Modern businesses in the construction industry have different priorities when compared to their more ‘traditional’ counterparts.
While profits, efficiency and constant growth are the driving force behind 99% of businesses worldwide, there are new concerns that even 20 years ago would feel alien for both innovative start-ups and multi-national corporations to take an interest in.
However, in 2020 we are witnessing the apex of a move towards political issues, alternative animal-friendly diets and, most commonly, environmental concerns from businesses of all shapes and sizes. This has been a year of change for all, including construction.
The rise of figures such as Greta Thunberg, constant pressure on social media, and new discoveries have pushed businesses to seriously consider how sustainable their methods are.
The construction industry will be at the forefront of developing a new, greener world – but what impact can businesses have now, even if it’s small? Here are some tips for business owners taking their first steps towards making their company more sustainable.
Re-thinking materials and resources
The construction industry has a material problem. Even if your company is attentive towards this issue there is still a lot you can do to set an example for your peers and competitors.
Your first aim should be to reduce waste – especially during demolitions. In an age of redevelopment to save space, we are still seeing many developers opt to tear down buildings for new projects. This should be seen by all within the industry as another opportunity to re-use materials.
Rather than simply dumping the wreckage of a demolition job, reuse that leftover steel, concrete and everything in between on other projects. It might take some more work, but this will dramatically reduce your environmental impact and generate a huge amount of savings in the long run. Next time you’re prepping a demolition job, consider the materials you’re really wasting – from structural ones to interior design elements such as carpets – and rethink how they could be given a second life.
Alternatively, you can use more eco-friendly materials in your builds. Governments and buyers alike are consistently looking for more eco-friendly homes – so this is a smart financial and eco-friendly initiative in equal measure. Recycled materials are more readily available than ever before, with many industries finding innovative, long-term solutions to polluting materials every day.
If these materials can be locally sourced that’s even better. Reducing the amount of time spent transporting materials to your base or sites is one of the biggest immediate impacts you can make towards becoming more environmentally friendly.
In so many ways, a large majority of businesses have evolved beyond the need for resources such as paper.
It clogs up the office and creates a frustrating, unproductive working environment. It’s 2020, do you seriously still need to print everything off?
There are a litany of digital tools out there designed to help businesses streamline everything from project management to overseas communication. Thankfully, many of these tools immediately do away with the need for paper, including sticky notes left of desks, printed multi-page project briefs and physical contracts. There’s no reason modern businesses shouldn’t be investing in these very basic, user-friendly tools.
In fact, almost every process of a business can be refigured to do away with wasted paper and save a tree. You might want a physical copy of a contract as a backup, but many parties in the equation could make do with just a digital one stored in the cloud.
The same can be said for invoices. Take something like fuel cards (unfamiliar? Read up about iCompario — https://www.icompario.com/en-gb/about/ — one of the leading providers of fuel cards). Equipping staff out on site with these one-step payment tools doesn’t just save you money, but it also eliminates receipts, making your accounting process an entirely digital one.
Even something as simple as employee birthday cards can be done virtually to save on resource wastage. We all live digital lives now, so why not bring these processes into the office?
Donate to the right causes
Charitable efforts and contributions have long been an important way for businesses to make a real effort to combat climate change and its impacts.
While donating to the big-issue charities won’t make your business more sustainable, there are lots of ways interacting with a charity or focusing on a key effort can have a strong impact on your carbon footprint and overall wastage.
Find charities closer to home or more specific in their cause that you can tie into your own efforts. One that focuses on streamlining warehouse processes or re-building electric vehicles would be a fantastic choice for a logistics company, for example. Rather than being another drop in the ocean of a charity following a highly publicised cause such as ocean plastic, find something important to you that you can use your business as an example of change for.
There are a number of brilliant resources available to help you find the right nonprofit for you (such as https://greatnonprofits.org/ which collates green charities under its climate change banner), ensuring you’re not wasting time and effort on less-compatible causes.
Overall, you want to learn as much from a charity as you contribute to it. Working with one or donating to them as you grow and transform your methods into more sustainable measures is important, and will ultimately have the greatest long-term impact.
Re-think the commute and your work environment
Some of the best changes you can make to your business to improve sustainability often don’t involve your actual business practices at all.
Commuting is a huge part of the workday. Think of the number of people flooding back and forth every morning and evening multiple times a week. This is a significant issue that is by no means in the position it needs to be to push back against climate change.
As a business, you can have a much bigger impact through this than you might realise.
What percentage of your staff drive to work? Could you set up a cycle to work scheme or provide discounts on public transport to encourage them to give up their car on weekdays? In some cases, this won’t be possible. However, many individuals are put off public transport or cycling simply by the additional cost. (cycleshare.co.uk have a brilliant guide to encouraging cycling to work measures)
It might even be best to not have anyone in the office at all.
By now we’re all far too familiar with remote working. But as a step towards sustainability? It might just be one of the best ways of keeping usage down in the office and reducing the number of people commuting. Consider offering remote working to your staff or introducing it on a rotating basis. This won’t just lower your utility usage, but allow you to have a smaller office space with less polluting (and expensive) amenities.
It’s never been easier to be a sustainable business. There are numerous guides out there, the tools are available and, for the most part, your workforce will be on board with the idea. Becoming sustainable requires much fewer sacrifices, so your noble goal won’t cost you in the productivity department.