Reducing waste and emissions
Managing waste and emissions efficiently can help save a business money. It is also better for the environment if firms use materials and resources as intelligently as possible.
Introducing a waste management strategy
Waste management covers everything from raw materials to technology, from water to sheets of paper. While manufacturing firms are most obviously affected, all businesses can benefit from having a waste management policy in place.
To create a waste management policy, a business will first need to carry out a review of the levels of waste it produces and the costs this waste incurs.
There are waste issues in most areas of business operation, whether it is something as simple as the invoicing system or something more complex like product design.
Waste management isn't just confined to the unnecessary use of materials or energy but also concerns the cost of disposing of waste material and the efficiency (or otherwise) of production processes and business systems.
Waste management programme
Once a business has conducted a review of all its processes, it is in a position to put together a waste management policy and plan.
It is good to begin with the easiest areas in which to make changes. This could involve recycling more paper in the office, or ensuring that electronic filing does not lead to the printing of unnecessary hard copies of documents.
Next the plan should tackle the amount of energy a business consumes, its use of utilities such as water, the economy with which raw materials are managed, plant and equipment, working practices and waste disposal methods.
Once areas have been identified where greater waste efficiency is possible, a business should examine which improvements are practical and cost-effective.
Any changes should be monitored and measured for their savings, and a manager or senior employee should be given responsibility for ensuring that the changes are implemented consistently and properly.
The government has set up an agency - Envirowise - which helps advise businesses on how to save money through better waste management. More details are available at www.envirowise.gov.uk
Managing emissions efficiently
A business can only stand to gain by using energy more efficiently. Doing so will reduce overhead costs, boost profit margins and provide a competitive edge over less energy-conscious rivals.
Using energy more efficiently also benefits the environment. The additional reward for the business is that, at a time when consumers are ever more aware of the threats of environmental degradation, using energy carefully can help to create a 'green' marketing profile for itself and its products or services.
By cutting down on its energy bills, a business can save on tax payments under the Climate Levy Charge too.
Energy efficiency is not a question of consuming less energy and then losing out on production or performance as a result. It is about achieving the same level of productivity while reducing the amount of energy used.
All businesses can save energy in some form or other.
Some measures are easy to implement. These include using energy-saving light bulbs; turning off radiators that are heating empty rooms or unused areas; placing thermostats in temperature constant positions (that is, out of the way of heat sources that may produce exaggerated readings); setting the hot water supply at 60 degrees (any higher is wasteful, any lower can encourage legionella); fitting draught excluders; improving insulation; making sure that delivery doors are opened and closed only when necessary during colder months; keeping office furniture away from radiators so that the heat distribution is not blocked; and maintaining equipment so that it runs efficiently.
There are other organisational energy-conserving policies that a business can adopt.
Equipment that can be shut down, like photocopiers and air conditioning units, should be switched off when - overnight and at weekends - there is no one in the office. Some machines or equipment can be moved to a sleep or standby mode, which consumes less power, when not in use. It should be explained to members of staff which switches control which facilities, and they should be encouraged to turn off lights or equipment when rooms are no longer occupied.
Simplicity is the key to ensuring that everyone in a firm plays their part in preventing energy waste. The more straightforward the energy-saving policy that a business introduces, the more likely it is that employees will observe it.
To get an accurate idea of the amount of energy (and the costs) that it is saving, a business may want to carry out an energy consumption audit.
This can be done by recording meter readings before and after an energy efficiency policy has been implemented. The 'after' readings will give an indication of the savings made. It is important to remember, however, to compare like with like. When considering the amount of energy used to heat an office, for example, it is necessary to compare periods when the outside temperatures were similar. It is also necessary to factor in output levels when assessing the effect that energy conservation has had on a production process. The simplest method of comparing 'before and 'after' figures in this case is to calculate the energy used to produce each item.
More information and advice on saving energy is available from the Carbon Trust website at www.thecarbontrust.co.uk