The ongoing climate emergency is an ever-present talking point in the media and everyday discourse, and people across the world are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment in their private and professional lives.

As a small business owner, taking steps to make your operations greener can help you streamline them, save your business money, and showcase your commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change.

If your business is overdue for a climate audit, or you’re simply looking to grow your operations as sustainably as possible, here are 5 ways you can leverage technology in your business to ensure a greener future.

Go Paperless and Cashless

Small businesses from all industries are already making great strides in working towards a paperless future, by keeping communications, contracts, HR records and more strictly digital. However, there are still plenty of business processes that are characterised by the unnecessary use of paper, such as paying bills and issuing invoices, local print advertising, and more.

By getting ahead of the curve and actively removing paper from your operations, you’ll not only save a lot of trees but also cut a huge portion of your overheads, freeing up capital and empowering you to develop future initiatives.

Going cashless can also go a long way towards making your business greener. Every polymer banknote releases 9kg of CO2 into the atmosphere, meaning that the banknotes currently in circulation in the UK have released some 42.3million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Bear in mind that this is before looking into the environmental cost of producing and distributing coins!

Public affinity for cashless businesses has never been higher, and with the typical card reader price being highly accessible for small business owners, making your business cashless is more or less a no-brainer!

Consider Shutting Down your Physical Storefront

In modern retail, offering customers an eCommerce option is now a matter of survival outside of certain specialist niches. While there can be certain benefits to having a physical storefront alongside your eCommerce store, the days of the physical premise being a necessity are long gone.

If you’re able to make your business digital-only, it will totally eliminate the environmental impact of your water, electricity, and other utilities required to keep the business ticking over.

Even if you’re not ready to do away with your storefront, investing more of your resources into eCommerce can still help to reduce your company’s environmental impact massively, as it will keep a cap on the number of customers who need to drive to and from your physical premises in order to buy your products.

Though trimming down or eliminating your physical premises might feel like a daunting prospect, it doesn’t need to happen all at once. Small businesses can become much greener by gradually reducing their dependence on the traditional elements of running a business that can drive up an organisation’s carbon footprint.

Leverage the Internet of Things to Monitor Energy Consumption

The internet of things (IoT) refers to networks made up of computers, mobile devices, and other machines that share information between them via one central database.

This is gradually being adopted by businesses in order to get better insights into how well a piece of equipment works, the necessity of maintenance, its safety, and other factors.

IoT is a very broad subject, and there are countless ways in which businesses like yours can leverage it to make their operations greener. For example, manufacturing and agricultural businesses are using the internet of things and big data solutions to keep track of how efficient their water use is, restaurants are using sensors to keep fridges at the correct temperature, and offices across the board are using smart HVAC systems to ensure their heating and air conditioning isn’t wasting energy or funds.

Though these examples may not be relevant to you, the internet of things has countless possible applications for small businesses. With a little research and creativity, you’ll soon find ways for your company to glean more insights into your equipment performance, and make informed decisions that will lead you towards more sustainable practices.

Embrace Cloud Computing

Most businesses use cloud computing in their regular operations to some degree, but if you’re like many small business owners, there are likely areas where you could be embracing the cloud more effectively.

Filling your business with cloud computing solutions can make your operations more sustainable, as it consumes less energy than more traditional on-premises tech without the need for servers or other heavy-duty hardware.

Furthermore, cloud-based software solutions tend to be more cost-efficient than traditional software models, as you’ll only pay for the amount that you use the service.

Identifying areas of your company where there’s space for more cloud solutions can be tough, especially if you’ve been running your business through more traditional means. Having said that, fully embracing the cloud has never been easier, with a wealth of educational materials and IT and cloud consultancy services on the market.

Audit your Supply Chain for Sustainability

In many cases, small business owners need to look past the borders of their own organisations to find ways to make their practices as sustainable as possible. One of the most effective ways to do this is by auditing your supply chain for sustainability and executing changes that will reduce its impact on the environment.

Working with distribution locations that minimise distance travelled, ensuring that shipping vehicles are loaded for space efficiency using 3D container loading software, or even opting for electric vehicles, can all make your supply chain exceptionally greener. Carrying out an audit of your suppliers, both for materials and packaging, can also open your eyes to some great sustainable alternatives.

If you’re not in a position to overhaul areas of your supply chain like this, then minimising the inventory with the help of big data and buyer behavioural analytics can be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.

Amending your supply chain can be complex and stressful at the best of times, but if they’re able to take the plunge, most small businesses will be able to find ways to make their operations infinitely more sustainable.

Final Thoughts …

Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been in business for decades, there are countless opportunities to make every facet of your operations more sustainable.

As you work towards streamlining your business and doing more for the planet, we hope these pointers have given you some great inspiration and made the road towards sustainability that much clearer.