Be­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - FEATURES - BUSI­NESS 101 Ben Bier­man

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.

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