How to do a sustainability audit for your small business

How to do a sustainability audit for your small business
Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial

Posted: Fri 8th Dec 2023

As a small business owner, have you ever wondered how sustainable your business practices are? Are you looking to reduce your environmental impact and improve your bottom line? A sustainability audit can help you assess what you do currently, then identify areas for improvement.

Whether you're just starting your sustainability journey or have already implemented some green initiatives, carrying out a sustainability audit is crucial.

In this blog, we'll guide you through the auditing process and help you to reduce your environmental footprint while having a positive impact.

What is a sustainability audit?

A sustainability audit is a process that examines your business's environmental, social and economic practices to see how well you're meeting certain sustainability standards. The main purpose of the audit is to:

Sustainability auditing also allows you to benchmark your performance against industry standards and best practice, giving you valuable insight into your sustainability efforts. That way, you can set realistic and achievable sustainability goals and monitor your progress over time.

Why would my business need a sustainability audit?

More and more businesses are doing sustainability audits, for several reasons. There's a growing recognition of the importance of environmental responsibility and the need for everyone to reduce their environmental impact overall. By carrying out regular sustainability audits, your business can assess its:

Once you've done that, you can identify opportunities for improvement and create effective sustainability initiatives.

Sustainability audits also help your business stay within the law and meet other industry standards. By evaluating your sustainability practices, you can make sure you're keeping to environmental regulations and reducing any negative social impacts associated with how you operate.

How do I carry out a sustainability audit?

First, you must understand the key principles of sustainability and why they're important. Once you're clear on that, you can figure out what sustainable practices your small business can adopt.

Look into environmental laws and standards that might affect your business. Talk to staff and customers to work out what impact your business has on the environment, then work together to find solutions.

The key to a good sustainability audit is to have a strong action plan in place before you begin. This is crucial for getting support from senior management (if that applies) and making sure your project doesn't lose momentum after a short while.

It will also ensure that sustainability becomes an important part of your business's culture and that your efforts towards being more sustainable are long-lasting.

Creating a sustainability action plan

A sustainability action plan outlines what everyone in your business needs to do to reach the sustainability goals you've set for yourself. It details the tasks that must take place if you're to meet your objectives and improve your environmental performance.

To determine how sustainable your company is, look at factors like your energy usage and your supply chain. Use tools to estimate your carbon footprint.

Audit all major business operations, from recycling materials in the workplace to employees' commuting and how you source raw materials. Consider getting a professional environmental audit, especially if you want certification or to be a certified B Corporation.

You can create your sustainability action plan by following these key steps.

  • Assessment: Begin by doing a full assessment of your business's current performance when it comes to sustainability. This includes analysing:

    • your impact on the environment

    • your energy consumption and efficiency

    • your greenhouse gas emissions, and

    • any existing sustainability initiatives you've already put in place

  • Goals and targets: Set clear and measurable sustainability goals and targets that align with your business's values and long-term vision. These goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

  • Potential actions: Identify possible action you could take to achieve your sustainability goals. This could include:

    • implementing energy-saving measures

    • developing waste reduction strategies

    • switching to renewable energy, and

    • introducing programmes to make employees more aware of your aims

  • Key performance indicators (KPIs): Develop a set of KPIs to measure and track your progress towards the sustainability goals. These KPIs should be quantifiable and, ideally, align with the industry's environmental standards and best practice.

  • Timeline and implementation: Create a timeline for taking the action you've identified. This timeline should consider what resources you have available, budget constraints, and any other relevant factors. Assign responsibilities to different teams and individuals to make sure everything is implemented as well as possible.

  • Consultation: A crucial part of developing a sustainability action plan is engaging the people who hold a stake in its success. Decide on a 'sustainability manager' – someone who will act as the focal point, co-ordinating and facilitating all your efforts.

    Consulting the relevant people in this way helps you gather diverse perspectives, identify potential barriers or challenges, and make sure everyone has bought in and committed to the plan.


Plan it with Purpose Ireland: Helping businesses develop a better understanding of environmental and social issues

Plan it with Purpose: Sustainability discovery tool

Answer a series of questions about your business and get a tailored action plan that tells you where to find the support, resources and advice you need to be more sustainable. Take me to the tool


Relevant resources

Marc Gardner
Marc GardnerOfficial
I'm Enterprise Nation's senior content manager, and I spend most of my time working on all types of content for the small business programmes and campaigns we run with our corporate, government and local-authority partners.

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