Related Courses

Waste is defined as any substance or object that the holder discards. The ‘waste hierarchy’ is a concept established by the European Union that informs many of the U.K. policies regarding waste. The first consideration when handling waste should be prevention. After this, waste should be considered for reuse and recycling, before finally, disposal. Based on the waste hierarchy, the government are extremely keen to promote the reduction of waste. The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 imposes restrictions on the amount of waste that can be disposed of in landfills. Therefore, it is very important that businesses commit to reducing their waste.
Businesses also need to reduce the amount of water and energy they waste. Climate change and the growing population are putting pressure on the water supply. There are concerns that the ways businesses use water and energy are not sustainable. Therefore, companies must consider appropriate measures to reduce the amount they waste.
What waste do organisations produce?
In the U.K., new regulations and policies have been introduced to reduce the amount of waste generated by the commercial sector. For example, the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 place responsibility on the producers of packaging waste to recover and recycle a certain amount of packaging. Despite these new regulations, businesses have continued to generate a substantial amount of waste. According to research published in 2018, the commercial and industrial sectors generated 37.9 million tonnes of waste in 2017. There are many different types of waste produced by organisations. For example:

  • Paper and packaging
  • Food and clinical waste
  • Used packaging – black plastic
  • Aggregate
  • Batteries and electrical equipment
  • Metal cans/containers and plastic or glass bottles

Businesses also waste a lot of energy. For example:

  • Electricity to power equipment, lighting and computer networks
  • Gas to provide heating for premises
  • Petrol for vehicles

What are the harmful effects of waste?
Much of the waste generated by the U.K. ends up in landfill sites. Old quarries are sometimes used. Occasionally, landfills are specifically dug. Some waste will eventually rot, but this often takes a lot of time and may smell and generate methane gas. Not only is methane explosive, it is also a greenhouse gas, so it contributes to the greenhouse effect. If a landfill site is badly managed, it may also attract vermin or cause litter. When waste ends up in landfill, chemicals might also contaminate soil. This damages the surrounding environment, as well as posing a health risk to any animals or humans that come into contact with it. These chemicals can also reach nearby surface water, which disrupts ecosystems such as fish habitats.
Sometimes waste is incinerated, but this also causes problems. When plastics are burnt, they tend to produce toxic substances, such as dioxins. The gases generated in incineration may also cause air pollution and acid rain.
Wasting energy means the increased emission of greenhouse gases. Too much of these gases in the air leads to global warming and increases the likelihood of acid rain. This climate change has already affected water supply, which is why it is so important that businesses also reduce the amount of water they waste.
What can organisations do to reduce this waste?
Effective management of waste is important as disposal can be expensive. There are many ways that a business can limit the amount of waste they generate.
Reduce: Businesses can significantly reduce the amount of waste they generate by simply buying and using less equipment and materials.
Reuse: By passing on redundant yet safe and useable equipment and materials to other organisations, businesses can effectively reduce waste. Wherever possible, businesses should also repair rather than replace broken equipment and find other uses for some materials.
Recycle: It is extremely important to recycle as much waste as possible so that it doesn’t go to landfill sites. Businesses should collect recyclable materials such as glass, plastic and metal. Composting vegetable matter is another great way to reduce waste.
In order to limit the amount of water and energy businesses waste, companies are encouraged to:

  • Fix dripping taps or install low-flow or electronic taps that turn off after a period of time
  • Fill the kettle with only the necessary amount of water
  • Use water efficient equipment, such as dishwashers and washing machines. It is also important to check if dishwashers are ‘A’ rated for maximum efficiency and equipment should always be turned off when not in use.
  • Set thermostats appropriately and prevent them from being tampered with
  • Use low energy light bulbs and timer controls
  • Keep doors and windows closed to prevent heated or cooled air from escaping. Hot water tanks and pipes should also be insulated to avoid heat loss or transfer
  • Use teleconferencing to reduce travel, or use public transport or vehicles with low fuel consumption. Car-sharing schemes

LUSH is an excellent example of a business pledging to reduce the waste they produce. The handmade cosmetic retailer take pride in their limited packaging policy. They claim that this new stance on packaging both reduces waste and provides customers with a more old-fashioned, personalised shopping experience. Rather than relying on carefully marketed descriptions on packaging, shoppers are given personalised and unlimited advice from knowledgeable staff members in LUSH stores. By not using expensive packaging, LUSH are able to invest in the extra staff and training required to provide customers with expert advice about their products. They also give customers the chance to refuse any packaging at all and ‘go completely naked’ (with the products, not themselves). Reducing waste in the U.K. is a shared responsibility. Everyone generates waste, and therefore everyone has a responsibility to prevent further waste growth.

