Corporate Social Responsibility

by Becky Toal and Veronica Broomes


Environmental impacts have never been higher up the agenda then at present. There is increasing media coverage on climate change issues and associated concerns, such as carbon emissions, and companies that get caught polluting are pounced on by the media and heavily fined by regulators.

Current trends in environmental awareness include customer loyalty schemes for ‘green actions’, an increase in biodegradable and compostable packaging, and attention to carbon neutrality and bio-fuels.

For any organisation, the first step is often to produce an environmental policy and undertake an environmental audit exercise which can help identify environmental risks. Once the key environmental aspects and key significant environmental matters have been listed, the organisation may decide to implement an environmental management system. This aids the organisation to ensure that all the relevant environmental legislation that can impact on it has been identified and that the organisation’s activities are in compliance with the law.

The implementation of an Environmental Management System (EMS) can lead to the identification of savings that can be made through greater efficiency in resource use. It should be noted, however, that accredited EMSs, such as the international standard (ISO14000), the British standard (BS8555) and the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), incur upfront costs in preparing the requisite manuals and supporting documents and fees for an auditor to undertake the audit. Moreover, subsequent renewal of accreditations, every two or three years depending on the EMS of choice, incurs additional costs.

Of course, it should be recognised that the quality assurance implicit in an accredited system may be demanded by buyers from specific sectors or industries. For others, however, it is enough to have policy statements and internal guidelines on environmental issues, including a commitment to compliance with relevant environmental legislation. In this regard, it is useful to maintain an updated list of relevant environmental legislation, assigning responsibility for such updates to a named manager.

Actions that can be taken by managers

Find out if your organisation operates an environmental management system. If not, establish a ‘Green Team’ with a designated ‘Green Champion’ to identify and manage the environmental impacts of your business processes, products and services. Both positive and negative impacts should be identified. The Green Team, however, should focus on identifying measures that will avoid or reduce negative impacts. Even greater effectiveness will be had from quantifying savings, financial and environmental, produced by reducing negative impacts. Such savings will be reflected in lower operation costs: for example, lower energy costs for heating, procurement costs from purchasing less stationery, lower carbon emissions from fewer journeys and increasing use of public transport.

Sources of free publications and advice on environmental issues include the Environmental Agency, DEFRA, Envirowise, Carbon Trust and Waste Resources Action Programme.

Environmental and cost savings tips

  • Set your thermostat to 19°C – energy costs rise by eight per cent for every 1°C increase in thermostat setting.
  • Switch off your computers, monitors and printers at night to cut your electricity bill by at least 10 per cent.
  • Heating costs can increase by 30 per cent or more if your boiler is poorly operated, insulated or maintained – ensure your boiler is serviced regularly and adjusted for optimum efficiency.
  • Install energy-saving light bulbs. They last up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs and use 75 per cent less electricity to provide the same amount of light.
  • Still using 38mm fluorescent tubes? Switch to 26mm slim-line tubes and use 10 per cent less energy.
  • Switch on the Power Save mode for your photocopier during the day and switch off your photocopier overnight.
  • Consider fitting Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) to equipment; in many cases, using a VSD to reduce the speed of a pump or fan by just 20 per cent can halve its running costs.
  • Compressed air equipment needs regular checks for leaks; a leak the size of a match head wastes enough energy in a day to toast 444 slices of bread!
  • Check the seals on refrigerated areas/equipment – replace worn or damaged seals to reduce the costs of refrigeration.
  • Switch to using an internal fax modem on your computer, instead of an external fax machine. This saves on energy use and stationery costs for fax paper, especially if left on overnight so the organisation receives unsolicited faxes.
  • Install water-saving devices in your buildings. These include devices in the toilet cisterns to reduce the amount of water used per flush and the use of taps that will slow the flow of water for hand washing.
  • Find out if a water meter is installed at your organisation. If the organisation is based in a shared office block, the facilities manager will have this information. The installation of a water meter will encourage less wastage of water, and you will be paying only for what you use, rather than the average for your location.
  • Recycle as much waste as possible. Not only is this helping to reduce waste sent to landfill, but you can reduce charges for waste removal.
  • Increase the use of email for distribution of correspondence, newsletters and reports to internal and external audiences. Not only will this save hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds on annual stationery costs, but huge savings will be made on postage costs.
  • Use direct bank transfers (BACS) to make payments and send remittance advice notes as email messages, instead of posting cheques and remittance notices. Savings will be made from reduced payments for postage and stationery.