Is our attitude to the environment in danger of becoming vuvuzela background noise – a constant drone that we filter out?  Reducing the environmental impact of business and industry has been on the agenda for decades.  Ten years ago, it was still quite easy to ignore and it has taken the big stick of legislation to make businesses respond.

The need to demonstrate sound environmental practices is being pushed further and further down the supply chain by larger organisations and by the public sector. As we have clients in both those categories, making sure we have an environmental management policy place is crucial.

But we are small company in the services sector, so do we have an environmental impact?

Maybe not the kind of impact that a chemicals giant or a metal bashing business would have, but we use energy, computer and office consumables and we travel to work – so yes, we do.  And we would like to see if we can save on the bottom line – and be more competitive by qualifying for extra brownie points when bidding for new business.

Does this mean we need full ISO14000 accreditation?

Well no, at least not at this stage.  ISO14000 is the international quality standard for environmental practice.  Accreditation requires external assessment on an ongoing basis and is expensive. For the time being, this is a  bridge too far.  We have opted for putting an environmental policy in place that is monitored, reviewed and updated internally.

So what does our policy say?

In outline, we “copied with pride” by looking at other people’s environmental policies and following the guidance on the Business Link website and the Envirowise website

But of course the policy has to be ours to live up to.  We assessed the areas in which the company has an impact and where we thought we could improve, for example by looking at what we buy as office consumables and what we do with office waste. The result is a straightforward policy statement with the undertaking to monitor for continuous improvement.

As far as the impact of our  travel to work goes, we are fortunate that most of us can and do cycle to work.  However, for many companies this is not the case.  Carrying our a travel to work survey and reviewing ways of  reducing commuting and business miles can really make a difference.  For example, using video conferencing can save huge amounts of time and travel costs for a business. Encouraging car sharing and  putting in cycle racks and shower facilities can help individuals to save on fuel and reduce congestion.  Check out the Bike2Work Scheme.  This can be a good incentive for employers and employees to encourage cycling to work.

And why is it important?

Skeptics might view setting up an environmental policy as merely  a “box ticking” exercise carried out to support the bidding process. That would be an injustice. It led us to think constructively about our business consumerism and any waste products. It has also raised awareness amongst staff, both at work and on a domestic level. Most importantly, it will help us to stay competitive and win lucrative business.

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