When it comes to green procurement in business – that is, the acquisition of goods and services without causing a detrimental impact on local environments and economies – small businesses are said to have the upper hand. Tony Rafferty, CEO of the printing.com Group, explains how adopting a green precurement policy can halp your business and increase its CSR profile.
Mark Elborne, president and chief executive officer at General Electric, recently claimed that innovation comes easier to smaller businesses as they face less bureaucratic tape than larger businesses and are in a better position to focus on global issues. He commented: "I think they just have more freedom, less bureaucracy. Often these are individuals and small groups of individuals who are pursuing a dream. They do innovation on a different scale".
More and more small business owners are taking advantage of this fact and choosing to incorporate green measures in their everyday operations to enjoy a wide range of benefits. For instance, using eco-friendly suppliers or even just buying kitchen supplies from a local farm or business, can improve a company’s reputation, boost staff morale, open up new business opportunities, lower operational costs and ultimately increase profits. It is no wonder that a number of managers are now listening to their customers and recognising the growing demand for these customers for eco-friendly products and services.
Indeed, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is now firmly on the agendas of a significant number of small businesses here in the UK who are ensuring the sustainability of the materials and services they use and the efficiency of their supply chains. Meanwhile, this number is expected to grow, especially given the wider range of cheap green suppliers in various markets.
So how can a small business adapt to climate change and reduce its carbon emissions? If a company is looking to reduce its environmental impact by improving its supply chain, then it must start by forging a good relationship with its suppliers. As well as offering businesses efficiency gains in the form of reduced wastage and carbon emissions, simpler compliance with government legislation, and a smoother running of operations on a day-to-day basis, this behaviour can make a difference on greater scale.
Practicing a sufficient form of supplier relationship management (SRM) can contribute to enhancements in communication, advanced planning and philosophy integration, encouraging more businesses to jump on board the green procurement ship. A business might also want to use local suppliers, which also has the potential to increase a business’ sales and widen its profit margins. For example, there are shorter supply chains involved in local sourcing, meaning delivery costs are lower and delivery times are more accurate.
A popular method businesses choose to reduce their carbon footprint is in the form of office supplies; by switching to recycled or sustainably-sourced paper they make significant savings while reducing their impact on the environment. The prices for recycled coated and copier paper has dropped in recent years, as more suppliers are now on the market to meet demand.
Some companies, for example, offer a wide range of eco-friendly office supplies and promotional materials in the form of business cards, leaflets, flyers and stationary, all with impressive designs. Indeed, a growing number of businesses are choosing green promotional materials as doing so no longer means that creativity and design quality has to be compromised, unlike a few years ago.
Another way to go green in an office environment is to invest in energy-intensive technology. Given that up to a quarter of the energy consumed in a typical office is used to power computers and other IT equipment, there is a great deal of potential – both in money and wastage savings – in doing so. Signing up with an energy supplier that is committed to energy efficiency and renewable sources is also popular among green businesses, while companies who offer transport to its employees may also want to investigate green mobility and enforce a diesel-only policy in this process. The savviest of business owners implement cycle-to-work schemes, which can be subsidised by the government, and video conferring procedures in meetings so individuals don’t have to travel across the country to attend.
Signs of success
It’s clear that there are a host of benefits for small businesses incorporating eco-friendly measures in their operations, namely efficiency gains. As we’ve discovered, these gains – that is, a reduction in input or price for the same product or service output, or an increase in the number of quality of outputs – can be taken as a sign that a sustainable procurement policy is working. Regardless of whether you’re a business manager looking to make a difference to the environment, or one that simply wants to boost efficiency-related profits and reputation, green procurement can help your business stand out from the rest.