How do we minimise our impact on the environment as a small business?

Martha Lane
Martha Lane
Posted on

As a small climate tech business, our net positive impact on the environment is already impressive. We work with impactful climate tech companies every day, boosting their communications and their commercial success to help their climate solutions thrive. We have a small team of around ten and we don’t waste resources like larger businesses often do. Do we really need to further reduce our environmental footprint?

We say yes. Another unique thing about Life Size is that we are an employee-owned business. This means our employees have an unusual level of control over the business decisions. 

In 2023, at our annual team meet-up, we devised three main values that we want to commit to as a business to make Life Size feel more ‘ours’. We decided, unanimously, that boosting our positive impact on the environment through our work while minimising the negative impact of our operations was incredibly important to us.

Defining minimal impact on the environment

What do we mean by ‘minimal impact on the environment’? 

Firstly, in the context of our value work and this article, we talk about impact as negative. Promoting a positive impact on the environment is already at the core of our business, so we wanted this value work to focus on reducing the negative side effects that inevitably come with operating a business.

We were also considered in our decision to use the word ‘minimal’. On the one hand, it acknowledges our negative impact on the environment can never be zero. On the other, minimal, is a strong quantifier, meaning ‘as small as possible’. This was a deliberate choice: We could easily have made our target to ‘reduce our environmental impact’, but this is too vague. Instead, we are holding ourselves accountable without setting unrealistic goals by committing to minimal environmental impact.

This article will take you through the most significant changes we have made as a business so far, why we made these decisions and the impact it has had. We hope other businesses can find inspiration in the progress we have made, and the purpose we have gained as a team as a result of this work.

Living our values by becoming a fully-remote company

Our first big step toward reducing our emissions as a business was going fully remote. In 2020, like most companies across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to switch to remote working almost overnight. 

It naturally took us some time to find our feet – getting used to less in-person interaction during our workday and finding the best tools for video calls for example – but the transition was surprisingly easy. We already had an ‘agile working policy’ in place to accommodate team member’s work-life balance, so remote working wasn’t a completely new concept to us. Those less familiar soon adjusted and we found solutions to new problems as a team. 

When restrictions were lifted, we decided to remain fully remote. Our impromptu trial run revealed some excellent benefits. Apart from more flexibility for employees and significant cost savings on commuting and office rental, our carbon footprint shrank as we were no longer travelling to and from work every day, and we eliminated the carbon footprint associated with running an office space.

Although the transition was initially forced upon us, we realised that it fits our values of minimal impact on the environment and work-life balance.

Implementing a strict travel policy

After going remote, we decided to take our emissions savings from transportation one step further by updating our travel policy. Going remote may seem like a big enough change, but transport emissions represent around 25% of the EU’s total GHG emissions. We wanted to do everything we could as a business to reduce this number.

As an international company, we have to travel abroad fairly regularly to meet clients, and with aviation being one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, we were determined to limit aviation travel specifically. Though we can’t operate without occasional long- distance travel, we can change how we travel. 

We have made it company policy to use trains as our main mode of transport rather than planes, apart from in the most exceptional circumstances. This meant that for our annual team building event, or ‘annual adventure’, no team members travelled to Kampen in The Netherlands by plane, with most taking the train instead. This saved an estimated 90% in emissions.

Contributing to our local and global community as a team

Another benefit of being an employee-owned company is that we have control over where our profit goes. As a team, we are united by our belief that our business should have a positive impact. This doesn’t just mean paying fair salaries to employees; it means using our privileged position to give back to the global community. Joining 1% for the planet enables this.

As a member of 1% for the planet, we donate 1% of our profit to environmental and social organisations. We give half of this as a monetary donation and the other half through volunteer hours. Donating 1% of our profit this way gives our team a sense of purpose and community. 

In particular, our volunteering sessions, which have included distributing essential supplies to homeless people for Let’s Feed Brum and packing tote bags containing personal care and household cleaning essentials for those experiencing hygiene poverty for The Hygiene Bank, double as team bonding exercises. 

Looking ahead to a greener future

From going fully remote and committing to train travel over flying to joining 1% for the planet, we are proud of how much we have already achieved towards our goal. If we can implement all these changes as a small, employee-owned business, we know others can too.

But we know we can do even better. We are already in the process of reviewing the current level of sustainability of our at-home office equipment suppliers and  transitioning our new website to a green server. We are determined to minimise our negative environmental impact as a business as much as possible.

Has your business had a similar experience in reducing your environmental footprint? Let us know how you are making your business greener – we are always interested in new ways to live our values.

You can also continue to follow us on this journey by connecting with us on LinkedIn.

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