Sustainability: a little can be a lot

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    Francois Badenhorst

    Francois Badenhorst Business Editor, UKBF & AWEB Staff Member

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    Disposable, single use coffee cups are the symbol of the UK’s coffee addiction. But these cups are also totems for wasteful, single use plastic products.

    The stats are horrific. According to the Environmental Audit Committee: the UK throws away 2.5bn disposable coffee cups annually, less than one percent of coffee cups are recycled and half a million cups are littered every day.

    It’s why Boston Tea Party, a small chain of coffee houses headquartered in Bristol, have banned single use cups. From 1 June, you’ll need to bring your own cup, or ‘borrow’ a cup (i.e. pay a deposit, like the beer cups at a festival).

    The risks are certainly there, it could lead to a decrease in demand. If consumers don’t want to bring their own cups, there’s sure to be a competitor that’ll gladly offer them the convenience of a disposable cup.

    One of Boston Tea Party’s own suppliers, Frank Water, notably experienced a 35% reduction in sales after halting the sales of any water in plastic bottles. For the smaller businesses on UKBF, these financial risks are existential.

    But these initiatives could really be seen as ahead of the curve. Regulation, as anxieties over the environment mount, will enforce stricter standards and bring their own costs. As a recent thread on UKBF lamented, tougher MOT tests from May onwards will enforce stricter emission standards which will likely catch out diesel cars.

    It can be onerous and cost pressure will increase. But environmental policy can actually create savings when belt tightening is needed. As Michael Wilks, the finance manager at a startup called Winnow Solutions, explained, “There are a number of ways to cut costs ethically.”

    “Just looking around my desk I can see that most of our furniture is second-hand and reconditioned – cheap and ethical while being exactly as good as something expensive and unethical. Energy efficiency is another example – our Plumen bulbs give the same effect as incandescent bulbs but with a fraction of the electricity usage.”

    A heroic, likely very thoughtfully calculated, stand like Boston Tea Party’s isn’t necessary. The Federation of Small Businesses suggests policies like recycling printer and toner cartridges, buy and use fairly traded products (especially tea/coffee), ensure lights, computers and other equipment are switched off at the mains every night.

    These small changes may seem trivial, but the potential cumulative impact is massive: 99% of all businesses in the UK are small and medium sized. If everyone did a bit, well - I’ll let you do the maths.


  2. Julia Sta Romana

    Julia Sta Romana UKBF Contributor Free Member

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    I think sustainability measures like this can help micro and small businesses in the long run. They create opportunities. And if you design your business with sustainability in mind, it can even be your competitive advantage.
    Posted: May 9, 2018 By: Julia Sta Romana Member since: Apr 18, 2017
  3. Priyanka Agarwal

    Priyanka Agarwal UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    Agreed to everything you just said. With no limit to environmental threat and the constant degradation in the condition, it is time to take a steadfast stand. Small businesses who are mindful of the environment, and practice sustainability, have a clear shot at becoming better in the future. We too use old and recycled products in the office. Thank you for pointing out the stats. It is really motivating.
    Posted: May 25, 2018 By: Priyanka Agarwal Member since: May 24, 2018

    ÜZEYİR UKBF Newcomer Free Member

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    thank you
    Posted: Jan 25, 2019 By: ÜZEYİR Member since: Jan 25, 2019