Running a retail or wholesale outlet, whatever its size, costs money and can impact on the environment. But you can take practical steps to manage your environmental performance and save money.

Managing your environmental performance can help you to improve your reputation and win new business. It can help you communicate to your customers and staff that you comply with legislation and that you care about your impact on the environment.

Good practice

Use an environmental management system

Your business can reduce its environmental impact by using an environmental management system (EMS). An EMS helps you to identify your business' impacts and then manage your activities, for example the waste you produce or the energy or water you use. This can help you to improve your environmental performance and ultimately save money.

For more information about how an EMS can help your retail or wholesale business see our guidance on environmental management systems.

Report on your environmental performance

Your business can benefit from improving, and reporting on, its environmental performance. For example 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
  • demonstrate your commitment to improving your environmental performance to your staff, customers and the public.

You should focus on how you manage your key environmental impacts, for example waste management and energy use. Document the progress you are making. This will help you motivate staff.

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

What is an environmental report?

The NIEA and SEPA have also developed a toolkit that will help you comply with your Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit or waste management licence and manage your environmental performance.

Manage your supply chain

You can reduce the environmental impact of your business by considering how you source your goods.

When you are choosing products to sell, consider:

  • where the product comes from - in general, the further something has travelled, the larger the environmental impact it will have
  • what raw materials are used to manufacture the product
  • how the product has been made, and the energy that has gone into making it
  • how the product will be used - for example you could choose a wind-up torch rather than a battery-powered one
  • the packaging that a product comes in - is the packaging necessary?
  • how long the product will last, and how it will be disposed of
  • the potential for reusing or recycling the product when it reaches the end of its useful lifetime
  • the environmental performance of your suppliers.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) produces guidance for retailers on how to manage their supply chain.

Communicate with your staff

Encourage your staff to work together to improve your environmental performance. The day-to-day actions of your staff can reduce your environmental impact significantly. You could ask a member of staff in your business to be an environmental champion - you may want to have a champion in each store if you are part of a group, or at your warehouse too.

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

All are available at: NetRegs: e-learning tools:

You can get help to develop a more circular approach to your business activities from a number of business support organisations. This can be in the form of advice and training as well as funding opportunities. 

In Northern Ireland see our page:  Business support organisations  - Northern Ireland

In Scotland see our page: Business support organisations  - Scotland

SEE ALSO: Buying sustainable goods and services, Cutting your carbon emissions, Retail and wholesale sector guidance

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