Becoming an environmentally friendly business

The community and your customers are becoming more environmentally aware and educated.

An environmentally friendly business:

  • operates in a sustainable manner, causing minimal damage to the environment and using renewable resources where possible
  • considers where its supplies come from and how they are made—it will work with environmentally responsible suppliers and source materials locally to reduce its carbon footprint
  • seeks to remove or minimise any negative effect it has on the environment
  • considers the effect its products and services have on the environment
  • limits unnecessary packaging and manages stock production to reduce waste.

Your business reputation, ability to sell products and services and attract staff may all be affected by the environmental policies and procedures that you have in place.

On this page

The benefits of an environmentally friendly business

Being environmentally friendly will have benefits not only for the environment but also for your business.

These benefits include:

  • more effectively meeting the product and service needs and expectations of customers who value environmentally friendly practices—they will feel positive after purchasing products from a business that is proving to do no harm or minimises harm to the environment
  • developing a positive reputation
  • being more attractive to staff and business partners who value environmentally sustainable practices
  • attracting new customers who are seeking environmentally friendly products and services
  • creating innovative practices that positively affect the environment and can lead to increased sales
  • having a competitive advantage over non-environmentally friendly competitors.

Being environmentally friendly also has cost benefits, including:

  • the reduction of transport and packaging costs by using environmentally friendly and locally sourced resources and supplies
  • the reduction of vehicle and operating costs by using renewable energy
  • savings from becoming more energy efficient (e.g. less water and electricity usage)
  • the money saved on waste removal through recycling and reducing waste
  • the ability to attract more grants through, for example
    • planning for changes to the climate
    • reducing reliance on older, more expensive types of energy
    • sourcing more local products and services
  • the increased possibility of success in sustainable procurement tenders—your eligibility will improve if your business can demonstrate how it has or can reduce negative environmental effects of purchased products and services.

Make your business environmentally friendly

Small businesses can work to be part of a circular economy where decisions and choices are made to eliminate waste and ensure resources are reused and recycled.

To make sure that your business is part of this economy, consider setting up an environmental management system within your business or discussing appropriate systems with your industry association.

Other ways you can make your business more environmentally friendly include:

  • using products that reduce your reliance on natural resources (e.g. rainwater tanks, solar hot water systems). Learn about saving water in your business
  • using products that are made from recycled material (e.g. office supplies made from recycled plastic, furniture made from recycled rubber)
  • conducting an environmental impact audit (discussed below) to assess if any of your activities can be done differently (e.g. reducing air travel by holding conference phone calls instead of interstate meetings)
  • increasing the amount of business waste you recycle
  • reviewing your business values—you should ensure that sustainability and environmentally friendly practices are reflected in them
  • asking your employees, suppliers and networks for ideas or advice.

You should also understand the environmental obligations and duties that you have to meet.

Small business sustainability advisory services

You might also consider using a small business sustainability advisory service.

These services can help you complete an environmental road map and provide mentoring. Help to become environmentally friendly is available via free programs including:

  • ecoBiz program (from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland), provides Queensland small to medium businesses with a free on-site one-on-one coaching session with a sustainability expert, to help cut business costs associated with energy, water, and waste usage while reducing environmental impacts.
  • Business Energy Advice Program (BEAP), which delivers face to face and phone consultations about industry-specific energy saving opportunities and options for small business to help manage their energy.

Conducting an environmental impact audit

An environmental impact audit can be used to assess how environmentally friendly your business is. The findings of the audit can be used to help your business implement changes to ensure that you minimise any environmental damage it may be causing.

An environmental impact audit involves analysing how your business:

  • procures resources
  • creates products
  • deals with waste.

An environmental impact audit involves 3 phases.

Phase 1: Before operations (procurement and preparation)

When starting operations to make your products, you should identify where components and supplies, including packaging, come from and what environmental impact they have before they are used in your business.

