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Four sustainable changes you can make for your business

Will Kirkpatrick, Head of Sustainability and Social Impact at O2, looks at how businesses across the UK are making small sustainable changes that can all add up.

We’re all increasingly aware of our impact on the planet, but if we’re going to reduce it, then a vital first step for every business is to be honest about where they are on their sustainability journey. We often think that to make change, we have to rewrite our entire strategy, but some of the most impactful steps can be the small changes that amount to something bigger.

I spoke to some smaller businesses across the UK to understand what changes they’ve made to kick off their sustainability journey.

1. Reduce plastic use where you can

Reducing plastic is one of easiest ways to shrink our carbon footprint. A Stockport-based independent shop explained to us that they contacted their wholesalers to start the conversation.

“We’ve wanted to reduce the amount of plastic we use for ages. But it seemed like a really big and intimidating task. We started by contacting our wholesalers to see if they had an alternative and they were really open to the conversation. Since then, we’ve been able to halve the amount of plastic that arrives in the shop and it’s been a great talking point for our customers. We were really surprised by how flexible our suppliers were and I’d really recommend starting the conversation.”

This is a great way to share the challenge across your entire supply chain. Although in some situations it may not be possible, by having the conversation in the first place, we’re all doing our bit to raise the sustainable issues across our industry. And, at O2, we’re looking to make a 30% reduction in emissions from our supply chain by 2025 and supporting our suppliers to speed up their efforts to cut carbon.

2. Save money buying second-hand

In central London, we caught up with a recruitment company. With just under 20 staff, they moved offices before lockdown bringing three teams together.

“When we moved, the office didn’t have anything in it. Only the fixtures, so we decided to buy everything second-hand. We got a large portion of stuff from local auctions and the rest on local buy and sell pages. It makes a great talking point for new clients and it really gives the office an eclectic feel. We also saved lots of money. And the team did a lot of the work for us, bringing listings and ideas to the table. It’s nice to be in an office that we all contributed to.”

With any growing small business, finding ways to save money is important. So by asking ourselves the question, could we buy second hand as an alternative to buying new, we may be also contributing to our carbon footprint in an indirect way.

With O2 Recycle, we’ve taken back more than three million used devices to give them a second life, saving thousands of tonnes of tech from landfill and offering more affordable choices with our second-hand phone initiative ‘Like New’.

3. Look at your energy supplier

Like a lot of small businesses, a Manchester based creative agency inherited their office suppliers from a previous tenant.

“I think in our first year, we just stuck to what the landlord had given us. But, after that we had a real conversation about how we can be better for the planet. Finding a ‘green’ energy provider was actually really easy and having a sustainable supplier was at the top of our priority list. We went with Bulb and actually reduced our bills in the process. We also set our lights in hallways to timers, which is better for the planet and saved us some money.”

The goal for business is to reduce carbon emissions to as close to zero as possible, so switching to a renewable electricity provider is one measure. But if you have residual emissions you can’t remove, then you may want to consider offsetting. A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere, often through nature-based solutions like tree planting. If you go down this road, then it’s important to choose an accredited scheme. More information on the Woodland Carbon Code can be found here.

Today at O2, 100% of the electricity supply to sites where we control the bill is from renewable sources.

4. Embrace flexible and remote working

A technology support business in Sheffield also found that lockdown helped them start a conversation about sustainability, speaking to their CEO, they found that remote working had actually allowed them to reduce their carbon footprint and impact.

“Since COVID-19, we’ve seen a tangible reduction in our carbon footprint by having our staff work remotely. I think for our business, we do need time together, but, we’ve encouraged staff going forward to meet weekly and work remotely the rest of the time. It’s also been really helpful for parents in our business. They’ve been able to have more flexibility.”

We know that every business needs the right tools for the job – whatever that job might be. That’s why we offer a range of digital tools and cloud-based services like Microsoft Office 365 and Business Voice, which allow our customers to connect and work from anywhere.


Here at O2, we’re on our own journey to achieve net zero in our operations by 20251. This has taken commitment over time; looking at our environmental impacts and creating improvements. We’re the only network to receive the highest certification for carbon reduction in our supply chain.

So, if you want a business partner that is as committed to sustainability as you are, then have a chat with our team.

To learn more about O2’s journey to net zero and for tips on how you can reduce your CO2, visit O2 vs CO2.


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