Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Manage and improve your environmental performance

Running a business, whatever the size or type of your business, costs money and can impact on the environment. But you can take practical steps to manage your environmental performance and save money.

Relevant Business Topics:

All Business Topics

Additional resources

Produce an environmental policy

You can demonstrate your commitment to improving your environmental performance by producing a mission or policy statement. This should be kept up to date and be supported and reviewed by senior management.

You policy statement should state clearly how you will continually improve your environmental performance and cover issues such as:

  • Legal compliance, and beyond
  • Pollution prevention
  • Waste minimisation,
  • Energy use
  • Staff awareness and training

Management can demonstrate its commitment to the policy by making sure that the resources are in place to allow the aims of the policy to be achieved.

Make sure that you incorporate its principles into staff development, procedures, company business strategies and action plans.

You can find more detailed advice on Environmental policies, including examples and checklists, on the Resource Efficient Scotland (RES) website.

RES: Develop and share an environmental policy.

NIBUSINESSINFO: Write and environmental policy

WRAP: Your guide to environmental management systems (Section 5, Environmental policies)

Ensure environmental compliance

An important part of managing environmental performance is to make sure that your business complies with all relevant environmental legislation. Aiming to make continuous improvement will take you beyond the requirements of the regulations, and will help to develop higher standards. In the first instance you must make sure you are aware of and compliant with all relevant environmental regulations. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, you can use NetRegs to help you identify the legislation that applies to you.

Identify where your business could have environmental impacts.

You can use the NetRegs Business topics to help you list all the areas where your business might have impacts on the environment. Choose the business sector that matches your business type and check all the lists of topics associated with each area.

If you can’t find your business type, then use the A-Z of Jobs to identify which business sector is most appropriate to your activities.

NetRegs Business topics

NetRegs A-Z list of Jobs

The guidance will explain how to comply with any environmental regulations that apply to you and will also tell you if a permit or licence is needed.

You can also do a check of your environmental compliance by using the NetRegs Environmental self-assessment tool. This is free, anonymous and easy to use and will produce a report generated by your answers to a set of questions. You can use this report to identify areas for improvement and follow the links to the relevant NetRegs guidance.

NetRegs: Environmental compliance self-assessment tool

Implement an environmental management system

You may wish to implement an Environmental management system (EMS). An EMS encourages a systematic approach to help you to identify your business' impact on the environment and then manage your activities to reduce your impact, for example by reducing the energy or water you use or the waste you produce.

An EMS is something you can develop to suit your own needs, there are many businesses with their own bespoke EMS. What is important is that it is appropriate, and works for your business.


You can go a stage further and go for an EMS that is accredited to an agreed standard. There are a number of schemes available; many are specifically designed for smaller businesses that don’t have the time to do everything necessary at once. You can follow the guidance to develop an externally accredited EMS, for example by joining the Green Tourism Scheme:

Green Tourism

There are several schemes that follow the British Standard BS3555 and break the process down into small sections. Over time, this can build into a fully accredited EMS.

GBP: Green Ticks scheme

TIS: The Seren Scheme

IEMA: The Acorn Scheme

For more information about how an EMS can help your business, read the NetRegs case studies at:

NetRegs: Case studies and videos

For information on how to start the process:

NetRegs: Environmental Management Systems

Resource Efficient Scotland: Implement and EMS

WRAPNI: Your guide to Environmental Management Systems

Manage purchases to reduce your environmental impacts

You will buy a variety of goods and services as an office business, from paper to computers to catering and cleaning services.

You can reduce the environmental impact of the goods and services you purchase. You could also reduce your costs by following green or sustainable procurement principles.

Consider the environmental impacts during the full life cycle of a product or service when buying, including:

  • what raw materials are used to manufacture the product or provide the service
  • how the product is produced and the energy used
  • how the product or service will perform in use, eg will it use energy, water, produce waste
  • how much it will cost to dispose of the product and the environmental impacts of disposal
  • the potential for reuse or recycling the product
  • the environmental performance of your suppliers.

Before buying any goods, consider first whether the product or service needs to be bought at all.

NIBUSINESSINFO: Supply chain efficiency

WRAP: Sustainable procurement e-learning modules

RES: Supply chain management

NetRegs: Buying sustainable goods

Circular economy: a sustainable future economy

Traditional production is a linear economy in which materials are produced, refined and made into materials which are sent to the manufacturing process. These then are sold, used and then disposed of, often to landfill.

It takes 20 times more energy to produce an aluminium drinks can from raw materials than it does to produce one from a used aluminium can. Savings like this make for a more efficient production process, reducing costs and improving long term sustainability.

In particular the possible shortages of key materials, such as the rare elements used in the production of electronics, makes recycling, re-use and remanufacturing the sustainable option.

Managing resource use, such as energy, water and raw materials all contribute towards a more circular approach.

The leasing of goods, rather than selling them, means that upgrading, retrofitting and remanufacture of goods is easier to organise and can bring significant cost savings to your business and the client.

Introducing loops to create a more circular model

Closed loops help to reduce waste, and divert waste from landfill.

Recycling materials

Recycling materials keeps them as valuable commodities that increase business efficiency.

Design for remanufacture

Product design can influence what happens to used products. They can be designed for disassembly and refurbishment, making new improved products from existing components.

For more information about how the circular economy will improve your business activities see:

Ellen MacArthur Foundation: The Circular Economy

Ellen MacArthur Foundation: Closed Loop

NetRegs: Towards the circular economy

BSI has created a free briefing on the newly developed BS 8001:2007 standard Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations. This aims to help businesses take steps to develop a more circular approach to their activities.

BSI: Executive briefing: BS 8001 – a guide

Communicate with staff on environmental issues

Encourage all your office staff to work together to improve your environmental performance. The day-to-day actions of your staff can significantly reduce your environmental impact. Ask someone to volunteer at your office as the environmental champion or set up a Green Team.

Resource Efficient Scotland (RES) provides free, online Green Champion Training. This is available to all businesses, not just those in Scotland.

RES: Green Champion Training

Engage with senior management to gain their support for environmental policies.

Raise awareness among staff about your policies and update them regularly on your progress and what you've achieved.

You can use the NetRegs e-learning tools to get a good overview of key issues. These tools are free to use and cover the essential points of each topic. They might be useful as a refresher course, or to make sure that staff have a good understanding of their environmental responsibilities.

  • Preventing pollution – a general guide
  • Duty of care
  • Sinks, drains and sewers
  • WEEE
  • Generating renewable energy
  • Towards environmental excellence

All are available at: NetRegs e-learning tools

Produce an environmental report

Your business can benefit from improving its environmental performance and reporting on this to both staff and your customers.

Reporting will:

  • give you information about your current performance, and whether you are complying with legislation
  • identify where you could improve your activities and use resources more efficiently, saving you money
  • involve your staff and help increase their environmental awareness
  • help you compare your performance with similar businesses or industry standards
  • demonstrate to your staff, customers and the public your commitment to improving your environmental performance.

You should focus on how you manage your key environmental impacts, for example your vehicle carbon emissions, using fuel and oils safely and waste management. Document the progress you are making. This will help you involve and motivate your staff.

To find out how you can measure and report on your business' environmental performance see:

What is an environmental report?

GOV.UK: Guidance on environmental reporting

Global Reporting Initiative: Small, Smart and Sustainable

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