Phase 2: During operations (manufacturing, assembly, creating)

You should analyse the impact on the environment that occurs during your business operations to make your products. Consider:

  • how much energy is used
  • what processes are involved with maintaining equipment
  • how you service customers
  • where you operate.

Phase 3: Finishing operations (clean up and waste management)

Assess the environmental impact that occurs after your business operations to make your products are complete. Consider the following.

  • Where does your waste go?
  • What is the quality of water and air as it leaves your premises?
  • How are products and packaging recycled?

Environmental impact audit example

Read the following example of an environmental impact audit of a business that manufactures custom wood furniture.

These questions were considered before starting operations to make the furniture:

  • What supplies or services does the business receive?
  • How far do the supplies or services travel?
  • What happens to them before the business receives them?
  • Are there any other environmental issues?

Current state

  • The business imports wood planks by ship from Indonesia.
  • The planks are fumigated before being loaded for shipping.
  • There is a possible sustainable sourcing issue with no transparency of forestry practices.
  • There is limited information on carbon emissions and waste management.

Changes to implement

  • Source wood that is reconstituted forest waste product (recycling).
  • Research sustainable products and materials.
  • Find Australian-made products that requires less energy for transport.
  • Use heat to bond natural wood resin.
  • Make changes to ensure all products are formaldehyde-free.
  • Aim for a net-zero carbon footprint or better.

These questions were considered when manufacturing the furniture:

  • What energy does the business use?
  • What equipment and packaging are used?
  • What transport is used?
  • What is the business location and the type of premises?
  • How does the business use the premises (inside and out)?

Current state

  • The business uses electricity from the grid.
  • The office has an old, large refrigerator that may be leaking from its seal.
  • Products extensively used during operations include disposable plastic wrap and petrol for the work car.
  • There is an old warehouse 30 minutes from the main road that is used to service the Queensland coast.
  • There is a large yard that is currently not in use.

Changes to implement

  • Install solar panels.
  • Service the fridge.
  • Source Australian alternative to disposable plastic wrap (e.g. made from potato water waste).
  • Replace the car with an electric or hybrid vehicle.
  • Lease a green building close to the transport route.
  • Create greening initiatives (e.g. planting trees).

These questions were considered when the furniture was completed:

  • What is the business waste?
  • Where does the waste go?
  • Does the business recycle onsite?
  • What is the quality of water and air leaving the property?
  • What happens to chemical waste?
  • How do customers use and dispose of our products?

Current state

  • The business creates cardboard waste.
  • There are no recycling options onsite, so all waste (cardboard, chemical and food) goes into general rubbish.
  • The quality of water and air is not affected and chemicals are disposed of according to relevant regulations.
  • Our products are thrown away by customers when they break or require replacement.

Changes to implement

  • Recycle food waste onsite or give it away to gardeners.
  • Clean and recycle water on site.
  • Use alternative chemicals or dispose of them in a more environmentally sustainable way.
  • Install a compost bin.
  • Cultivate a relationship with a repair shop to increase the lifespan of the products.

Record your own environmental impact audit

Complete an environmental impact audit at your business and record the details below. (Consider other questions if any of the following don't apply.)

Phase and considerations
Business current state
Changes to implement
Phase 1: Before operations
  • What supplies or services does the business receive?
  • How far do the supplies or services travel?
  • What happens to those supplies or services before I receive them?
  • Are there any other environmental issues?
Phase 2: During operations
  • What energy does the business use?
  • What equipment and packaging does the business use?
  • What transport is used?
  • What is the business location and the type of premises?
  • How does the business use the premises (inside and out)?
Phase 3: Finishing operations
  • What is the business waste?
  • Where does the waste go?
  • Does the business recycle onsite?
  • What is the quality of water and air leaving the property?
  • What happens to our chemical waste?
  • How do customers use and dispose of our products?

Support to help your business go green

There are various support options available to help your business 'go green' and become more environmentally friendly.