Some 40% of small and medium-sized businesses in construction have introduced practical measures aimed at reducing their environmental impact, according to the environmental guidance website NetRegs.gov.uk.
Although this remains far below the UK average of 55%, the site’s SME-environmental survey shows increases in the number undertaking environmental assessments (up from 11% to 18%) and in the number improving energy efficiencies (16% to 18%) which suggests that the sector is making strides in reducing its impact.
However, just one in seven plans to invest in improving their environmental performance over the next year – the lowest investment of any sector surveyed. Awareness levels have also fallen – the number of construction SMEs able to name a single piece of environmental legislation relevant to their business has fallen. Just 31% are aware of Site Waste Management Plans, which became compulsory for all construction projects over £300,000 in England in April 2008 and are widely expected to become law in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland shortly.
Net Regs’ strategy manager Debbie Chatting is campaigning for builders merchants to nominate a ‘Green Ambassador’ responsible for reducing environmental impact, and urges them to follow her top tips for a greener business future:
Make a member of staff responsible for environmental issues – and support them. Suggest that they make a list of all the areas where the business can reduce its impact.
Use NetRegs.gov.uk to carry out an online self assessment for your business. This will help to identify particular areas in need of improvement and also help you to stay compliant with the law by highlighting what regulations apply to your company.
Implement an environmental policy, which clearly outlines your targets. You can use your list as a starting point. This is often asked for by companies during tender processes, so it’s a good ‘extra’ to mention when bidding for business.
Encourage all members of staff to take environmental policies seriously – the more support you have, the better the results will be. NetRegs has found that construction businesses implementing environmental measures often have a more motivated workforce.
Put some measurements in place to see what difference your new behaviour is having, year on year. For example, look at your energy unit consumption on your energy bill. You can cut it down by ensuring all staff turn off their PC monitors, lights and appliances overnight.
Carry out a waste audit. Make sure that you are recycling your waste or that your waste contractor is sorting and pre-treating your waste on your behalf. NetRegs.gov.uk has a directory of licensed waste contractors to help you find one near to you.
Use NetRegs.gov.uk for clear and free guidance on the latest environmental legislation and sign up for free monthly updates on changing regulations. NetRegs’ free updates save businesses around £2,600 a year.