By Moira Grassick, Managing Director at Peninsula Ireland

The UN Climate Change Conference – better known as COP26 – takes place this month.

World leaders have assembled in Glasgow for the two-week event to discuss the global response to the climate crisis.

Public empowerment has been thrust into the spotlight during this event which prompts the question: How can small businesses be more sustainable?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to hitting sustainability goals as an SME. By 2030 commercial emissions are in Ireland are set to increase to 1.9 metric tonnes so businesses can no longer stand by.

Ethical companies are thriving. More than ever, consumers care about where their products come from. Furthermore, in a recent survey, ‘climate change/protecting the environment’ ranked as one of the greatest corners for Ireland’s Millennials and Gen Z. As an employer, you must consider and address these concerns to show that you’re in touch with your employees and their values.

Not to fear though – there’s no need to overhaul your whole business model. Small steps add up, so here are five changes you can implement right now:

  1. Offer remote work

Though it might not be feasible for all businesses, the pandemic has certainly shown that remote work is viable for many. In Ireland, between 1990 and 2020, emissions attributed to the transport sector increased by 100.1%. Forgoing the daily commute could reduce that dramatically.

  1. Provide public transit commuter benefits

For businesses that can’t offer remote work, there are still plenty of ways to help cut emissions. Many public transport companies work with employers to provide discounted seasonal passes which can often be much cheaper (and less stressful!) than the cost of driving and parking.

  1. Reduce, reuse, recycle

This can be as simple as asking employees to go paperless or to bring in their own reusable cups and utensils rather than providing plastic. Reducing consumption also means you’re spending less money on handling goods and materials as well as waste management.

  1. Use sustainable packaging

Providing sustainable packaging can come at a slightly higher cost, but consumers tend to be willing to pay more for an eco-friendly product. Carbon footprint is a main concern for a high number of consumers and making the switch to a more environmentally friendly choice of packaging could open up a whole new customer base.

  1. Partner with green businesses and use sustainable products

Creating relationships with other green businesses shows that you’re genuinely committed to the cause. It will reduce the carbon footprint of your entire business throughout the supply chain, proving to customers that your actions aren’t just for show.

[Image: Marcell Viragh for Unsplash]