Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the heart of Canada’s economy, representing 99.8% of all businesses in this country1 and employing 88.3% of Canadian workers in the private labour force2. There are 1.22 million SMEs in Canada, and Ontario is home to about 440,0003 of them.
That’s a massive responsibility, as SMEs — companies that employ from one to 500 people — can have a huge impact on this country’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainable business practices. This gives business owners and their employees an important role in helping to make Ontario a leader in sustainability.
Low-cost strategies that make a difference
At Meridian, we’re committed to helping our business Members do everything possible to make their businesses more sustainable. We know it’s not always easy to find the time or money to explore cleaner, greener ways to work. That’s why we pulled together three simple strategies you can follow to quickly implement changes big and small, no matter what kind of business you run.
1. Start small
Look for money- and energy-saving opportunities in the day-to-day operation of your business. If you work with partners, or have employees, invite them to help you brainstorm solutions.
Little things like switching to LED lighting in the office can save substantial amounts of money and energy. LEDs are up to 90% more efficient than incandescent bulbs, and they last at least 15 times longer4. Replace them as needed or do it all at once. You won’t regret the savings.
Whether you run a small office or a big production plant, there’s likely room to improve on waste management. Most businesses will benefit from a professional waste-management audit that can identify inefficiencies and pay for itself through year-over-year savings.
If you have vehicles on the road, everything from regular maintenance to trip planning to work-from-home options can help you reduce your company’s carbon footprint. So can switching to electric vehicles. Learn more about the federal government’s Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles (iZEV) program.
2. Unpack how you do what you do
Time flies when you’re an entrepreneur. It’s easy to do things the same way you always have because it works. But new tools and methods are being invented all the time. Make time to look at your operations, challenge your team to do the same, and look for the opportunities to save.
Explore alternative energy sources
Could your business run partly on solar power and sell electricity back to the grid? Would better windows lower heating and cooling costs? A low-cost energy audit can show you where to invest for the maximum return on your money.
Upgrade outdated equipment
If your business relies on machinery, have a plan to phase out older, less efficient equipment. A business financing expert can help you determine the most cost-effective way to make money-saving upgrades.
Audit your digital footprint
Businesses that stream a lot of data, like websites that offer virtual tours or how-to videos, generate a lot of carbon emissions. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to power the large computer facilities that process data. If you have a website, you can get a free sustainability score here.
3. Let your customers and suppliers have a say
Your carbon footprint isn’t limited to what you do. It also depends on the efficiency of your suppliers and the expectations of your customers.
Challenge suppliers to keep up
Let suppliers know that you support their efforts to do things in a more sustainable way. They may feel more confident about investing in their future when they know they have your support and loyalty.
Can you go more local?
Ontario is home to countless innovative companies, with new ones popping up all the time. Sourcing materials from local suppliers can lower the environmental impact of transportation.
Collaborate with customers to identify ways to reduce all kinds of emissions. For example, ask if they would prefer options like consolidated shipments, electronic billing and payment options, and reduced packaging.
How to get started on no-cost, low-cost solutions
These are just a few of the ways SMEs can lead the charge on sustainability. A Meridian Business Specialist can help you evaluate the financial impact of making upgrades and improvements. You can also learn more about grants and funding opportunities on the Sustainability Ontario website.
1 Business Development Canada (BDC). “10 things you (probably didn’t know about Canadian small businesses. Viewed August 2022. https://www.bdc.ca/en/articles-tools/business-strategy-planning/manage-business/10-things-didnt-know-canadian-sme
3 Statistics Canada, Table 33-10-0222-01 Canadian Business Counts, with employees, December 2019, Table 17-10-0005-01 — Population estimates on July 1st, by age and sex; and ISED calculations. Viewed August 2022. https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/061.nsf/eng/h_03126.html
4 Everything LED. Government of Canada website. Viewed August 2022. https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/spotlight-energy-efficiency/2021/11/14/everything-led/23946
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