Climate change has never been higher on the political agenda, with businesses, local authorities, and individuals all expected to play their part in helping to reduce carbon emissions.
The topic of ‘going green’ formed the basis of the discussion in the latest episode of the Vaillant podcast. For this feature, the podcast’s host, Simon Whysall discusses some of the key takeaways from his discussion with Martin McTague, chair of policy and advocacy at the Federation of Small Businesses, and James Lacey, managing director at JLN Plumbing and Heating.
Small steps to make a big difference
If you’re just starting to think about ways to go greener, it’s important to start with an understanding of the current impact your business may be having on the environment.
According to a recent study by the Federation of Small Businesses, 56% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) recognise that there is a climate crisis and are committed to wanting to do their part to help tackle the issues. However, many of them are unsure where to start or where to look for support.
Software to work out your own carbon footprint
Martin recommends using software that analyses your accounts to work out your carbon footprint: “There is some really clever software out there now that works with your accounting package. It works out the carbon impact according to what your business spends money on. This is used to calculate your carbon footprint, which you can check back on as you make changes to your business.”
But with global companies making headline-grabbing climate pledges, reducing carbon emissions may feel out of reach for small businesses and installers.
It can feel daunting, but as James Lacey points out: “There’s lots of small steps we can take to get on that journey to becoming a greener business, even just by looking at cutting things down and changing processes and procedures – it doesn’t have to be something massive.”
Efficient lighting, switch to electric vans, intelligent appointment scheduling – every little helps
What’s more, making changes that help the planet could also help your business become more efficient and improve profit margins. James comments: “What we’ve found is that anything we can do more efficiently lends itself to being greener. If we can put efficient lighting in – that’s greener but also cheaper to run. If we can switch to electric vans – that’s greener, but it’s also cheaper to run than diesel or petrol. If we can cut down on mileage with intelligent appointment scheduling and map building – that’s greener, but also more efficient for the business.
“Everything we do that’s greener turns out to make us more profit – and that’s what we’re in business for after all.”
Green technology – how it works in the real-world
Embracing technology will be key to running a greener, and more efficient business in the future. From familiarising yourself with new products to trying out digital marketing. And, by choosing the right business software you could drastically improve how efficiently your business is run and reduce your carbon footprint.
At JLN Plumbing, the adoption of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system has helped James’ business thrive and cut down on paperwork.
He said: “We do everything via our CRM and are now running a virtually paperless business. It holds the customer details, any job we have ever done for them, appliance history and serial numbers, as well as a record of any repairs. It links to the vans and every engineer has access to it on their phones for when they go out to visits.
“It will send confirmation messages when a customer books a call and another message when the engineer is on their way. This avoids the common problem of customers forgetting we’re coming out to them and us wasting a trip. It’s more efficient, it helps us reduce our carbon emissions, and customers love it too.”
To help installers monitor and manage their customer installations Vaillant has also developed a new app, myVAILLANT pro, which can remotely monitor a homeowner’s heating system, including controls.
The app allows installers to remotely monitor their boiler installations, providing real time data insights on faults and diagnostics all at a touch of a button. This helps improve service efficiency and can also be used to identify the parts required for a repair ahead of a visit, helping to reduce unnecessary journeys – whilst also improving first time fix rates.
Incentives to help cover the cost of changing your business
Whilst the small changes may be easier and cost effective to implement; there will be a point in which installers will see an opportunity to make more significant improvements to their business – and these often require additional funding.
As Martin puts it: “The two areas that most businesses will need to concentrate on to reduce their carbon footprint is transport and heating. There is a nervousness about making these bigger investments, but it’s important to get ahead of the curve before it becomes enforceable.”
Looking at transport, the introduction of clean air or low-emission zones may drive the electric vehicle market, with local authorities providing grants and low-interest loans to encourage people to make the switch.
In addition, eligible businesses in the UK will soon be able to apply for a 50% discount to put towards software upgrades to help their business grow and be more efficient. The government’s Help to Grow: Digital scheme started accepting applications in January 2022, so you can register your interest now.
Don’t get left behind
A report published by NatWest in October 2021 revealed that, as a result of the drive to tackle climate change, there is a £160+ billion revenue opportunity for SMEs3. It’s estimated that SMEs will need to support, among other things, 5 million insulation and 3 million heat pump retrofits (85% of the UK total), 125,000 electric vehicle charge point installations (48% of the UK total), and installation of 22GW of renewable power capacity per year (34% of the UK total).
There has never been a better time for SMEs to act, and for installers there’s a real opportunity to upskill and train in heat pump and hydrogen technologies, in order to grow their business and meet future customer demands.
Homeowners are also becoming increasingly more aware of who they buy products and services from, with green credentials a potential factor in their buying decision.
Think about your branding
When it comes to marketing green credentials, James offered this advice: “At JLN Plumbing and Heating we make sure our green credentials are mentioned across our advertising and it’s something that is really embedded in the brand now.
“I don’t think we’re at the point yet where people are specifying that they would only use a green company or supplier, but they certainly take notice when you talk about it. People are commenting more and more on green issues, we’re getting asked a lot, particularly when we do new boiler quotes, about renewable products. Eventually we will be in a place where green credentials are an expectation of customers.”
Martin agreed, adding: “The main driver in all this of course is legislation. The UK government has a legal obligation to meet climate change targets and therefore more pressure will be put on businesses to adopt greener processes. This will be in the next few years – we’re not talking decades here – and the more you delay the more chance of someone overtaking you.”