UK Businesses on the Road to a Green Economy
NOVO, being in the business of electric car insurance and incident management, has for many years taken a keen interest in innovation in eco-friendly solutions, especially in the automotive industry. On a corporate level, adoption of electric vehicles for company fleets is one positive step in the right direction to reduce carbon emissions, but for many businesses this is only one small part of their ‘green dream’. The road to sustainability is not always easy, especially for SMEs with limited resources, so where do you start and what can be done? Let’s start with ‘green funding’ ….
It is no secret that many businesses throughout the UK are now placing great emphasis on their ‘green strategies’, as pressure mounts for everyone to play their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to protect the planet. The UK government and a number of recognised climate groups are collaboratively driving this change with an aspiration to make the UK a front runner in decarbonisation and the green economy.
There government says, “almost £5 billion of funding is available to help UK businesses become greener as part of the government’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050”. There are grants and loans for a range of eco-friendly initiatives to increase energy efficiency or reduce carbon emissions, as well as support for those involved in developing “critical technology needed for a green industrial revolution.” Back in May 2021, the government announced £166 million cash injection for green technology which it said would create around 60,000 UK jobs, as part of the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan to “accelerate the delivery of the critical game-changing technologies needed to further drive Britain’s climate change ambitions.”
SOUNDS GOOD, BUT WHAT DOES THIS ACTUALLY MEAN IN REAL TERMS AND IF YOU’RE A BUSINESS LOOKING TO ACCELERATE ‘GREEN PLANS’ WHERE DO YOU START?
It may seem a rather arduous task but the latest updates on green grants availability and eligibility are published on the Government website so it is worth spending a little time investigating what is available. Be mindful, there are deadlines for certain applications. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are a good starting point. The UK Business Alliance for Net Zero was launched in 2021, bringing together businesses and organisations and working in collaboration with the UK Government and various stakeholders.
Businesses can also usually source information from their local authorities and Chambers of Commerce. The Carbon Trust Green Business Fund may also be helpful for small to medium sized organisations in England, Scotland and Wales designed to help improve energy efficiencies. The Carbon Trust also offers free advice to businesses to help them use energy more efficiently and provides assistance about installing renewable energy sources. Similarly, the Energy Savings Trust offers consultancy support, training and assistance to businesses of all sizes in helping to reduce carbon emissions, from buildings to transport. As we say, there is a little homework to be done!
SO, WHAT ARE THE PRACTICAL STEPS THAT CAN BE TAKEN TO REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS FOR A MORE SUSTAINABLE WORKPLACE?
Firstly, designating a ‘Green Team’ or ‘Taskforce’ within any business is beneficial because it immediately gives some dedicated focus and responsibility for implementing strategic change for carbon and energy reduction projects. This team can then champion the benefits of adopting more eco-friendly processes to colleagues, and in some cases incentivise ‘sustainable thinking’ by initiating Reward Schemes for individuals, or departments, who make innovative (or sometimes very simple) suggestions for change within an organisation. Making any eco-friendly transition enjoyable and inclusive, often is the most successful way of rolling out change. It is worth remembering that small changes to habits can make a big difference.
When we talk about reducing carbon emissions, one of the first things that frequently springs to mind, is pollution from fossil-fuelled vehicles. It is why many companies are transitioning their vehicle fleets to electric and through Government charge point grants, are also being incentivised to install EV chargers at their premises for visitors and employees. The adoption of plug-in hybrid and zero-emission electric cars is fast gaining pace in the UK, and there are of course many benefits for companies and company car drivers. EVs need some special considerations including electric car insurance, for which there are now companies such as NOVO offering specialist EV insurance and Incident Management solutions.
Of course, electric vehicles need power supply, drawing energy from the grid. Smart EV charging meters are clever, intuitive devices, that can talk to ‘the grid’ to draw electricity at the cheapest time of day or night according to tariff, or when there is more surplus renewable energy being generated. Some are compatible with renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind-generated electricity.
On the subject of renewable energy, there are many businesses that have already installed solar panels, or even wind turbines, alongside other eco-friendly initiatives, such as rainwater harvesting systems for efficient use of water and commercial heat pumps, which can be much more economical too.
Another very simple consideration is to introduce a Cycle2Work Scheme, which is another government initiative introduced to reduce congestion on the roads and reduce carbon emissions. There is a registration process involved for the company and ‘cyclist’ but if your team are partial to the open air, and want some physical exercise too, then this scheme could be perfect for your business! Check out the Cycle2Work website for all the options and details.
Away from vehicles, it should not be forgotten that the built environment can often be a significant source of emissions, from heating, lighting, power or fuel for machinery and equipment, and there is of course, an environmental impact from certain manufacturing processes. The efficient use of energy, especially given the escalating costs, is a serious challenge for most organisations. Effective insulation, such as double glazing, is a good starting point, as is replacing lights with low energy LEDs, but taking time to assess the various energy saving schemes and systems that are available is time well spent, for the planet and for your profit margin! Adjusting the heating and air conditioning systems, even if only very marginally, can also make a real difference to energy consumption.
Recycling has become second-nature to many of us. We do it in our homes, but are we exploring every avenue for recycling in the workplace? While some packaging waste is sent for recycling, it is worth evaluating just how many other materials can be recycled. Paper, wood, plastic, metals and glass are to name but a few. Minimising waste from production processes, especially waste that can’t be recycled, reduces the amount being sent to landfill, and ultimately will contribute to lowering CO2 emissions. Plastic waste plays havoc with the environment, threatening wildlife and spreading toxins so any actions taken to minimise it, is a positive step forward. Talking with suppliers to reduce packaging can sometimes be effective. And then there’s the office environment – how reliant are you still on paper? Of course, in a digital era most of us have become acclimatised with paperless or paper light systems, which has many efficiency benefits too.
Finally, think about offsetting any carbon you can’t reduce. Planting trees can help to absorb CO2 emissions and there are many schemes set up to which donations can be made. The Woodland Trust says that “an estimated 20 million tonnes of CO2 are absorbed and locked away by the UK’s existing trees and woods. The 1,000 woods in our care across the country make a significant contribution to this total.”
It may feel like a long journey ahead, but every small step can make a real difference in tackling global climate change.
IS YOUR BUSINESS INTRODUCING EV FLEETS?
If your organisation is looking for EV insurance for new electric company car fleets, and the peace of mind of Incident Management support, then please speak to the knowledgeable team at NOVO, one of the UK’s leading specialists in EV insurance.
We can tell you about the many benefits of using our electric vehicle insurance cover and give you all the advice you need about our policies, which include the guarantee of a like-for-like replacement EV in the event a vehicle is off the road to keep your business travel running smoothly.