Related Courses

Our Environmental Awareness Courses

Just as organisations have systems to manage finance, personnel and health and safety, it is equally important that they have an Environmental Management System (EMS) for managing environmental issues.

What is the purpose of an environmental management system?

All businesses should have an EMS that reflects the regulations and legislations applicable to their specific organisation. The EMS manages environmental concerns by implementing policies with clear environmental objectives and targets, and planning strategies to ensure that the business conforms to the legislations. In order for the EMS to successfully identify the necessary measures to take, the organisation must be clear about all the different aspects of its environmental impact. Effective planning should include both reference to the objectives outlined in the company policy, and a detailed understanding of the legal requirements.

What are the key features of an environmental management system?

An important feature of an EMS is the production of an environmental policy. This policy should set out the organisation’s approach to managing environmental issues and provide an indication of how to set environmental objectives and targets.

Planning: After a policy has been written, the first stage of an EMS is undertaking effective planning. In this stage, the organisation must be clear about all the different aspects of its environmental impact such as:

  • Emissions to land, air and water
  • Energy consumption
  • Effects on the local community

Planning should also take account of legal requirements and objectives and targets set out in the environmental policy.

Implementation and Operation: In order to implement the EMS, there must be responsibilities assigned to individuals or groups. Training should be provided and good communications put in place with documentation. It is also important that a business considers the procedure for environmental emergencies and plan their response accordingly.

Checking and Corrective Action: A company must monitor and measure the implementation of the EMS and identify where practical arrangements don’t comply with the objectives and targets. Following an audit of the EMS, actions should be taken to address any problems.

Management and Review: Senior managers should review the EMS and take action if changes to the environmental policy, objectives and/or targets are required. This will result in continual improvement in environmental performance.

Why do we need environmental management systems?

Having an effective EMS helps businesses reduce their impact on the environment, as well as improving health and safety for both employees and the community. An EMS also ensures that a company’s activities do not defy any environmental legislation or regulations. With an increased focus on energy efficiency and waste management, an EMS also helps companies improve their operating efficiency, which reduces costs. Employees are also given access to all the environmental concerns related to their profession, which helps them to understand the importance of environmental awareness and individual actions.

An EMS is also an excellent resource for monitoring objectives and tracking progress. This results in continual improvement and faster achievement of sustainability goals, which contributes to a positive brand image.

Our Environmental Awareness Courses

Our Environmental Awareness Courses

The volume of environmental regulations has increased rapidly over recent years, meaning the need for a detailed understanding of the relevant legislation has become more important than ever.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA) succeeded the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (COPA) and introduced new regulations for improved management systems relating to waste and pollution. Although many of its parts have since been repealed, the regulations outlined in the EPA provide a framework for much of the later legislation.

The EPA establishes legal responsibilities for pollution control for land, air and water. The Act also covers waste disposal and statutory nuisances, such as noise or smells. With an extensive understanding of the EPA’s regulations, companies can effectively evaluate the implementation of their environmental policies and ensure that in practice they adequately correspond to the legislation.

Pollution Control for Land, Air and Water

The first part of the EPA relates to industrial emissions and introduces Integrated Pollution Control (IPC). Section 4 of the EPA states that the IPC was introduced to ‘prevent or minimise pollution of the environment due to the release of substances into any environmental medium’. This regime replaced the regulations set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA).

In the HASAWA, the duty of an organisation was limited to using ‘the best practicable means’ for preventing the emission ‘offensive substances’. The EPA updated and improved this by imposing a stricter regulatory system. For example, the EPA requires all relevant activities to be authorised formally with an IPC licence. With increased management and control over emissions, businesses can ensure that they release as little pollution as possible.

Waste Disposal

The second part of the EPA outlines all aspects of waste management on land and identifies local authorities as responsible for collecting waste. The changes in the management and distribution of waste disposal licences led to increased regulation of the waste disposal industry, which in turn contributed to the evolution and growth of the sector. Under the Control of Pollution Act 1974 (COPA), the responsibility for waste was passed on from operator to operator throughout the disposal process. The EPA reformed the waste disposal licencing provisions by introducing formal regulation to activities such as waste handling, storage and treatment. The stricter regime means that all firms need a waste management licence, irrespective of their role within the disposal process.

According to Section 34 of the EPA, businesses are assigned a ‘duty of care’ to ensure that the ‘transfer of waste’ should be controlled and managed to a degree ‘reasonable in the circumstances’. With this increased level of responsibility for businesses in handling waste, failure to comply with the regulations may result in the prosecution of company officers. Penalties include fines of up to £20,000 and in some cases even prison sentences. Businesses and organisations have a responsibility to ensure that any waste produced by their company is handled safely and appropriately according to the EPA.

Statutory Nuisances

The third part of the EPA concerns statutory nuisances. According to Section 79 of the EPA, for an issue to qualify as a statutory nuisance it must be ‘prejudicial to health’ or a ‘nuisance’. Any noise, smell, light or insect infestation generated from industrial and commercial premises that compromises the quality of life, health and wellbeing of people in the neighbourhood may be considered a statutory nuisance. Examples of this include construction sites, factories and street noise.

The environmental health officer for the local authority is usually responsible for serving abatement notices. These notices set out the remedial action that must be undertaken in order to resolve the statutory nuisance. Fines of up to £20,000 may be issued if an organisation fails to comply with an abatement notice. This not only compromises the reputation and reliability of the business but may also result in damaging its relationship with shareholders and affecting its ability to obtain permits in the future.

How Things Have Changed

Parts of the EPA have since been repealed, but the act itself introduced many principles that provided a framework for succeeding environmental regulations. Therefore, the EPA is still one of the most important statutes in force in the U.K., which is why it is so important for businesses to understand and conform to its regulations. Whilst there are increased monitoring and contracting costs associated with an effective management of environmental impact, the fines for failing to conform to environmental regulations are far more costly. The need to be more environmentally conscious is more prevalent than ever, and an understanding of statutes such as the EPA is a great way to start thinking about how we can limit our impact on the environment. Without a proper understanding of the EPA, organisations risk damaging the environment, breaking the law and affecting the success of the business. 

Our Environmental Awareness Courses

Global warming refers to the gradual increase in the Earth’s surface temperature. Over the past five decades, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. Global warming is caused by human activities that increase the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Individuals can measure how much they contribute to global warming by working out their carbon footprint. This calculates the amount of greenhouse gases generated by your day-to-day activities.

How is global warming caused?

Global warming is caused by the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect occurs when carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, collect in the atmosphere. Humans cause an increase in greenhouse gases by burning fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, for energy. The same effect is also generated with cars when they burn fuel.

The greenhouse gases cause global warming when they absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the Earth’s surface. The gases trap the heat so that it cannot escape into space, just like heat is trapped in a greenhouse. This causes the planet to get hotter.

Greenhouse gases also affect the ozone layer. We are protected from harmful ultra-violet radiation by the ozone layer. The ozone layer is damaged by greenhouse gases, which exposes us to the harmful rays and causes a rise in the Earth’s temperature. Cutting down trees has also contributed to global warming. When trees photosynthesise, they absorb carbon dioxide, which reduces the amount of it in the atmosphere. Deforestation means that less carbon dioxide is being removed from the air.

Global warming isn’t exclusively caused by human activity, though. Volcanic eruptions and other natural phenomena such as the Earth’s position relative to the sun also plays a role. However, human activity has the greatest impact on greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, since the industrial revolution, concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased by more than a third.

What are the consequences of global warming? Why is it a problem?

There is a lot of research that suggests that the global temperature could rise more than two degrees Celsius by the end of the century. This has already had an observable impact on glaciers, as they’ve begun to shrink. There are many other predicted consequences of global warming, including:

  • Extreme weather conditions: Some research suggests that extremely wet winters could become up to five times more likely over the next one hundred years. This increases the chance of flooding, which puts homes, businesses and infrastructure at risk. The U.K. could also experience extreme heat in the summer, which might cause droughts. Droughts compromise access to drinking water and fuel out-of-control forest fires. This again endangers lives and habitats.
  • Heat-related illnesses: According to a 2009 U.K. Climate Projections report, the mean annual temperatures could rise by five degrees Celsius by 2080. This might cause an increase in heat-related mortality. Another health concern related to rising heat temperatures is the possible spread of diseases such as malaria.
  • Threats to wildlife and biodiversity: Extreme weather conditions pose a substantial risk to damaging various animal habitats and species’ ecosystems. Extreme heat in summer and extreme cold in winter could also affect agriculture. As ecosystems are under threat, existing stress factors such as pollution and land conversion are exacerbated. Climate change might also affect the food available for species, which increases the risk of their extinction if they can’t adapt to the new conditions. Any disruption to the food chain can eventually have an impact on humanity, which means we need to protect all ecosystems for own survival.


Polar bears are specially adapted to live in the Arctic. They have a remarkable sense of smell which helps them to catch seals – they can smell them from almost a kilometre away! They’re also well-equipped to survive the cold temperature with thick white coats and a layer of fat. The changes in their habitat caused by global warming mean that polar bears’ adaptations are redundant in surviving the new conditions. The rising temperatures are melting the sea-ice. This means that polar bears have to walk and swim further to get to ice where they can hunt for seals. Polar bears need around 12,000 calories a day (that’s about 23.6 McDonalds’ Big Macs), so this increase in distance means they’re wasting too much energy and beginning to starve as a result.

Polar bear extinction has significant consequences for humans. Polar bears have strong cultural significance for Arctic people (like cats for the Ancient Egyptians and pugs for millennials). They are also the top predators in the food web, which means they play a significant role in the balance of their ecosystem. We need to protect polar bears to ensure that the Arctic food chain stays healthy.

Our Environmental Awareness Courses

What does it mean to be environmentally aware?

Being environmentally aware means understanding how our behaviour impacts the environment and committing to making changes to our activities to protect the planet. The environmentalist movement in recent decades has prompted many people to make both minor and substantial lifestyle changes to live in a more environmentally friendly way.

Being environmentally friendly means reducing your impact on the environment as much as possible. Individuals affect the environment in a variety of ways including pollution emission to land, air and water, use of natural resources, energy consumption and waste. There are several significant environmental problems that highlight the importance of being more environmentally aware, for example:

  • Oil drilling: Oil spillages are poisoning marine life, and the burning of oil alongside other fossil fuels is contributing to the greenhouse effect. This causes rises in global temperatures which results in climate change.
  • Deforestation: Humans are cutting down millions of acres of trees for industrial purposes. Not only does this jeopardise biodiversity, it also contributes to the greenhouse effect by removing carbon sinks that remove carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere.
  • Plastic goods: The U.K. generates far too much waste, and much of this is plastic. Plastic is made of materials that might take hundreds of years to decompose. The production of plastic also releases greenhouse gases.

Individuals can have a positive effect on these large-scale problems with relatively minor changes to their lifestyles. For example, reducing the amount of plastic you buy, using transport less and ensuring you recycle as much as possible.

Why is it important?

Since the industrial revolution, concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased by more than a third. This highlights how human activity has the greatest impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, it is our responsibility to change our behaviour to protect the environment.

Due to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, research suggests that the global temperatures might increase by more than two degrees Celsius by the end of the century. This means extreme climate change, including hurricanes, droughts and floods. These conditions jeopardise biodiversity, human welfare and wildlife. As we have lived in such an unsustainable manner for the past few decades, the security of our natural resources is also at risk. It is essential that everyone understands their impact on the environment and actively engages with attempts to promote sustainable development.

Who needs to be aware and why?

Everyone has a responsibility to be more environmentally friendly and reducing your carbon footprint can be achieved through very minor lifestyle changes. It is critical that we teach children and adults alike about the importance of environmental awareness, to ensure that the lives of future generations are secure. It isn’t very fair that the severe environmental consequences of our actions will be experienced by innocent future generations.

When promoting environmental awareness, it is imperative to ensure you’re completely updated with the latest environmental news and developments to ensure that the information you’re communicating is accurate. Many environmental advocates choose a specific issue and launch a campaign to raise awareness and promote environmental awareness about that area of concern.

An example of this is the ‘Sisters Against Plastic’ campaign launched by sisters Mary Strong and Teresa Walters. The Staffordshire-based sisters decided to increase their environmental awareness by researching the impact of plastic products on the environment. This prompted their decision to start a plastic-diet competition with one another, using typical Slimming World-esque terminology to raise environmental awareness in a funny and accessible way on social media platforms. Since their year-long ‘plastic diet’, the sisters have sponsored various ‘environmentally friendly’ brands including Roberts Bakery. They have continued to educate co-workers, friends and communities by delivering talks with active and pro-active responses to plastic related issues. Most importantly, the sisters promote environmental awareness within the Scout and Girl Guide Communities. This highlights their dedication to educating future generations, helping them to make responsible, environmentally aware choices. 

Our Environmental Awareness Courses

Since the rise in our awareness of environmental sustainability, it is more important than ever for companies to engage with their responsibilities towards the environment. An environmental policy should set out the organisation’s approach to managing environmental issues just as they have systems to manage finance, personnel and health and safety. Businesses can use environmental policies as an opportunity to evaluate how their day-to-day activities interact with both the environment and environmental regulations. Companies can use the policy to outline the company’s environmental strategy and motivations for becoming more environmentally friendly. By evaluating daily operatives, businesses are more likely to streamline activities to accommodate legal responsibilities. This often improves energy efficiency and saves the company money.

What does an environmental policy include?

There are no formal requirements on how an environmental policy should be written, but it should be easy to understand. They are usually about a page long. Businesses are encouraged to refer to policies set out by key customers. This way, a business can ensure that their own policies reflect their clients’ requirements.

Before writing an environmental policy, businesses should consider how their activities affect the environment. Companies should reflect on the organisation’s impact on air, water and land pollution and biodiversity. They should also evaluate their waste and ecosystem management, as well as how they aim to protect natural resources, wildlife and endangered species.

The most important features of an environmental policy are time-related targets. These objectives should be supplemented by a measurable management programme, which ensures effective implementation. The policy should be specific and tailored to the organisation and include a commitment for continual improvement. It is also important for the policy to acknowledge and engage with the legal requirements relevant to their activities. A framework for reviewing their objectives and targets should be included.

Customers are interested in:

  • What the organisation does and how it does it – do they follow best practice and embrace cleaner production? If so, how?
  • Understand whether the organisation is greener or browner than other similar organisations
  • Understand whether the organisation presents a direct environmental risk to their operations
  • Understand whether the organisation presents a risk to public perception if they are engaged
  • Understand whether the organisation has any environmental programs to reduce environmental impact and improve their environmental performance

What does an environmental policy do?

For an environmental policy to be effective, integration into the business is essential. Many businesses even incorporate environmental responsibility into staff inductions and job roles, which improves staff engagement in environmental issues. For an environmental policy to be fully integrated into the daily activities of a business, it should be reviewed regularly. This means that progress and development can be evaluated by managers and affords continual improvement in environmental performance.

An environmental policy makes a business’ commitment to and engagement with their environmental impact and responsibility abundantly clear to all employees. This could be integrated into marketing materials, which may encourage customers and other businesses to adopt similar values. By communicating environmental standards, a business may generate a positive influence as well as increase the amount of custom they attract.

A carbon footprint refers to the carbon dioxide emissions that are released when carbon-based fuels are burnt. Examples of these fuels include petrol, gas, jet fuel, oil and coal. Your carbon footprint depends on how much energy, electrical appliances and equipment you use, as well as how often you travel. If a business is looking for a way to measure and reduce their impact on the environment, evaluating their carbon footprint is a great way to start.

An individual’s carbon footprint is calculated in terms of major categories of consumption. These include housing, travel, food, products and services. On average, someone who lives in a city emits four tonnes of carbon dioxide a year!

Why is it important to reduce your carbon footprint?

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Too much of it in the atmosphere leads to climate change, also known as global warming. The greenhouse effect refers to the way these gases interact with the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases prevent heat from the sun from passing back out of the earth’s atmosphere, which causes a rise in temperature. This results in ice melting, sea levels rising and habitat changes that affect some animals. For example, species such as koalas are highly specialised in what they eat. This means it’s much harder for them to adapt to changes in their environment caused by climate change. This increases the likelihood of their extinction.

Greenhouse gases also affect the ozone layer. The ozone layer in the upper atmosphere provides protection from harmful ultra-violet radiation. Greenhouse gases contribute to ozone depletion, which exposes us to the harmful rays and causes a rise in the Earth’s temperature. Research suggests that the global temperature may rise more than two degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Whilst some U.K. residents may feel excited by the prospect of extreme heat in summer, these drastic changes in climate will also have adverse effects on the environment, including rising sea levels, melting of glaciers, droughts and floods.

How can you reduce your carbon footprint?

The type of energy you use can have an impact on the environment. Some energy sources are renewable and others are not. You can choose your energy supplier and your choice could be based on environmental consideration. For example, energy sources involving fossil fuels are likely to increase your carbon footprint. Coal, oil and natural gas are burnt to generate electricity, but this process generates carbon dioxide. Solar, wind and hydroelectric energy sources are all renewable and are much more environmentally friendly. However, they are often dependent on weather conditions.

It is also very important to consider how much you rely on transport, as this massively impacts your carbon footprint. In fact, the ‘2017 Annual Provisional Emissions Results’ estimates that transport accounted for 34% of the carbon dioxide emissions in the U.K. A good way to reduce your reliance on vehicles is to use public transport more or try to walk wherever possible. You could also arrange carsharing schemes – it seems to have worked out well for James Corden! In a professional context, businesses are also encouraged to utilise teleconferencing in order to reduce the amount of transport involved with meetings. Vehicles can also be chosen according to the amount of fuel they consume.

There are also many minor lifestyle changes you can make that will have a significant impact on your carbon footprint. For example:

  • Using recycled products as much as possible and eating locally produced things
  • Set thermostats appropriately
  • Ensuring equipment and lights are turned off whenever not in use
  • Using low-energy light bulbs with timer controls
  • Keeping doors and windows closed to prevent heated or cooled air from escaping

According to research undertaken by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, the U.K.’s carbon footprint fell by 6% between 2015 and 2016. In 2016, the emissions relating to the consumption of goods and services produced in the U.K. were 35% lower than in 1997. This shows how much of a difference businesses can make by actively taking responsibility for their carbon footprints. An example of this is the world’s largest food and beverage company, Nestlé. With values underpinned by a desire to shape a better and healthier world, the company has been ranked first in many sustainability indexes. In 2014, they committed to reducing their carbon footprint by phasing out 92% of its industrial refrigerants and replacing them with more environmentally friendly ones.

Recent decades have seen a rise in our understanding and awareness of environmental sustainability. Climate change is a reality and with growing populations, resources are increasingly scarce. Individual efforts to be more ‘environmentally friendly’ have become more creative, ranging from the strident refusal of plastic straws, to reusing the same teabag three times. However, whilst these lifestyle changes are admirable, efforts to be more environmentally friendly are rarer in professional environments. It is incredibly important for businesses to become more aware of their impact on the environment.

What does it mean to be environmentally friendly?

Being environmentally friendly means reducing your impact on the environment as much as possible. For a business, the first step in achieving this is understanding how their activities impact the environment. An organisation’s impact on the environment includes any change to the environment brought about by its activities, products or services. The key things to consider include:

  • Pollution emission to air, land and water
  • Use of natural resources
  • Energy consumption
  • Climate change
  • Waste and its disposal

For organisations that provide services, the use of consumables and equipment, consuming energy for heating and lighting, travelling and paper and packaging, are a few specific examples of how the business might have an impact on the environment. Manufacturing-based organisations may contribute to damaging the environment through the emissions generated in the manufacturing process, as well as the raw materials used. Another thing to consider for this type of company is the life-span of the product created, and the impact it may have when being used. For example, not only are Lego pieces extremely painful when stepped on, they are also non bio-degradable. This means they might continue to cause severe foot pain for centuries!

What steps can businesses follow to be environmentally friendly?

Water: For a business to be environmentally friendly, it must consider how it impacts water supplies, both through contamination and conservation. There are several ways businesses can improve the way they use water including:

  • Fixing dripping taps
  • Fitting low flow or electronic taps
  • Filling the kettle only with the amount of water needed
  • Using water-efficient equipment

Energy: The type of energy a business uses has a significant impact on the environment. Some energy sources are renewable and others are non-renewable. Organisations can choose their energy supplier based on environmental consideration. For example, solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal are renewable sources of energy. There are several other ways that a company can ensure they use energy as efficiently as possible:

  • Setting thermostats appropriately
  • Turning off lights in unoccupied rooms
  • Using low energy light bulbs and making sure they are clean
  • Keeping doors and windows closed to prevent heated or cooled air from escaping
  • Insulating hot water tanks and pipes to avoid heat loss or transfer
  • Using teleconferencing or working at home to reduce travel

Waste: Businesses tend to generate substantial amounts of waste. For example, waste paper and cardboard, used packaging, batteries and electrical waste. Waste disposal can be expensive so it should be managed effectively. There are many ways that companies can reduce the amount of waste they generate, for example:

  • Reducing waste by buying less equipment and materials, using less equipment and materials
  • Reusing materials by passing them on to other organisations if they are redundant, safe and useable
  • Recycling materials such as glass, plastic and metal, composing vegetable matter and participating in energy waste schemes that burn waste to generate heat and power

Environmental Management Systems: Businesses should also have an Environmental Management System (EMS) that manages any environmental concerns by implementing policies with environmental targets. Effective planning should include both reference to the objectives outlined in the company policy, and a detailed understanding of the legal requirements. The EMS should also be subject to regular managerial review to ensure continual improvement in environmental performance.

Why should businesses be environmentally friendly?

All organisations have an ethical obligation to protect the environment and to take steps to prevent or minimise their effects. There are also specific environmental laws outlined to protect the environment. In the U.K. there is the Environment Protection Act 1990 (EPA) and the Environment Act 1995 (EA). There are many fines associated with failing to comply with environmental legislation and licensing regulations. If a business becomes affiliated with damaging the environment, the company risks compromising its reputation and relationships with shareholders. As non-renewable resources run out, prices for materials such as energy, wood and plastics will increase. Therefore, it’s also important for businesses to find an alternative energy resource.

A business with a history of actively engaging in measures to reduce their impact on the environment also has advantages beyond the ethical. An evidenced interest in protecting the environment aligns organisations with admirable ethics and a clear sense of collective responsibility. This contributes to a positive brand image, which could generate more interest in the business and lead to greater financial success.

The Swedish-founded furniture store IKEA is a great example of a world-leading retailer making changes to be more environmentally friendly. Less than 15% of the waste generated in their stores goes to landfill. They also take waste wood that would have been burnt or gone to landfill and turn it into new board for wardrobes or bookshelves. This is an excellent example of a business practising environmentally friendly behaviour by considering how they can reduce, reuse and recycle waste wherever possible. As a result, IKEA is frequently cited as an exemplar of an environmentally friendly business and applauded for their attempts to promote sustainability and environmental protection. Now, IKEA is associated with environmental friendliness as well as low-cost furniture and Swedish meatballs.

Our Environmental Awareness Courses

The type of energy we use to power things like electricity and heating can have an impact on the environment. It is important to consider what energy source your supplier relies on in order to make environmentally friendly choices. Historically, we have relied mostly on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas for energy. However, this is a non-renewable energy source, which means it will eventually run out. Renewable energy is power that is generated from natural resources that are constantly replenished. By opting for renewable energy sources, we can help promote environmental sustainability.

Non-renewable energy sources

Fossil fuels: Fossil fuels are non-renewable. This means that they will run out eventually, which is why the cost of energy is increasing. Coal, oil and natural gas are examples of fossil fuels. They’re burnt to generate electricity – however, carbon dioxide is released during this process. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means it enhances the greenhouse effect and contributes to global warming. Using oil as an energy source has other environmental consequences, as oil spillages frequently occur which destroys marine life. Oil is currently refined to produce fuels such as petrol and diesel for transport. This again releases carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

Nuclear: This energy source uses naturally occurring radioactive material. Usually, uranium is manufactured into fuel rods for nuclear reactors. Neutron particles collide with the fuel rods and generate heat. This turns water into steam with drives turbines to generate electricity. Like fossil fuels, this is non-renewable. However, supplies are plentiful and this process does not produce greenhouse gases.

Renewable energy sources

Solar: Sunlight can produce electrical energy by using a photovoltaic cell. They are usually arranged in aluminium frames known as solar panels. They can be integrated into the cladding, roof tiles or glazing of a building. This is a free and unlimited source of energy. However, its effectiveness is determined by the number of hours of daylight, cloud and poor weather.

Wind: Wind turbines turn wind into electrical energy. Since the U.K. is the windiest country in Europe, there is a lot of potential for generating renewable energy from this source. Wind power is an intermittent source of energy, so sites for wind farms are chosen carefully to effectively generate power. They have a large visual impact on landscape and local residents often oppose plans to install them.

Hydroelectric: Hydroelectric energy generates electricity from flowing water using turbines and other devices. It’s renewable and can be generated from rivers or manmade installations.

Wave and tidal: Energy from the sea is used to drive electricity generated turbines. Wave power uses the power from surface wave energy and tidal power is generated by tidal waters flowing through tidal barrages in estuaries. A tidal estuary is a partially enclosed body of water. They have one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, with connection to the open sea. Wave and tidal power is a renewable energy source, but there are concerns that tidal power generation will adversely affect marine and bird life in river estuaries.

Geothermal: As the core of the earth is hot we can use its geothermal energy as a renewable heat source or to generate electricity. This heat is accessible just a few kilometres below the earth’s surface.

What’s the difference?

The supplies of fossil fuels are limited. Therefore, relying too heavily on non-renewable energy sources is not sustainable. When fossil fuels are burnt, they release various pollutants such as greenhouse gases. The extraction process of fossil fuels also poses several environmental risks. For example, when transporting oil, there is a chance of spillages which destroy marine life. Mining for coal is an incredibly dangerous job as miners are exposed to toxic dust. However, there are advantages of using fossil fuels. They are relatively inexpensive to extract, portable and their effectiveness isn’t dependent on weather conditions. Some people are also put off by renewable energy sources such as solar panels because of the high upfront cost of installing them. Despite these concerns, there are less maintenance costs associated with renewable energy sources. As supplies of fossil fuels begin to run out, the cost of extracting them will increase.

