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  • Writer's pictureRussell Burton

What SMEs can learn from Amazon's eco-friendly commercial strategy

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Once considered one of the most environmentally damaging companies in the world, Amazon is in fact the founder of The Climate Pledge - a commitment to net zero carbon by 2040 (zero carbon footprint). Since then, a growing list of major companies and organisations have joined The Climate Pledge. 112 businesses have accepted the challenge, including big names like Unilever, Visa, PepsiCo, and Microsoft. It’s clear to see that the market is making eco moves and sees it as commercially beneficial.

At Hillside, we believe that becoming sustainable needs to be commercially viable and risk should be mitigated. Not only that, our experience has proven that aligning nature, technology and finance is actually a key driver to meeting environmental objectives. After all, consumers are starting to demand that businesses make eco-changes. Let’s face it, with the recent IPPC report confirming the damage we are doing, the time we have available to protect the natural resources we rely on and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change is running out.

On a more positive note, reducing carbon footprint often goes hand in hand with cost efficiencies. Many of our clients have seen the fiscal impact of moving to renewable energy systems and green ways of working.

Take Raymond Brown Quarry Group (RBQP) for instance. They’re leading quarry operators and suppliers of primary aggregates who produce quality materials for local construction. Our studies proved that switching the fuel they use for vehicles to biofuel was a low-impact, cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions by 95%! Not only that but a one-off investment into facilitating the switch allowed them to reduce their carbon footprint at very little cost to their operation.

Rob Westell, Estates and Planning Director from RBQP, has seen first-hand the benefits of transitioning to be climate-friendly: “Taking a fresh look at our operations with a view to minimising carbon emissions has been enlightening. Some changes involve huge investment and long payback times while other changes are ever so simple and go a long way to improving environmental performance.

Hillside was able to analyse our needs quickly and provide a list of suggestions for near-term improvements at relatively little cost. With so many Local Authorities declaring climate emergencies, we are seeing CO2 footprinting becoming part of the planning system more and more; proving that proposals for future development are low carbon, carbon-neutral or even carbon negative is rapidly becoming part of the decision making process.”

Mainline Mouldings, which supply high-quality picture frames and frame mouldings throughout the UK, are another client of ours transitioning to be climate-friendly. Their leadership team is committed to improving their environmental credentials. They commissioned Hillside to evaluate the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and help them build a plan to reduce impacts. As a company, Mainline has already adopted low carbon energy systems and innovated to improve their environmental credentials and are on the way to be net-zero by 2030.

Their Managing Director, Chris Daynes, explained how the business has found the process of becoming more eco-friendly, “Hillside has helped us enormously to assess Mainline’s carbon footprint and further our understanding of the business’ environmental impact. We strongly believe it is important to respond to the rapidly changing environmental data now available.

Our business decisions are informed by the latest thinking on sustainability, so our investment is targeted correctly. Hillside’s thorough report laid out the data and information we required clearly and concisely, and its recommendations have given us the clarity and confidence to build an attainable strategy to reach our goals.”

Starting the roadmap to becoming carbon-neutral doesn’t always mean physical changes to materials, buildings, logistics, or processes, though.

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) investing is something we are hearing a lot more about, and it essentially means investing in companies that have a lower carbon footprint, a good social and governance policy, and therefore a strong foundation for future growth.

Fiscally, it often makes sense. Our economic system is underpinned by nature’s resilience to survive - we need plants and animals to fuel us and the market, but also stable environmental conditions so that businesses are not at risk of flooding and wildfires. Not only that, but the public is favoring greener businesses and is willing to avoid them if they don’t.

Through my network, I heard The RU Group, Independent Financial Advisers, based in The Midlands and South Yorkshire, had launched a new ‘ESG’ offering, targeting greener stocks for a sustainable future. It made me think about my current pension investments and how I could use them for the greater good. I transferred my pension to The RU Group’s new ESG portfolio invested in positive businesses that are driving change - the strong performance of the funds was a bonus.

As an environmental professional, I’m well aware of ‘greenwashing’ - making climate-friendly statements without the evidence that you are living up to them. So, I did my research before investing. The RU Group’s ESG provider has an auditing platform to scope out any falsehoods and ensure their portfolio is truly green.

Ben Slater, a Chartered Financial Planner at The RU Group, told us why The RU Group chose to introduce this kind of sustainable investment and how it benefits their clients and business. “For the business and our clients, introducing a sustainable portfolio range seemed like a no-brainer. It’s clear we all need to do our bit to help the planet, and investing in responsible companies should help send the message to the financial world that we mean business. I can see this becoming the future, and in my view, green and ethical business should reward investors with better long-term returns, and longevity.”

It goes to show, as consumers, we have the power to make a change. The more of us investing in these climate-friendly options, the more opportunity we have to protect the planet. And I don’t just mean investing our savings. If companies like Amazon, who have historically not been the most socially responsible, are now driving the change, they must think it makes commercial sense.

​​Companies and organisations that sign The Climate Pledge, agree to regular reporting, carbon elimination, and credible offsets. So, again, no greenwashing there. Organisations are putting their money where their mouth is and making viable moves to reduce their carbon footprint. Will you be the next?

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