|How much money do you think your small business is spending unnecessarily? If you stop to take a look at all your outgoings, you may be surprised to see exactly how much cash you could be pouring down the drain. But don’t despair, just a few small changes in behaviour, such as turning the lights off in empty rooms, could make a big difference, both to your finances and to the environment. And it’s this issue that could make an efficiency drive hugely popular with your consumer base and boost your reputation.
According to a study by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, more than 8 in 10 of those SMEs that have adopted sustainable business practices believe they offer clear benefits. For instance, many say it has helped to reduce their costs, while others say going green has been welcomed by customers. Furthermore, some believe that implementing eco-friendly policies has boosted their productivity and made them more attractive employers.
So why are some smaller businesses not yet following their lead? After all, it looks as if there is a clear business case for going green – and a potential opportunity to engage with environmentally aware customers. Indeed, nearly half of the SMEs polled by Lloyds expressed concern that a lax attitude to environmental responsibility would make them appear outdated – so it’s clear they do see reputational advantages in going green.
Perhaps SMEs across the board should therefore not only adopt eco-friendly policies themselves, but also try to encourage customers to become environmentally aware too and help them make this happen.
Here are just a few steps you could take…
Ask customers about their environmental concerns and respond
There’s no better way to show you care about the environment than asking exactly what worries customers most and responding accordingly. The feedback they give could be crucial in influencing future decisions, such as which suppliers you work with and where you source materials from. Alternatively, they might be concerned with very specific issues like the environmental impact of your carrier bags, which might prompt a switch to cotton or biodegradable carrier bags instead. HSBC bank is one keen advocate of this approach, arguing that getting customers involved in this manner is a “good way of demonstrating your commitment, particularly when you work with a small number of key customers” – a particularly salient point, perhaps, for SMEs with a limited consumer base.
Promote your green credentials
If you’re actively going green, then make it known in your promotional material, from leaflets and billboards to YouTube videos and online ads. Also consider trying to secure some respected industry accreditations, as a third party endorsement of your eco-friendly nature can carry more weight than your own words and prove you mean what you say. A recent survey by the Cabinet Office and Social Enterprise UK found that 53% of businesses should be legally obliged to report on their environmental impact – so it is clear an objective viewpoint from an outsider could do much to boost a firm’s credibility on this issue.
Offer branded promotional merchandise
Items such as recycled notepads, eco-friendly pens, reusable bags or travel mugs are genuinely useful items that can easily be tailored with your brand name and logo. So why not make these available to customers, who will take them out and about and display your branding to the masses time and time again? What better way to help your customers reduce waste, help the environment and enjoy some free exposure at the same time?
The Cabinet Office/Social Enterprise UK study showed that nearly three-quarters of Britons would think twice about purchasing from a company that harms the environment. So for SMEs trying to get ahead in highly competitive markets, it is clear that going green is one of the best ways to stand out for all the right reasons and build a loyal and enthusiastic customer base at the same time.