The world-leading furniture retailer IKEA has been promoting renewable energy sources since 2018. In a bid to tackle climate change, IKEA pledge to produce as much renewable energy as they consume by 2020. They rely on solar power and have installed over 75,000 solar panels on their stores and other buildings. This is an example of business actively engaging with environmental problems and taking relevant measures to improve the impact they have on the environment. Their new business ‘Home Solar’ also aims to help customers transition to renewable sources of energy.

Our Environmental Awareness Courses

Greenhouse gases are the gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect. Examples include carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄), nitrous oxide (N₂O) and fluorinated gases. These gases trap heat in the atmosphere by absorbing energy and slowing down the rate at which it escapes into space. The length of time these gases remain in the atmosphere for varies from a few years to thousands of years. The gases also differ in their ability to absorb energy, which is called their ‘radiative efficiency’.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere when we burn fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil. We burn fossil fuels to provide energy and transport. When solid waste, trees and other biological materials are burnt, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Chemical reactions that occur through processes such as the manufacture of cement also contribute to carbon dioxide emissions.

Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere when it is absorbed by ‘carbon sinks’. A carbon sink is anything that takes in more carbon than it releases CO₂. For example, plants absorb carbon dioxide in photosynthesis. This process is called the carbon cycle. However, by increasing CO₂ emissions and decreasing the amount of natural ‘sinks’, human activities are disrupting the carbon cycle. Therefore, the levels of CO₂ in the atmosphere have been increasing since the industrial revolution.

According to the 2017 U.K. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Statistical Release, carbon dioxide is the most dominant greenhouse gas, accounting for 81% of the total U.K. greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. However, since the rise in environmental awareness, U.K. net emissions are estimated to have decreased by 37.4%.


The production and transport of coal, natural gas and oil are responsible for emitting methane. Livestock and agricultural practices also release methane, as well as the decay of organic waste in landfills. Methane remains in the atmosphere for a much shorter period than carbon dioxide. However, methane is much more efficient at trapping radiation, so it has a higher radiative efficiency. Research suggests that over 50% of the methane released into the atmosphere is caused by human activity.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide is naturally part of the atmosphere as part of the earth’s nitrogen cycle and has a variety of natural sources. N₂O molecules stay in the atmosphere for an average of 114 years before being removed by a sink or destroyed through chemical reactions. It is also much more efficient than carbon dioxide in its ability to absorb energy.

Nitrous oxide is released into the atmosphere through human activities such as agriculture, fuel combustion, wastewater management and industrial processes. Soil management activities, such as fertiliser application, are also responsible for emitting N₂O. Nitrous oxide is also generated as a by-product when chemicals such as nitric acid are produced. This chemical process is used to make synthetic commercial fertiliser.

Fluorinated gases

Fluorinated gases include hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride. These are synthetic greenhouse gases that are emitted through various industrial processes. They are very powerful, which means that they’re sometimes called ‘High Global Warming Potential gases’. Fluorinated gases are also extremely dangerous because they can last for thousands of years. They are often only removed when they are destroyed by sunlight. They also differ from the other greenhouse gases because they have no natural sources. This means they are generated exclusively by human activity.

We use fluorinated gases as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances. For example, hydrofluorocarbons are used as refrigerants in air conditioning systems. They are also used as aerosol propellants, foam blowing agents, solvents and fire retardants. Perfluorocarbons are also generated through various industrial processes. Sulphur hexafluoride is also released in industrial processes, as well as being used as an insulating gas in electrical transmission equipment.

What is the problem with greenhouse gases?

The earth needs a certain amount of greenhouse gases to warm the planet to a liveable temperature. The greenhouse gases absorb energy from the sun and this heats up the earth. This natural process is called the greenhouse effect. The enhanced greenhouse effect refers to increase in concentrations caused by human activities. With more greenhouse gases, global temperatures have started to increase, which has critical consequences for the entire planet. Sea-levels are rising as glaciers melt, which is disrupting biodiversity and habitats. Global warming has also led to climate change, which means more extreme weather conditions such as droughts, hurricanes and floods. This poses a substantial risk to both human health and activities, as well as jeopardising wildlife and putting many species at risk of extinction.