Being environmentally conscious
MANY entrepreneurs believe that incorporating environmentally sustainable practices should become a priority only once a business has established itself as a profitable enterprise. Some even believe that sustainability is best left to large corporates.
It is vital to understand that not only is it possible for a small business to become more sustainable without breaking the bank, but that costs may mount as you delay sustainability measures until the business has grown. Replacing inefficient business assets, introducing a sustainable company culture and finding new ways to utilise resources is significantly more expensive for established businesses than for those that incorporate these into their growth strategies early on.
The first step to greening a business is by far the simplest, most affordable and can make a surprising amount of difference. It is estimated that lighting in the residential and commercial environments consumes about 50 percent of South Africa’s electricity. Although energy-efficient LED lighting can be more expensive, the cost can easily be offset by the fact that it consumes between 70 percent and 90 percent less energy.
Optimised insulation is often the single biggest difference one can make at a relatively low cost. Roof insulation material is plentiful and relatively cheap, and it has a dramatic effect on the temperature inside a building, which can dramatically cut the cost of heating in winter and cooling in summer.
Business owners can consider installing double glazing on windows. Two layers of window pane separated by a layer of air is an excellent way of insulating windows without having to block out natural light.
Saving can therefore be made on heating and cooling costs, as well as the need for electric lighting.
The cost of installing renewable energy-generation technology can be offset by the tax benefits.
The Income Tax Act allows businesses to enjoy accelerated capital allowances in respect of renewable energy spend as a tax deduction.
The quantum of the deduction will vary depending on the nature and purpose of the spend.
These tax incentives contribute towards driving down operating costs, and you enjoy a return on the capital investment over the short term.
It is also important to note that the roof of a building is not the only space to place solar panels. Carports are increasingly being covered by solar panels, and some outside light fixtures come fitted with their own mini-solar panels. Tanks
Installing a fully functioning greywater system might be beyond the reach of most owners of existing buildings because of the cost of redoing the plumbing system. However, installing large portable water tanks to capture rainwater is an affordable step towards sustainable water use. If one is fortunate enough to be developing a building from scratch, consider constructing a fully functioning grey water recycling system.
Optimised insulation is often the single biggest difference one can make at a relatively low cost.
Recycled building materials are cheaper and more sustainable, and can be made to look new. Waste materials from other manufacturing companies (such as furniture makers) can also be incorporated in other businesses; and finding opportunities to recycle the business’s resources presents opportunities to save money, become more efficient, and be noticed by potential clients and partners.
Sustainability has become a specialised industry, and one would not be unwise to seek the advice of a service provider that specialises in this field. From architects to energy consultants and recycling experts, professional help often pays for itself in savings and valuable learnings.
Paying attention to more responsible and accountable behaviour can yield benefits, and SMEs that embrace environmentally conscious and sustainable practices may find better ways to close the gap between themselves and larger competitors. Building a business on best practice from day one is imperative for SMEs that aim to become industry leaders.
Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited.