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Eight tips for small business owners

Photo: Happy Worker (Flickr/Norsez)


About 5 million Australians run or work for a small business, making up nearly half of the work force and likely including you, a friend or a family member. Here’s eight simple ways small business can make a difference.

1. Get your paper sourcing right

Buy office paper that is made from recycled or FSC certified fibre, preferably also chlorine free or elemental chlorine free.  For extra points, choose one that is also carbon neutral, but not at the expense of the first two requirements. EcoBUY’s Stephen Reardon explains why it’s these issues in this order

2. Get rid of your halogen lights and other energy guzzlers

If you haven’t already done this, use this guide to replacing energy efficient lighting in the workplace. According to Bendigo Bank you’ll save $19 per year per light globe changed.

For other tips on saving money and the environment by reducing your businesses energy use, see the energy section in Planet Ark Founder John Dee’s guide for small business Sustainable Growth.

3. Give a crap

Why would anyone use newly cut down trees to wipe their bum? It’s easy to order perfectly soft 100% post consumer recycled toilet paper, facial tissues, perforated kitchen roll towels and hand towels, not whitened with chlorine. Brands include Earth Care and Green Choice.

Go one step further and choose a recycled loo paper that works to combat deadly diseases caused by poor sanitation in developing countries. Choose from Who Gives a Crap  and LooLoo paper.Loo Loo paper logo

4. Find suppliers whose products make a difference

Choose certified sustainable furniture, building products, cleaning products and printing suppliers. Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) has a database of certified products.

Find an office supply store that promotes and stocks sustainable products. Order online from Eco-Office if that’s easier or if you can’t find one near you.

If you’re in manufacturing use the Blackwoods catalogue to identify ‘green workplace solutions’.  And for some light reading check Blackwoods efforts to make their own business more sustainable.

5. Find a recycling plan that works for your office

Dispose responsibly. Planet ark have some tips on recycling in your office; what you can recycle and how.

6. Choose an ethical default super fund

Your super fund has a large impact on the companies it chooses to invest in, and those it doesn’t. The super fund you choose for yourself, or as your default fund, and the investment options you or your employees choose within the fund, determine whether that impact is consistent with your values or not. Find out how you can pick a sustainable super fund that you can offer to your staff.

7. Give your employees the advice they want

Research shows 80% of employees of larger companies want their employers to provide tips and advice on how they can be more sustainable. That’s hard in small companies where you don’t have experts on hand. One solution is to tell them about Otter, a free fortnightly eNewsletter that offers tips and actionable advice for people who want to use their consumer choices to be more sustainable, promote fair trade and protect the interests of animals.

8. Say it out loud

Don’t be shy, be proud of taking action. Tell your employees, suppliers and customers what you’re doing.

Don’t worry that you are not doing everything possible. Implement one or two things that really make a difference and then have a look at other things you can do that that suit your business. Then tell the world about it. Others will follow your lead, and that’s a great way to amplify your actions to promote change.

Go one step beyond

Once you are doing all that, find out more. Check out the Commonwealth Government’s Living Greener guide for small business of Sensis and John Dee’s guidebook Sustainable Growth for Small Business. And subscribe to Otter yourself for tips on changes you can make at home and in the office.


Disclosure: an Otter team member is on the Board of GECA – Good Environmental Choice Australia, Australia’s independent non-profit life-cycle based certification scheme.


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