Grow profits by going green

Appease the green brigade and put a smile on your FD’s face at the same time

Appease the green brigade and put a smile on your FD’s face at the same time

Appease the green brigade and put a smile on your FD’s face at the same time

‘A lot of environmental initiatives are seen as costing money – for example, going carbon neutral – but this one offers the double whammy of cost savings and doing something to help the environment.’

It’s a persuasive pitch from Adam Warren, MD of watercooler supplier Greencare H2O and one of many entrepreneurs promising to save business costs as well as the planet.

According to Warren, Greencare’s watercoolers, which are fitted to the mains water supply, could save companies 70 per cent of their water costs while offering a product barely different from the bottled stuff.

‘It’s not a second-best option,’ says Warren. ‘Filtered, chilled tap water is indistinguishable in any kind of blind tasting from bottled water.

‘I don’t want to go into a rant about the health benefits, but UK tap water is as safe as you come across. It has to meet standards that are far higher than anything imposed on the bottled water industry.’

Stop the cost

While Warren focuses on water, other bright sparks have concentrated on the resource that tends to cost businesses most. According to research by Ipsos MORI, energy accounts for nearly ten per cent of small businesses’ costs, and rising prices are stretching budgets further.

Stephen Bridges, MD of Airius Europe, says the company has a product that can slash energy bills by between 15 and 50 per cent. It was invented by American plastics manufacturer Ray Avidon. He noticed that he was heating the top six feet of his warehouses to 40 degrees to maintain a comfortable temperature of 21 degrees in the bottom six feet. Facing energy bills of more than US$200,000 (£100,000), he decided to act and the Airius system was the result.

‘At school you learn that heat rises,’ says Bridges. ‘All we do is push it down again. [The system] consumes virtually no energy and you get capital payback within two winters, or in some cases one winter.’

The system, which pushes a very narrow, slow-moving column of air from ceiling to floor, costs between £1,500 and £14,000 to install depending on the size of the space. Though most effective for large, high spaces, there is a version for offices.

‘At every sales presentation, we put one under the table without telling people,’ says Bridges. ‘Within ten minutes people are saying, “It feels so nice in here!”’

Switching off

One prerequisite for cutting energy consumption is keeping a close eye on it. Invisible Systems aims to help businesses do just that.

From around £1,000, the company installs a system that shows managers at a glance how much energy is being used and sends warning messages to their computers or mobile phones if this crosses a particular threshold. MD Pete Thompson says that a typical retail outlet might expect the system to generate savings within six months.

‘What we’ve found is that previously shop managers were trained to switch appliances off when they weren’t needed and this resulted in a drop in energy costs of about
20 per cent,’ Thompson explains. ‘That might last for a month or so, but then the old habits return. If energy usage is continuously monitored, however, the business keeps saving money.’

The aforementioned Ipsos MORI survey suggests that more than half of managers pay more attention to saving energy at home than they do at work.

Innovators like Warren, Bridges and Thompson are determined to change their minds.

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.