- Benefit from lower carbon and ‘circular’ products
- Measure and provide emission data
- Sell lower carbon products
- Switch to products that can be resold, rented or repaired
- Use lower carbon logistics
- Get low carbon product certification
- Design for disassembly
- Find local business grants and schemes
Selling more sustainable products can boost your appeal to customers, buyers and potential investors.
This is because greener products:
- lower your business’ carbon emissions
- may be preferred by the companies you supply
- can enhance your business reputation
- help ensure future regulatory compliance
- can be more reliable and ensure business continuity
According to a 2019 study, 85% of consumers are more likely to buy from a business with a reputation for sustainability than from a neutral company, assuming their prices were equal.
Larger companies that have legal obligations to report their emissions may also require suppliers to carry or develop more sustainable products.
To provide customers and other buyers with the best information, start by collecting emissions data on the products you sell.
If you sell products made by another business, this involves asking suppliers about their materials and practices.
If you make your own products, this involves gathering data on raw materials and the energy you use for manufacturing.
To get the full picture of your product’s emissions, you need to account for the entire life cycle from production to disposal, including emissions incurred during usage.
It’s important to know which products create the most carbon and start there.
This is easiest if you work with suppliers that can provide emissions data or can produce your own.
After you figure out which products to target, you can:
- ask suppliers about lower carbon options for similar products
- look for small producers that have lower carbon production methods
- join a buying group that can help procure green products
Products can take less carbon to produce, use and dispose of if they:
- are transported shorter distances
- avoid carbon-intensive roadway transport
- are certified with sustainable standards such as the Forest Stewardship Council
- are made of recycled or reused materials
- have minimal packaging and are made using renewable energy
Partnering with other businesses and suppliers who are committed to sustainability can also increase your influence and ability to reduce supply chain emissions.
One of the fastest ways to reduce indirect emissions is to shift to ‘circular economy’ products that can be used by multiple customers.
This could involve offering:
- rentals for infrequently used products
- subscription or leasing model for goods that may need ongoing maintenance or regular upgrades
- repair services
- resale programs for products that can be refurbished
- take-back programmes that collect used products or materials back from consumers for some benefits
It is estimated that less than 10 percent of the global economy is currently circular.
According to the Circularity Gap Report a shift to reuse could save up to 40 percent of the emissions caused by the creation and use of consumer products.
Some of the benefits of shifting to a circular economy practice are:
- you will gather data on the wear and tear of your products and continuously improve the design for longevity, or ease of repair
- you will also get a better return on your raw materials in the long term, because you are using and selling them more than once
- you will improve customer loyalty and enhance your reputation
Though logistics account for less than 10 percent of retail emissions, the desire to ‘buy local’ and reduce the distance products travel is a popular way consumers take climate action.
The type of transport used to move goods to retail outlets is also a factor. Sea, rail and even air freight are usually less impactful than traditional road transport.
This could change in the future as HGVs and LGVs move toward cleaner fuels and electrification.
SMEs can take action by encouraging suppliers to make deliveries in lower carbon ways, and by using electric vehicles and bikes in their own fleets.
One of the main obstacles to recycling is the difficulty in separating materials and components.
Designing for disassembly, or modular design, means products are easy to take apart for repair, replace, recycle or reuse. This reduces labour costs and saves time and effort spent on recycling and disassembly for product repair, upgrade and refurbishment.
From the start of the process, design products that:
- have a simple and intuitive structure
- have the fewest possible parts
- are easily separable into recyclable components if they must be discarded
- use common and similar fasteners that only need a few standard tools to disassemble
- use screws as they are quicker to unfasten than nuts and bolts
- don’t contain glue, as far as this is possible
There are a number of certification schemes that prove your products are more sustainable.
Some focus on your organisation-wide carbon accounting methods while others look at specific products. Most have labels that can go on packages or your business website.
This can help consumers or other businesses quickly recognise your green credentials.
Use our finance and support page to find green business grant programmes in your region.
Some are designed to help SMEs with selling or developing greener products.
They can also offer:
- grants with no payback requirement
- matching funds up to a total amount or percentage of costs
- loans with low or no interest
- free expertise for energy assessments
Funding is dependent on the size of your business and where it’s located.
You can also use GOV.UK’s fund listing service to find programmes that apply to your business.