Running a business is one thing, but running an ecologically friendly business while staying profitable takes things to the next level.
It’s not easy, but even though current economic systems make being environmentally conscious difficult, business owners can be accountable for their carbon footprint. Many small businesses across the world are stepping up and doing their part to save the planet.
If your business is looking to do its part, here’s a short guide on how to reduce your carbon footprint in business.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
Businesses can’t help if they don’t understand what’s going on, so let’s break down the carbon footprint concept.
Simply put, a carbon footprint is the grand total of all the greenhouse gasses—carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.—generated by human actions.
‘Carbon,’ in this instance, is shorthand for each greenhouse gasses as carbon dioxide accounts for over 80% of the total. Because of this, climate scientists measure the carbon footprint of a population, business, or individual in tons of CO2 emitted during a set period.
Carbon footprints come from various energy-burning activities like the production of products and materials, but primarily, generating energy is the top CO2 producer—burning fossil fuels being the number one culprit.
It’s challenging to get an exact measurement of these activities at small scales—we’ll explain how in the next section. Carbon footprint knowledge isn’t as widespread as you might think, and the amount of data available on the exact storage to release processes that increase carbon footprints is often limited.
However, just because carbon footprints can be difficult to measure doesn’t mean their impact isn’t felt or they’re less of a problem than we think. The world—including businesses—must take immediate action to reduce its carbon footprint.
How Does a Business Calculate its Carbon Footprint?
Most large corporations hire outside consultants to measure their carbon footprints as they’re accountable to government agencies. However, this isn’t the case with small businesses, so it’s on business owners to step up and take charge.
Note that we stated it is difficult to measure but not impossible!
Step 1: Identify greenhouse gas emissions
The standard for business measurement of a carbon footprint is in three scopes:
- Scope 1 – CO2 emissions produced on-site by a company or directly via vehicles or power sources owned by the company.
- Scope 2 – CO2 emissions produced by energy purchased by the company.
- Scope 3 – CO2 emissions result from a company’s activities but not from sources it owns or controls.
As you can see, those are some pretty broad scopes, and it isn’t always necessary to go into so much detail, especially for a small business. The key point is to calculate the most significant and most environmentally relevant measures for your business regardless of the source.
Look at all the ways your business uses electricity and fuel. How do you power your office? Do you use vehicles to transport goods? How much electricity does your business use to keep the office running—computers, lights, air conditioning, etc.?
Step 2: Add up your energy usage
After identifying all of the ways your business creates greenhouse gas emissions, it’s time to quantify your usage. To do this, collect energy bills—electricity and gas—and add up miles driven if your team uses company vehicles to transport goods or do business.
It’s best to organize the information in a spreadsheet and note the quantities’ units.
Step 3: Calculate your company’s carbon footprint with a carbon emissions tool
If you’re comfortable with math, formulas, and working in spreadsheets, the EPA has a comprehensive spreadsheet that can help you calculate your business’s carbon footprint.
For the rest of us, plug your data into one of these online tools:
How to Reduce Carbon Footprint in a Business
After calculating your carbon footprint number, it might be shocking to see how much of an impact your business has on the environment. But don’t just stare at the number; take action! Here are some things you can do to reduce the carbon footprint of your business.
- Reduce waste wherever possible
The methods in which current business move materials are the key contributor to the total greenhouse gas emissions. So business owners need to take on the social responsibility of this and work towards creating a sustainable business.
That means assessing your business’ waste generation and management and working towards creating a zero-waste business environment. That means taking actions like going paperless where possible, donating outdated electronics and furniture, and using refillable ink cartridges. Taking steps towards cutting down food waste in the office is another priority to keeping debris out of the landfill.
No one expects any business to bring things down to zero immediately, but taking action can help your business reduce its environmental impact.
- Use clean energy sources or energy-saving devices
Another step your business can take is to switch over to an energy-efficient light bulb and invest in renewable energy sources like solar panels to power your office. Even if you don’t own the building, you can always purchase your energy from a renewable energy supplier.
- Purchase carbon offsets
Because it’s nearly impossible to get to carbon-neutral, it’s important to invest in carbon offsets to help reduce your business’ total number.
A carbon offset is a purchased credit per ton of carbon emissions. The money for the credit goes towards a project that reduces human environmental impact and creates sustainability. While there are many critics of the concept of carbon offsets, it’s one way for a business to invest in our future.
Here’s a list of the best carbon offset programs as of this writing.
Why is Reducing Carbon Footprint Important?
You’re probably already aware of the environmental impacts of reducing the carbon footprint of your business. So, let’s mix economics with the environment and examine how it’s imperative for your business’s bottom line.
When you minimize the carbon footprint of your business, you cut costs. Clean energy is often the cheapest option for powering your office, and energy-efficient lighting reduces energy consumption, so you spend less when the bill arrives.
Also, by working on your carbon footprint, your business creates an opportunity to show your customers that you’re doing your part to save the environment. It’s a great way to build a brand and build a more extensive customer base—more sales means more revenue.
Last, reducing your carbon footprint is good for company morale. It makes employees feel like their part of something bigger—even more significant than your company! And that kind of morale can increase productivity and retention.
Nothing makes more business sense than reducing your carbon footprint.
Individuals can do a lot to reduce their carbon footprint—take public transportation, recycle, drive fuel-efficient or electric vehicles, limit air travel, etc. But it’s businesses who drive the use and consumption of all these products.
Now that you’re aware of how to reduce your carbon footprint in business, you can take actions towards a sustainable future and grow your bottom line at the same time!