How green is your business? This question is becoming ever more important, with customers increasingly more likely to support businesses that can demonstrate environmental credentials. As the costs of raw materials and energy rise worldwide, there are significant savings to be had by adopting leaner – and greener – business practices.
Ireland is committed to reducing carbon emissions (greenhouse gas emissions) by 51% by 2030. It’s an ambitious, if necessary, target and changing how business works will be key to achieving it. The government is bringing out a range of measures and supports to embed green thinking in businesses of all sizes. Various initiatives are being rolled out, many available through agencies such as Enterprise Ireland or SEAI.
Climate Jargon Buster
If the concept of climate change is still a little foreign to you, you might want to start with the government’s Climate Jargon Buster, an easy A-Z of terms such as bio-economy, retrofitting, and decarbonisation.
Climate Toolkit 4 Business
Just like individuals, businesses have a carbon footprint. Factors such as energy consumption, waste, and travel can help to estimate your carbon footprint in tonnes of CO2 annually. Measuring your footprint is the first step to reducing it. To this end, the government has created a tool to help with the calculation, the Climate Toolkit 4 Business. A short questionnaire covers the areas of energy, travel, materials, and water. You will need access to information such as kilos of black bin waste produced annually and petrol vs diesel mileage per annum to make sure the estimate is accurate and that the recommendations are relevant, but it is a great place to start your sustainability journey.
Depending on the metrics you input, your report will include a range of green recommendations, with links to additional resources and organisations that can help (some of which we’ll be referencing in this blog).
Tool for Resource Efficiency (Environmental Protection Agency)
The EPA’s Tool for Resource Efficiency, or Tree, is a similar tool that estimates your resource efficiency (RE) with questions covering energy, water, waste, and management system. Rather than inputting metrics, answers are ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘somewhat’. On completion, you’ll be emailed a report with various recommendations. This tool was developed a few years ago and doesn’t include the links to current supports and grants that the Climate Toolkit 4 Business does.
SEAI Energy Academy
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has created an online learning platform, called the SEAI Energy Academy, that offers free training so that you can upskill yourself and your staff in energy efficiency. You’ll be able to reduce your energy dependence and identify cost savings. Modules cover energy efficiency, energy and climate, energy technologies, (including heating, lighting, and refrigeration), changing behaviour in the workplace, and understanding your energy bill. Each module is between 15 and 20 minutes long.
Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland
The SEAI has lots of other information and resources, so it’s well worth spending some time browsing their site. It also administers various grants, such as the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat. Here are a few links to get you started:
Excellence in Energy Efficiency Design (EXEED) Certified Program (SEAI)
Also from the SEAI, the EXEED programme aims to facilitate energy efficiency best practice in business across three phases: planning and design, implementation, operation. Three ‘certified distinctions’ provide levels of assurance of sustained energy savings (heating, cooling, refrigeration, compressed air and business processes). EXEED designs, verifies, and manages optimum energy performance and management at the earliest stages of the lifecycle, with a grant scheme up to the value of €1,000,000 per year per project.
The Climate Ready Academy
The Climate Ready Academy is a Skillnet Ireland project, in partnership with a range of industry bodies, government agencies, businesses, and other stakeholders. It offers specialised training for businesses in the areas of climate action, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Green for Micro (Local Enterprise Office)
If you are a smaller SME (under 10 employees), your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) may be a good place to start developing your sustainable action plan. The free Green for Micro programme helps prepare small businesses for the low carbon, more resource-efficient economy of the future. Unlike a generalised programme, the two-day mentoring support with a green consultant will provide you with advice and technical expertise tailored to your business and your green goals. Download their brochure (PDF) here.
Climate Enterprise Action Fund (Enterprise Ireland)
Enterprise Ireland’s Climate Enterprise Action Fund has a range of supports to help you measure, understand, and action the factors that affect your carbon footprint. Designed to meet the different stages of need, the fund is available to Enterprise Ireland clients that fit the eligibility criteria.
Climate Action Voucher
Up to €5,000 towards the cost of hiring a green consultant/trainer to undertake a short in-company assignment. This could be guiding an environmental management system, a corporate sustainable strategy aligned with national/international frameworks (Origin Green, UN Environmental SDGs, CDP, etc.), a life cycle assessment, or circular economy thinking/transition to circular economy business models.
If your project is more substantial, you can get funding of 50% of eligible costs with a grant limit of €50,000. Eligible activities include developing a comprehensive climate change and sustainability plan and aligning to international standards and frameworks, so costs could also be related to salary costs, advisory fees, or training.
Next steps for your business
These are just some of the green incentives and supports available in Ireland at the moment. Depending on your size, sector, and business type, there may be a host of other opportunities open to you, which is why the government’s footprint calculator, mentioned above, is a smart first step.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities, you could simply start by facilitating behavioural changes within your business, such as helping employees reduce the impact of their daily commute with the Bike to Work scheme or the Taxsaver Commuter Ticket Scheme. Or your team could learn about water conservation and take a pledge. Or you could switch to only purchasing energy products from the Triple E register.
At Beyond, we’ve chosen to become a B Corp, and part of that journey will be working on our environmental impact.
Wherever you start, remember that moving to sustainable products, services, and business models will strengthen your brand, make the business more robust, and save you money. Going green makes good business sense!