure our water consumption as we don’t have a separate meter, but we have an aim to minimise waster use as much as possible. This has been a bit of a struggle as for a small office the consumption is pretty minimal. We have however put flushsavers supplied by Yorkshire Water into the toilets; and repaired some leaking taps.
2. In a year we saved 0.93 tonnes of CO2 by reducing our mileage - we use the vehicle with the lowest CO2 emissions for shared journeys; and have increased use of public transport. We benchmark kg of CO2 against turnover, allowing the company to grow and still produce meaningful targets.
3. Reduced paper use by 30% against turnover, by setting all the printers/scanners to double-sided print. All our paper, including business cards and marketing information carries a sustainability credential, whether it is FSC accredited, from a sustainable source, or an Eco-label.
4. We use Cartridge World to refill all our empty printer and fax cartridges so they can be reused. This is more cost effective than buying new cartridges. Also all the printers are set to print in greyscale to reduce colour cartridge use.
5. Procure only tea, coffee and sugar with sustainable credentials – whether that is Fairtrade, rainforest alliance or an ethical partnership. All consumables must also come packaged in recyclable materials where practicable. We only purchase milk produced by British Dairy Farmers, that offers a fair price to farmers and is packaged in recyclable containers.

6. Waste – we have an objective to minimise waste generation and disposal to landfill. We have a Waste Policy, based on the principles of the waste hierarchy, aiming to keep as much of our waste away from landfill and into the re-use or recycling categories. We started by conducting a Waste Audit, looking at all the waste streams and how the environmental impact of those could be reduced, whether that was cancelling all unread publications that get sent to the office or setting up composting for food waste. Each desk had 2 large bins – one for recycling, the other for general waste. There was a lot of cross-contamination as the waste bins were similar in size and appearance. So we replaced all the general waste bins with smaller metal pedal bins with a lid. Now they are too small for recyclables (paper or envelopes) and because you have to lift the lid, you have a split second to think about what you’re putting in it.

Overall we have reduced our operating costs and become a more sustainable company for the longer-term. We achieved so much in the first year, it will be difficult to continue this level of improvement but we are looking at what else we can do to reduce our environmental impact and widening the reach of the EMS into procurement and our supply chain.

Those companies that join the Investors in the Environment scheme get the opportunity to share best practise and ideas because we’re all trying to achieve the same outcome - reducing our impacts on the environment and essentially cutting our costs. As an environmental consultancy, we were able to offer free Renewables Feasibility studies for members of the scheme in the North of the country to help them assess the potential for generating their own energy, and reducing their environmental impact.

For us the most important benefit of having an EMS is that as a micro business wanting to grow, it enables us to demonstrate our own environmental credentials i.e. we can practise what we preach. An EMS can work for an organisation of any size if the principles are applied correctly. Implementing the EMS in a systematic way, also enables the business to identify cost savings on energy use and resources which is great for the environment and the business.

Further details

How was the green solution financed?: 
Would you characterize the green solution as: 
Low capital intensive investment (i.e. €500 - €3,000)
Capital costs description: 
mainly LED lighting and energy efficient applicance purchases
Operating and maintenance costs description: 
Approx. 600 Euros / year (staff time)
Emission reductions description: 
0.93 tonnes / year
Operating and maintenance costs: 
Yes, low O&M costs
Energy consumption description: 
24 MW / year
Water consumption savings description: 
not metered
Material consumption savings description: 
32% reduction in paper use and 23% reduction in printer cartridge use against turnover;
Technical and capacity requirements?: 

In-house expertise required:
- being able to monitor and interpret your energy use data
- being able to identify where you use the most resources in your organisation and what those resources are
- good communication skills to motivate staff involvement
- researching ways to reduce your waste, energy use and carbon footprint

No technical requirements.

Regulatory framework prerequisites and constraints?: