Many of the changes you make in your own lives can be applied to your workplace – only here, due to scale, they are likely to have an even greater impact. Helping to change behaviour in your workplace can also start to alter your colleagues’ attitudes and encourage them to take these approaches home and into their own lives.
Every workplace is different and offers unique opportunities. Some businesses are already very proactive in limiting their impact on the environment and you may work for a company that is certified to the ISO1400 Environmental standard. There is a growing desire for businesses to demonstrate that they behave ethically and responsibly through B Corp certification demonstrating they meet social sustainability and environmental standards.
Many companies will also welcome suggestions that enable the company to reduce consumption and waste, therefore saving money.
Look at the consumables used in your workplace.
Could you replace a consumable with a more sustainable alternative?
Focus particularly on single-use plastics.
- Remove unnecessary packaging on your products or replace plastic packaging with alternatives like paper.
- Buy upscaled or reconditioned office equipment instead of new.
- Buy paper that is FSC certified as sustainably sourced.
- Replace single-use plastic cups and cutlery with reusable alternatives.
- Explore alternatives to shop bought plastic packaged sandwiches like a visiting sandwich van or a staff ‘mess scheme’ with a rota for ‘homemade’ lunches.
- Provide access to drinking water so staff can refill their own reusable water bottles instead of buying plastic bottled water.
Look at the waste generated in your workplace.
Are there changes to the way you work that could reduce the amount of waste being generated?
Could any of the waste be reused for something else?
Does your company recycle?
Are there more opportunities for recycling waste?
- Going paperless or printing on both sides of the paper.
- Coffee shops giving away coffee grounds to be for composting.
- Feathers in the farming industry being used to make insulation.
- Superseded medical equipment donated to overseas charities.
- Hairdressers donating hair to charities making wigs for cancer patients.
- Donating unsold food to homeless charities or community groups.
- Collecting used packaging from customers such as boxes and pallets, to be reused.
- Sharing a recycling waste contract with other businesses in the same area; this offers a cost saving and reduces the number of journeys made by different waste contractors to your location.
Look at how energy is being used in your workplace and ask:
Can energy requirements be reduced?
Is energy being wasted?
Is the workplace temperature well controlled or is it too hot in winter and overly air-conditioned in summer?
Are doors and windows left open while heating or air conditioning is on?
Are workstations and lights left on unnecessarily when the premises are empty?
Can you switch to greener forms of energy?
FREE Low Carbon Assessments for Business
Winchester City Council is working with GEP Environmental team to offer local SMEs free carbon footprint assessments. Businesses will receive a bespoke ‘Action Plan’ with advice on how to reduce energy, water, waste and transport emissions and direction to funding opportunities. Explore Winchester District Low Carbon Assessments here. Find out more about WCC’s Support for Sustainable Businesses here.
If you are in the East Hampshire district, explore what East Hants District Council have to offer here.
Also check out UK Business Climate Hub for information and case studies.
Benefits of Solar for Business:
- Save money – energy prices have soared. You can dramatically reduce the costs of electricity for your business. Options which require no capital outlay are available.
- Generate Income – get paid for the electricity you generate and export to the grid.
- Reduce Grid Reliance – generate your own electricity so you are no longer reliant on the grid and susceptible to interruptions in supply.
- Reduce Carbon – get ahead of your competitors and reduce your carbon footprint – a useful marketing opportunity to attract customers.
- Community Energy Schemes can help with installation costs – look at Energise South Downs and Community Energy South.
How do I find a reputable installer?
Visit The Renewable Energy Hub, search by postcode and compare prices to find a trusted renewable energy installer in your area.
My business premises are leased rather than owned, how would solar energy benefit me?
There are packages which offer a one-stop solution benefiting both landlord and leaseholder. Visit Centreco to find out more.
Will I need planning permission?
The installation of solar panels on non-domestic buildings and land might fall under 'permitted development' with no need to apply to the Local Planning Authority for planning permission. Check with your local planning department.
My business is in a shared premises with other businesses, is that an issue?
If you share ownership of a building with other businesses you might want to collaborate to reduced the costs and provide a more sustainable investment and resulting energy profile.
What financial incentives and assistance are available for commercial solar panels?
- Smart Export Guarantee Scheme: small-scale renewables generators are guaranteed payment for any electricity they export to the grid.
- Depending on capacity of your system you may be able to obtain a ‘Renewables Levy Exemption Certificate’, bypassing the requirement to pay the Climate Change Levy (CCL), which is a tax levied on energy products (electricity, natural gas, LPG, coal) used in businesses.
- The Renewable Energy Hub now offer commercial solar energy grants; if your business qualifies they can supply and fit solar panels for your business for FREE. Find out more here.
- Roof Rental Schemes with no capital outlay. A 3rd party company will take over the whole project and meet the capital costs of the installation while your business reaps the benefits of cheaper renewable electricity. Explore community energy schemes here, or look for companies offering this here.
- Business Rates Exemption was introduced in 2023 for green property improvements including solar panels. Read more here.
- Annual Investment Allowance - a capital allowance that allows you to deduct and claim tax reliefs on assets including installing solar panel.
Look at the journeys made on behalf of your company. These might include journeys made by employees getting to and from work but also include deliveries to and from your business and customer journeys.
Can you make changes to reduce the number of journeys required?
Can you replace journeys with less damaging alternatives which reduce their impact?
- Use video conferencing instead of insisting on physical attendance particularly where this avoids a flight being taken.
- Allow or increase working from home.
- Have a workplace ‘car sharing’ scheme to encourage colleagues to travel to work together.
- Support use of public transport by providing company transport from the nearest local bus and train stations to the workplace.
- Consolidate deliveries so less journeys are required.
- Use an ecofriendly delivery service like Zedify who provide zero emission delivery using a fleet of cycle couriers. Zedify currently operate in a number of cities with more joining all the time.
- Use larger delivery providers like Royal Mail over smaller courier companies. Royal Mail provides an efficiency of scale that results in shorter deviation journeys for each specific delivery.
- Switch company vehicles to hybrid and electric vehicles.
- Register for a 'Cycle to Work Scheme'.
- Join a vehicle share club as an alternative to ownership or leasing.
You can support employees cycling to work by getting your company to register with the ‘Cycle to Work Scheme’. This scheme allows employees to spend on bikes and equipment with tax free saving up to 42%.
How the scheme works:
The employer selects a scheme to register with. Popular scheme providers are:
The Cycle Scheme, Evans Cycles ‘Ride to Work’ Scheme and Halfords Cycle2work Scheme.
The employee selects the bike and equipment and registers their selection online.
The employer approves the selection and the employee signs the ‘Hire Agreement’.
The employee receives the bike and equipment and the cost is deducted directly from their salary (before tax) over 12 or 18 month instalments.
At the end of the hire period the employee can purchase the bike for a ‘fair market value’. In practice few employers charge the fair market value and charge a nominal fee.
Employees will save tax and NI contributions on the purchase value of the bicycle. The amount of tax saved will depend on your tax bracket. Employers save on their NI contributions for the employee.
Benefits to your business:
Fitter, healthier and more productive staff.
Savings of up to 13.8% on employer NI contributions.
An attractive benefit for employees.
Switching to electric vehicles offers businesses a number of savings including lower day-to-day running costs. Choosing an electric van could save your business over £2000 through the course of its lifetime.
- Save Corporation tax: a 100% first year allowance means most companies can claim the entire cost of a new electric car or van, against taxable profits in the same year as the purchase, reducing corporation tax liability. The company will also get corporation tax relief on costs of maintaining and insuring the vehicle.
For leased vehicles - monthly rentals are counted as an expense, reducing the company’s profit and corporation tax for the year. For HP agreements, the company will benefit from the 100% first year allowance but will also make corporation tax savings on the interest on the monthly payments.
- Lower running costs: as a rule of thumb you will halve your fuel costs and servicing costs are also lower as electric cars have fewer moving parts.
- Plug-in van grant: you can apply for the government's ‘Plug-in Van Grant’ which is worth 20% of the van’s value up to a maximum of £8000, and usually puts ‘on the road’ costs within touching distance of the conventionally powered commercial vehicle. Find out about applying.
- Road tax exemption: electric vans are exempt from vehicle road tax.
- EV Infrastructure Grant: businesses can reclaim 75% of the cost of installing up to 20 charging points (up to a maximum of £15,000) through the government’s ‘Workplace Charging Scheme’. Find out how to apply here.
- Emission zone exemption: more and more cities are introducing ‘low emission zones’ which levy a daily charge on vehicles. The London ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ came into force in April 2019, with a daily charge of £12.50 for most vehicles, and other cities including Portsmouth, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Bath and Oxford are planning similar schemes. 100% electric vehicles are exempt from emission zone charges.
- Valuable green credentials: not only will you be lowering your carbon footprint and impact on the climate but you gain a powerful marketing credential for your customers. Find more information about electric vans here.
- Employee Benefit: ‘Benefit in Kind’ tax is currently much lower for electric company cars – employees pay just 2% of the list price. Where the company lets employees charge company electric vehicles at the workplace, the employee incurs no taxable benefit for the provision of that free electricity.
- Salary Sacrifice Schemes: Employees lease an electric vehicle through their gross pay. Employees pays less income tax and National Insurance but will pay a little benefit in kind tax. Schemes are free to set up and come with offers like free home chargers. Benefits packages help attract and keep the best talent.
- The Maths: Example purchase of a new Nissan Leaf Acenta - Cost Price £28,940 Capital allowance gives a Corporation Tax saving of £7,235 with further savings possible on insurance and maintenance. Employee’s ‘Benefit in Kind’ tax @2% of list price is £579 p a or £48 pcm.
Zipcar is the worlds largest vehicle sharing club and offers an alternative to ownership or leasing. The scheme means you can scale your fleet to meet your changing business needs. It’s easier and cheaper than having your own vehicles, as fuel, vehicle excise duty, insurance, congestion charge and 24/7 assistance are all included in the price. Book instantly and drive by the minute, hour or day, 24/7. You can choose from thousands of cars, vans, and luxury vehicles.
Each Zipcar replaces 13 privately owned vehicles and offers a more affordable way to drive an electric vehicle. The vehicles are modern, regularly serviced and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) compliant.
Zipcar is available in London, Bristol, Oxford, Maidstone and Cambridge as well as cities across the globe. Visit https://www.zipcar.com/en-gb/how-it-works to find out more about the Zipcar Scheme.
Carbon off-setting can be undertaken to ‘neutralise’ the carbon impact of flights and road miles generated by your business. The cost of ‘off-setting’ can be tax efficient as it can be treated as a business expense.
Visit www.carbonfootprint.com and enter the flight or road miles to calculate the CO2 generated. The site offers a choice of climate change projects that meet either the Voluntary Gold Standard (VGS) or Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS). You simply add the journey to your basket and checkout. This could be an annual event for your company vehicles using mileage data taken from consecutive MOT certificates.