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Steve Beattie's blog: Small fleets can make a big impact

Date: 19 February 2019

Steve Beattie, head of business sales at Volvo Car UK, shares easy-win corporate social responsibility initiatives to help SME fleets make a big difference.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) can often be seen as worthwhile only for big businesses that can make a big impact. Take Volvo Cars, for example: sustainability is a core part of our approach to our CSR commitment, whether that's revolutionising emissions technology or recycling parts to reduce our plastics consumption.

However, small businesses - especially those running a fleet - can make simple changes that could have a big impact on the environment.

Contrary to popular belief, going green is actually quite easy for an SME. Even the smallest company can implement effective eco-friendly changes, and making sure a fleet is as green as possible is an easy win.

99.9% of UK businesses are SMEs, turning over £1.9 trillion per year and employing 60% of the UK private sector workforce. Individually SMEs may be small, but together they are mighty and can make a real difference. 

Focus on green fleet

Businesses running a fleet, whether that consists of one car or a diverse fleet for 200 employees, can use telematics to gain an accurate overview of usage and areas for potential improvement. Simple monitoring, and working closely with the fleet provider, can help those managing a fleet to choose more efficient vehicles and improve driver behaviour and fuel efficiency. This will improve staff safety and reduce the environmental impact of the fleet. 

SME fleets can also be eligible for grants and incentives which would help them to become more socially and environmentally responsible. With access to grants, businesses are able to make investments which will offset some of their fleet costs, such as selecting hybrid vehicles.

Going green in the office

Businesses taking their first steps towards reducing their environmental impact can make simple switches such as investing in low-energy or LED light bulbs, turning off computers and lights at the end of the day and replacing single use plastic cups with glasses and mugs. These small changes will benefit the business' long-term profits as well as the environment.

Organising a regular litter-pick will not only help clean up the local area, but can also boost staff morale and company reputation. Volunteering together in this way, or indeed doing other charity work as a group, can also be an invaluable team-bonding opportunity as we at Volvo can testify. Last June, we took to the shoreline at Lee-on-the-Solent in Hampshire, contributing over 70 man-hours of beach clearing in aid of World Environment Day.

Bigger schemes such as going paperless or installing intelligent heating thermostats can have a huge environmental impact, but take longer to implement, especially in an established business. Small changes do add up and can reduce a company's impact on the environment as well as motivate employees and visitors to make small changes elsewhere.

For example, we recently removed the individually wrapped sweet treats in the coffee area at our Training and Development Centre in Daventry, replacing them with big glass jars full of good old-fashioned sweets that everyone loves. This is part of Volvo's wider commitment to eliminating single-use plastics from offices, canteens and events across the globe by the end of this year. 

Community benefits

Working with the local community and engaging with local projects and charities is an effective, easy and usually cheap way for businesses to embrace CSR alongside implementation of environmental policies.

Companies can also use the business community to the same end. Sharing best practice and troubleshooting problems together with suppliers, partners, business customers and other local businesses can deliver improved efficiencies and unique insights.

Many larger companies will only work with organisations that are maximising their sustainability. Tying a sustainability policy with a company's core competencies also allows them to better engage staff and attract the best people - those who want to work for a company that aligns with their own values.

Pursuing an active CSR programme can have a host of benefits for small businesses. Environmental policies for the fleet as well as the office don't just help the planet, they help SMEs save money by reducing fleet costs and other expenses such as energy bills.