John Cradden looks at the various supports to help Irish businesses transition to a greener and more sustainable future.
If sustainability hasn’t already moved to the top of your business agenda, then the chances are it will soon thanks to a range of factors, including increasing energy costs, rising consumer expectations and fast-evolving government policies aimed at decarbonising energy and accelerating the move away from fossil fuels.
A recent survey by Accenture found that customers are also looking to support companies who share the goal of living more sustainably, with 70% of Irish people more likely to purchase from a brand if it described itself as eco-friendly.
“Besides this fundamental imperative to do more for the environment, cost remains an important driving force for businesses – big or small”
However, 75% found that living sustainably is hard to do, and 92% felt that businesses should do more to help consumers be more eco-friendly.
But besides this fundamental imperative to do more for the environment, cost remains an important driving force for businesses – big or small. As a company, do you need to make significant capital investments and if so, are there grants available to support this? And what meaningful changes can you make that won’t break the bank?
Grants and funds
If you want to put sustainability at the heart of your business model, there are financial supports available to help you achieve this. The Government has made grants available to support businesses become more “resource efficient” via the likes of Enterprise Ireland, SEAI and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Enterprise Ireland’s Green Transition Fund will run over the next five years. It has two streams of fundings: the Climate Planning Fund for Business, which provides supports to businesses who want to go green; and the Enterprise Emissions Reduction Investment Fund, which is aimed at manufacturing businesses.
SEAI has a fund called the Excellence in Energy Efficient Design (EXEED), an incentive program to promote energy efficiency in business. It can help you fund the energy-efficient design of heating, cooling, refrigeration, compressed air and business processes, and successful applicants can get grant support of up to €1,000,000 per project.
The SEAI’s Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA) is a tax incentive scheme that allows sole trader, farmers or companies that pays corporation tax in Ireland to deduct the full cost of energy-efficient equipment from their profits in the year of purchase.
The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat, also from SEAI, can help your business adopt renewable heating systems by providing a grant for heat pumps, for which successful applicants can get an installation grant of up to 30% of eligible costs, as well as ongoing operational support for up to 15 years.
The EPA has an annual grant-aid funding call, named Green Enterprise: Innovation for a Circular Economy. The initiative supports businesses to develop and demonstrate innovative practical applications and solutions that prevent waste and stimulate the circular economy.
In July the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) launched its €150m Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme to help SMEs and farmers cut their energy bills and reduce their carbon emissions by investing in energy-saving measures. The scheme will offer discounted term loans, asset finance and hire purchase to SMEs and farmers planning investments in a range of energy saving equipment including solar panels, heat pumps, LED lightning and other energy-saving technology.
Your Local Enterprise office will also have a full list of training and mentoring supports to help your business develop better sustainability awareness and practices, but among them are Green for Micro, aimed at small businesses, and the Climate Ready Academy and the SEAI Energy Academy.
But you can take steps to improve the sustainability of your business straight away by incorporating it into your mission statement. Ask your key stakeholders to come up with some ideas, then work on a statement that encapsulates what your green initiative will look like and how to get it going.
Companies produce waste, and always will do in some capacity. But there’s a lot you can do to bring the amount of waste down and reduce how much you send to landfill. As much as 60% of the rubbish that ends up in the dustbin could be recycled.
You could also review your IT usage. If you tend to use laptops, iPads, projectors and other IT equipment fairly sporadically, consider hiring the tech you need rather than buying it outright. It can be cheaper as there’s no big upfront cost, easier to manage (monthly payments) and, of course, better for the environment (less energy use).
Other ways to reduce your energy consumption include turning the heating off at the weekend when no-one’s working, to shopping around for a new provider.
Your efforts to reduce your consumption can go right down to the smaller stuff, such as printing on double-sided documents rather than single to save paper, recycling your printer toner and cartridges or turning the basement light off when it’s not being used.
Being sustainable can also extend to supporting your local community. If you look hard enough, there’s likely to be some environmental and sustainable initiatives you can get involved with, whether it’s volunteering for a few days at a local charity or starting a sponsorship project.
What about your supplier network? Delivering products costs money and energy. If you manage your own delivery fleet, could you upgrade to some electric or hybrid vehicles? Could your products be delivered by bicycle? Or you could choose to work with providers and suppliers with a green initiative to provide a link in the sustainability chain.
As well as having stakeholders come up with ideas, you should also think about cultural change in order to ramp up your sustainability efforts, and a solid way to begin is by assigning someone (or a team of people) within your company to spearhead your green drive. This person, or group of people, will take charge of your sustainability strategy, setting goals and communicating progress with employees.