Green Street: Planet Friendly Guide for SMEs

Green Street is a Planet Friendly Guide with around 30 practical actions to help small retailers & hospitality businesses work together to slash their carbon footprint and become more sustainable as quickly as possible.

Date added 17 September 2021
Last updated 17 September 2021

The Green Street online resource features a number of actions that SMEs can take to make their operations more sustainable, based on the real-life experiences of retailers and people who have already tried to make their businesses greener. The resource is designed to be very user-friendly and has a friendly jargon buster to help users work out some of the many technical terms that sometimes make this area difficult to understand.

The guide is based around six planet-friendly principles, with each principle having its own information and a set of actions that users can take. Each action has guidance on what to do, how it will help your business thrive and where to go for extra help if you need it.

The six principles are as follows:

  • Save energy and switch to renewables
  • Minimise packaging
  • Recycle and re-use
  • Offer greener choices
  • Work together
  • Share what you learn

Save energy and switch to renewables

According to the British Retail Consortium, if every retailer switched to using renewable energy, that would save between 40m and 50m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Switching to a renewable energy supplier can also help your business save money, as research from the Carbon Trust found that for many businesses (not just retailers), a 20% cut in energy costs represents the same bottom-line benefit as a 5% increase in sales.

Other useful actions include installing a smart meter in order to track your energy consumption in real time, installing LED lighting that use up to 90% less energy than a standard bulb and last a lot longer, insulate your building in order to reduce heating costs and swap to more energy efficient equipment for everyday domestic items such as kettles and fridges.

Minimise packaging

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, at current speeds, by weight, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, so we desperately need to stop using single use plastic. The guide asks users to think about packaging in four categories:

  1. Don’t use it in the first place
  2. Make it recyclable (glass, cardboard, paper, wood)
  3. Make it compostable
  4. The rest (non-recyclable / compostable)

By reducing packaging and ensuring that it is made of recyclable materials you can avoid extra costs from up-and-coming taxations for you and your customers. The UK’s Plastic Packaging Tax will launch in April 2022, charging businesses of all sizes for packaging that doesn’t use at least 30% recycled plastic.

Recycle and re-use

The Circle Economy’s 2021 Circularity Gap Report found that only 8.6% of the world is circular (that means using and reusing objects for as long as possible, rather than throwing them away). If we can double that figure, the world will release no greenhouse emissions.

Actions that businesses can take to help include offering a rental or subscription service so that the same product can be used by more customers, increasing the profit you make from the product over time. One real world example includes Patagonia’s Worn Wear initiative, which accepts used merchandise from customers to be resold at a lower price point. In its first 6 months online, Patagonia sold $1 million worth of used clothes.

Offer greener choices

Sourcing sustainable products is the most important change your business can make, as this is where 75% of all retailers’ emissions come from. The more you can source and stock local products, the more your business is likely to attract more customers who want to support their local community. To take action, you can look at the existing products that you sell and see if there are more sustainable options, which you can make available to your customers.

These can be products that are:

  • Made from recycled/recyclable materials
  • Certified to be sustainable (e.g. Global Organic Textile Standard or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certified)
  • Innovative and bespoke (e.g. wooden toothbrushes, shampoo bars)
  • Packaged with minimal or no plastic that can be sold loose (e.g. nails in a DIY shop)
  • Products which help your customers to live more sustainably e.g. compost bins, chemical free versions of products, eco food wraps
  • Easily reused or recycled.

Work together

The Covid pandemic truly demonstrated the power of what can be achieved by collaborating. Learning from this and applying it to how we can all work together to combat climate change is fundamental. This will help to encourage innovation and to save costs by sharing resources. All retailers want to attract more customers to their High Street and providing planet friendly shopping options is a definite win-win for all.

Actions that can be taken include setting up an online community group (with local retailers and businesses) to share knowledge, resources and learnings, as well as working with local charities and social enterprises on sustainable projects to support your community. Working together, you could create a sustainable hub on your high street to provide shared repairs services, information and workshops to customers; or even shared deliveries if a group of you sell online.

Share what you learn

Research from Futerra shows that 70% of consumers really care about the eco-credentials of the products they buy, therefore, it’s important that you communicate how and why the products you choose to stock are helping the planet. Sharing knowledge with your employees will also help, as they become strong advocates for your business and its ethos.

As well as promoting and sharing your successes online to become a planet friendly retailer, don’t forget to make sure that your shop window clearly lets customers know the good work that you have been doing. Being able to say that shopping with you is better for the environment is a very strong and attractive statement for customers.

For more detailed information about the types of actions you can take to become a greener, more sustainable business, visit the Green Street online resource hub here: https://greenstreet.org.uk/