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Protecting the environment

Every business is responsible for complying with a range of environmental legislation to reduce the impact your business has on the environment. 

First published:
6 July 2017
Last updated:
14 September 2023


1. Introduction

Acting in an environmentally responsible way is a legal duty. Every business is responsible for complying with a range of environmental legislation to reduce the impact your business has on the environment. Which regulations affect your business depends on the nature of your business. Find guidance on key environmental topics for businesses in your sector on the Natural Resources Wales website.

Many businesses have realised that going beyond environmental compliance makes good business sense and can help improve your long term success.

Reducing energy consumption, minimising waste, using raw materials more efficiently and preventing pollution can:

  • cut costs and improve efficiency
  • reduce risks and ensure you are complying with the law
  • boost your reputation among customers, suppliers, investors and the local community
  • increase employee morale, making it easier to attract, keep and motivate staff
  • increase business opportunities by meeting customer demand for sustainable business practice

People are an important part of your environmental success. Involve and encourage all your employees to be environmentally responsible through regular training, instruction and awareness-raising activities. Regularly monitor and update your activities to reflect new initiatives and processes that can further drive the reduction of your impact on the environment both locally and nationally. 

2. Being resource efficient

Being resource efficient can help your business cut costs. Here are some tips for ‘quick wins’:

  • Involve your staff – employees’ ideas often result in savings of 5 to 10%.
  • Control your heating - reduce the temperature in your premises by one degree and save up to 8% on energy bills each year. For optimum productivity set the temperature at 21-22°C. Set air conditioning to only come on above 24°C. Set timers so that heating only comes on when the building is in use.
  • Avoid wasting heat - keep doors and windows closed when heating or air conditioning is running, fit draught excluders and make sure your premises are well insulated.
  • Use low energy lighting. Turn on only the lights that are needed. Install sensors to turn lights on and off automatically. 
  • Switch off office equipment - a single computer and monitor left on 24 hours a day can cost over £50 a year, so turn off computers, printers and all other electrical equipment at night and over the weekend.
  • Switch off motors – often hidden inside machines, identify and turn off motors during breaks or job changes. Motors driving pumps and fans can often be controlled with 'variable speed drives'. 
  • Compress your air costs - reducing pressure by 10% can lead to 5% savings in energy. Make small, incremental reductions, checking that operations aren't affected. Also, regularly test for and fix leaks - even a tiny leak can cost more than £700 a year in wasted energy. 
  • Shut fridge and freezer doors. On average, it costs £4 for every hour a freezer door stays open. Fit low cost PVC curtains or night blinds on refrigerated cabinets.
  • Maintain your equipment – and make sure it is operating efficiently.
  • Measure your savings - make sure you read your meters regularly, so you can find out how your company is using energy and where it's being wasted. 

3. Saving energy checklist

Using energy more efficiently will save your business money by cutting your energy bills. Help identify potential savings by:

  • Conducting a walk-round survey of your business to spot immediate money and energy saving opportunities.
  • Assign responsibility for energy efficiency to someone within the business and give them the necessary time and resources to do the job thoroughly.
  • Take monthly meter readings to get an accurate picture of how much energy your business is using and where the biggest savings could be made.
  • Check that you are on the correct energy tariff. For example, if you have a 'day/night' tariff but do not use electricity overnight, it's likely that your bills are higher than they need to be.
  • Talk to alternative suppliers of energy about the tariffs they could offer you and whether these beat the terms offered by your current supplier.
  • Consider inviting energy companies to tender for your business.

Find energy and money saving advice on the Energy Saving Trust website

You can also find energy saving advice on the Carbon Trust Wales website.

4. Reducing water use

Taking a systematic approach to saving water use can reduce consumption by 20 to 50% - leading to significantly lower water supply and disposal costs.

To help identify potential saving, measure and monitor your water use by:

  • checking the meter serial number - make sure you are billed for your meter
  • comparing water use each year so you can identify any unusual patterns
  • comparing water usage against similar businesses
  • making sure staff are fully aware of the importance of water use minimisation and getting them involved
  • ensuring pipes are well insulated to protect against frost damage
  • checking for leaks, dripping taps and faulty valves - a 5mm drip from a single tap can cost more than £900/year in water and wastewater treatment costs

Your business can reduce water use by:

  • fitting automatic flushing devices in urinals and reducing cistern volumes
  • using pressure reducers or flow restrictors to reduce water use, for example, on hand basins and hoses
  • replacing old equipment with new models that use water more efficiently
  • making processes more water-efficient
  • using alternative water sources, for instance, rainwater use and grey water re-use, reusing cooling water for other purposes

5. Reducing packaging waste

The most cost-effective and environmentally-friendly way to deal with packaging waste is to avoid producing the waste in the first place. If you can't completely eliminate the waste, reduce the amount you produce as much as possible. Consider reusing, recycling, composting and energy-from-waste. Wherever practical, purchase products made from renewable and ethically sound sources.

Make all your suppliers aware of your environmental goals and check that they have their own environmental policies in place. Work with them to use packaging as efficiently as possible.

Your business can reduce packaging waste by:

  • analysing sales patterns to avoid over-ordering
  • using just-in-time delivery systems to ensure you only store the minimum amount of stock
  • drawing up a returns policy for unsold and damaged goods
  • separating your packaging waste to help with recycling and installing recycling bins in your premises
  • investigating how your business could use waste exchange schemes
  • returning used clothes hangers to the supplier for recycling and potential reimbursement
  • using plastic crates or totes instead of single-use cardboard boxes and self-stacking boxes or crates instead of shrink-wrap
  • ensuring cardboard and plastic sheeting are flattened and baled before being recycled
  • using recycled paper or paper that has been Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accredited
  • considering shredding paper and card to produce packing or fillers
  • comparing the cost and services provided by waste contractors

Find advice on managing waste in business processes on the Waste Resource Action Programme (WRAP)website.

You can also find advice on the National Industry Symbiosis Programme (NISP) website – the NISP helps businesses cut costs and generate new revenue streams by making better use of their resources.

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