Steps towards becoming a sustainable business

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A company can embed social responsible practices, at various points of the business's development,

to add to its efficiency and effectiveness for sustainability. A one man band is likely to adopt different practices, to a company with a team of ten or more people. It is therefore important to plan the way forward for the future growth of your company at the start of your venture.

Environment and Ecology

  • Reduce consumption of energy, water and other natural resources; and emissions of hazardous substances.
  • Establish an Environmental Management System with objectives and procedures for evaluating progress; minimising negative impacts and transferring good practice.e.g. Waste Management Processes - Waste Matters
  • Use / produce recycled and recyclable materials increase the durability of products and minimise packaging through effective design ("reduce, reuse and recycle.")
  • Train staff in environmental issues so that they are looking for additional ways of reducing the firm's environmental footprint.
  • Offset carbon emissions with equivalent carbon-fixing such as tree-planting. Start a local Green Business Club which can help you and other local firms access conservation grants / expertise for reducing waste/water/energy.
  • Consider when you could use video-conferencing (e.g. in your local business advice organisation) to meet a potential supplier or customer rather than always physically travelling to the meeting.

 Health and Wellbeing

  • Establish policies to ensure the health and safety of all employees - which are known to employees.
  • Involve employees in business decisions that affect them and will improve the work environment.
  • Operate "Open-book policies" and help employees to understand financial statements.
  • Consult employees on how to handle a downturn in the business (e.g. offer the option of all staff taking pay cuts or reduced hours instead of lay-offs). If layoffs or closures are unavoidable, offer outplacement services, retraining and severance benefits.
  • Provide training opportunities and mentoring so that promotion from within the organisation is maximised.
  • Extend training to life-management, retirement planning and dependents' care. Be open to job-splitting, flexitime and other forms of work-life balance / family-friendly policies.
  • Find some other local small businesses e.g. on your industrial estate or in your small business club/association/chamber and see if you could club together to share some training and human resources programmes.
  • Consider supporting day-care for children or elderly dependents. Provide health-screening and encourages healthy workplace practices (e.g. smoking bans and exercise; and drug and alcohol abuse support).
  • Provide a gym/sports facilities or offer subsidised membership of a local sports centre/gym.

Diversity and Human Rights

  • Work with charities, job centres to re-design your vacant jobs so as to make them accessible to disadvantaged such as disabled workers.
  • Set the tone in not tolerating sexist, racist, homophobic jokes or behaviour in the business e.g. harassment and bullying.
  • Make sure that all staff know that there are explicit policies against discrimination in hiring, salary, promotion, training or termination of any employee on the basis of gender, race, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
  • When hiring, don't just ask friends/work colleagues but think creatively about where to advertise; the job and person specification - and whether there are any local employability schemes e.g. run by a local council or big local employer to help find work for the homeless or disabled candidates.
  • Pay comparable pay for comparable work.
  • Support organisations that promote "fair trade" and human rights compliance. Check where your products are manufactured and of any human rights issues involved.


  • Encourage employee volunteering in the community and back-up with financial contributions and help in-kind.
  • Make some of the business's product or services available free or at cost to charitable and community projects.
  • Look for opportunities to make surplus product and redundant equipment available to local schools, charities, community organisations.
  • Buy from local suppliers.
  • Offer quality work experience for schoolchildren and students.
  • Collaborate with local teachers to make the activity of your business, the subject of a school project.
  • Use your business experience to help a local school or charity or community project to become more efficient and entrepreneurial.
  • Use some of your marketing budget to associate your business/brand with a social cause.



  • Develop new environmental and social products and services.
  • Share your experience with business customers, business neighbours, and fellow members of your trade association or business organisation.
  • Explain the environmental, social and economic performance of the business to your stakeholders and consider their ideas / views in the development of the business.
  • Commit to an external code or standard or set of business principles that provide a framework for you and your stakeholders to measure your progress on environmental and social and community issues, against.


To find out more about the potential to integrate and embed responsible practices within your business, go to




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