Five ways SMEs can become greener businesses

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have a vital role to play in the nation’s efforts to tackle the climate emergency.

While SMEs individual environmental footprints may appear relatively small, in the UK, their combined environmental impact is estimated to be more significant than big corporations – despite most environmental legislation still being aimed at larger organisations.

SMEs are extremely diverse and often less well-resourced than larger businesses, so becoming greener is no easy feat. Moreover, while most SMEs recognise they can and should do more to reduce their environmental impact, owners and managers often struggle to find the time and money to invest in initiatives – or simply don’t know where to begin.

Sustainability support where it’s needed most

Earlier this year, the UK Government launched The Together for our Planet campaign, encouraging small businesses to pledge to cut their emissions to net-zero by 2050 or sooner.

It also recently launched the UK SME Climate Hub – a global initiative that aims to mainstream climate action in the SME community, enabling SMEs to build resilient businesses for the future. Its global campaign is focused on supporting SME owners and managers to take on the Net Zero target to reduce carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. A key component of that is waste management.

Axil Integrated Services supports businesses of all shapes and sizes to manage their waste sustainably, while helping to increase their profitability through operational cost efficiencies and recycling rebates. Axil shares tips for how SMEs can go greener and contribute to a more sustainable future, from increased recycling and cutting waste to reducing energy consumption.

1. Collaborate with supply chains

Traditional supply chain management practices have generally focused on cost, service and quality. But as an SME, you’re often at a pivotal point in the supply chain – where there is a growing requirement to manage carbon emissions as well.

There are new opportunities to work strategically with supply partners to both measure and monitor carbon emissions in your operations. A great starting point is to explore your supply chain to identify places where you can improve efficiency. This could be as simple as reducing demand for materials and cutting down waste streams, using renewable materials, or minimising transport and fuel use – all of which are good for business and the environment.

2. Embrace the three ‘Rs’

Increasingly, businesses are operating to the 3Rs of the waste hierarchy – a framework that was introduced as a guide for businesses to manage waste streams and work towards preventing waste in the first place.

In order of importance, they are Reduce, Recycle and Recover, giving priority to preparing waste for reuse, then recycling, then to other recovery methods. Disposal, therefore, becomes the last resort.

Whirlpool, an Axil customer, has long followed the waste hierarchy model. Through our work with them, the appliance manufacturer has achieved Zero Waste to Landfill as standard at its factory in Yate and its headquarters in Peterborough.

3. Consider a waste audit

Knowledge is power, and gaining a greater understanding of your business waste streams can help reduce costs and increase your recycling rates.

Axil offers free waste management audits.

These provide a comprehensive analysis of waste types and how waste is collected and moved through your business; determine potential rebate and cost-saving opportunities within your business; help measure recycling levels; and suggest innovative solutions and on-site equipment to improve waste reduction.

4. Unlock added value in your waste

Consider whether there is any value in your waste. Many businesses overlook the opportunities for their waste to support the circular economy through reuse and recycling, and don’t consider the financial rebates available to them.

Unlike other waste management providers, Axil offers a unique segregation and rebate model which can help businesses unlock the value in their waste, often enabling them to offset disposal costs or receive a financial return on top of delivering cost-efficiencies within their operations.

5. Embed sustainability into company culture & publicise your success

As you make progress on your environmental goals, publicise your success so that stakeholders remain aware of your impact. A 2020 study by Circular revealed that 80% of consumers are ‘planning to purchase goods and services from businesses they know have made a concerted effort to be environmentally friendly.’

This extends to other important audiences, too, such as employees, investors and supply partners who are increasingly looking for evidence of commitment towards sustainability and good ESG practice from businesses.

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To gain a clearer understanding of your waste operations, we will visit to carry out a detailed site audit.

Our waste management experts will understand your waste streams and the challenges you face— and develop a service proposal tailored to accommodate your needs.

We will explain how our innovative solutions can re-engineer your waste to reduce your costs and increase your recycling.