Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Providing environmental information to your customers, take back schemes and other initiatives

Protect the environment; inform your customers about environmental issues

Customers now expect detailed information about the goods and services they buy.

You must label some products with environmental information. It is a good idea to provide additional information, for example about recycling options, to encourage your customers to consider the environment.

Customers may expect your staff to be able to answer questions, offer help and provide reliable information. This goes beyond your legal obligations, but providing environmental information about your products can help strengthen your reputation and could win you business.

What you must do

Provide information about electrical equipment

If you sell electrical or electronic equipment, you must provide information to your customers about its environmental impacts and how to dispose of it.

If you sell household electrical equipment, you must label products clearly with their energy efficiency ratings. For more information see our guidance on energy labelling.

For more information about what you have to do, see our guidance for equipment distributors and retailers

Provide information about chemicals you sell

  • If you sell a chemical that is supplied with a safety data sheet (SDS) you must pass this information on to your customers. The SDS contains information about the chemical, including details of how to store, use and dispose of it safely.
  • If you receive a chemical without an SDS, contact your supplier to find out whether or not they have to provide one. They may have to under the REACH Regulation.
  • You must make sure that your products carry any relevant hazard warning labels.

For more detailed information see our guidance on chemical labelling and information.

Tell customers about any take-back schemes you offer

You must provide a free take-back service for your customers if you sell:

  • electrical and electronic equipment
  • more than 32kg of portable batteries.

For more information see our guidance on:

Selling batteries

Equipment distributors and retailers

Good practice

Provide information about the source of your goods

Customers are becoming more interested in the source of goods, and this information will help customers identify you as an environmentally aware business. Customers may wish to know:

  • product's country of origin
  • how the product was transported
  • who made or grew the product.

Stock seasonal and local products

  • Sell fresh, seasonal and local produce to support local farmers, growers and traders.
  • This also helps you to ensure your goods have a smaller carbon footprint than the same goods bought from further afield.
  • The Red Tractor scheme assures that the food production chain meets food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards.

Red Tractor scheme - Assured food standards

Take part in local initiatives

  • Take part in community initiatives, such as local reusable bag schemes. Agree with other local shop owners that you are going to start charging for carrier bags.
  • Participating in local schemes helps to build a strong community spirit. It can also save you money, help save resources and reduce packaging waste.
  • Explain to your customers why you are participating in any schemes. This will encourage them to support you and the local community.

Offer a local delivery scheme

  • Offer free delivery to customers living nearby. This can help to build your customer base and improve your reputation.
  • Alternatively, you could hire out bicycle trailers so people can take bulky shopping home on the back of their bicycles and return the trailers later.
  • This will also encourage customers to come by bike.

Understand the labels on your products

  • Many products now carry 'green' labels. These may show information about a product's carbon footprint, if it is organic, or recycling options available for consumers.
  • Some labels certify that the product meets a particular environmental standard. For example, furniture, paper or tissues may carry the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo, telling consumers that the product has come from well-managed forests.
  • You may want to consider sourcing products with these labels. It is a good idea for you to be familiar with these labels, even if your products don't carry them, as your customers may ask about them.
  • Defra's guidance on certified green labels can help consumers understand what they mean.

GOV.UK: Environmental claims and labels: A guide for businesses 

Good Practice Videos

Sell organic

  • If you want to sell organic goods, there are certain standards that they should meet. Customers may look out for 'Organic Certification' with the code for the certification body.

GOV.UK: Organic standards and certification 

Provide recycling information

  • If you rebrand products, or sell own-brand goods, you could include recycling information on the packaging.
  • The On-Pack Recycling Label scheme offers easy-to-understand recycling symbols, and helps increase recycling rates in the UK. It costs £700 to sign up to the scheme, but there are reduced rates for small businesses and charities.

On-Pack Recycling Label scheme

Further information

World Fair Trade Organisation

Fairtrade Foundation

British Association for Fair Trade shops

SEE ALSO: Energy labelling and eco-design, Buying sustainable goods and services

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