Research shows companies can save money by helping the environment

Posted: Thursday 14th April 2011

British businesses can save around £23 billion a year by improving the way they use energy and water, and by reducing waste, according to research published today by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.

The research identifies these huge potential savings to UK businesses from what is known as ‘resource efficiency’ – using materials, energy and water more efficiently in ways that need very little or no investment. Improving resource efficiency is a key part of the transition to a green economy, providing benefits for businesses and the environment while boosting the UK economy. It also shows that the savings could be even greater when the potential from longer term investment is included. These savings could improve competitiveness and employment opportunities for British business.

Most of the potential low cost savings come from using raw materials more efficiently and generating less waste. This is calculated to offer an annual saving of around £18 billion. Energy (£4 billion) and water (less than £1 billion) efficiency make up the remainder.

Unveiling the research Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:

“Moving to a green economy offers businesses opportunities to grow into the future. Becoming more resource efficient contributes to a business’s bottom line, increases profitability and their capacity to grow. In addition to improving competitiveness, businesses could reduce carbon emissions by 29 million tonnes a year; so it’s a win-win for business and the environment.”

The research shows that some good progress has been made by business in being more efficient in the way they use resources, but there are still considerable opportunities out there. It identifies the main barriers to taking the necessary action as behavioural, financial and a lack of information.

Richard Gillies, Director of Plan A at Marks & Spencer, said:

“From our own experience, going green is good for business as well as being good for the environment. Last year Plan A, our eco and ethical programme, made a profit of £50 million which has been reinvested back into in the business. We’ve achieved this by becoming more efficient – for example using less energy, less packaging and recycling more – and by opening up new streams of revenue.”

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has been working with businesses on resource efficiency. This partnership approach has led to the establishment of a number of voluntary agreements across different sectors all of which have secured financial and environmental benefits.

The research project, prepared by Oakdene Hollins, looks at the potential financial and environmental savings to UK businesses from improved resource efficiency. It uses updated figures to a similar project published in 2007 to calculate the total savings potential of £23 billion per year.




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