The Ethical Business Guide: Combining Environmental Principles With Expert Accounting Practices

BY DAVID WILSDON
GREEN ACCOUNTANCY

Paying attention to the numbers can have a positive impact on the environment as well as the bottom line. It’s possible for businesses in even the most traditional of sectors to take
a different and more ethical approach. Green Accountancy was formed in 2007 with the aim of helping and encouraging small businesses to reduce their environmental impact.

By combining our qualifications and experience in accountancy, environmental conservation and community work, we have been able to help people who may have found mainstream advice inaccessible or difficult to take up.

A DIFFERENT APPROACH

Starting a brand new business with no systems or clients enabled us to build ethics into our business from day one and to focus on issues that we feel are truly important, such as climate change. As such we offer a different approach to most accountancy firms, integrating financial advice with environmental consultancy. This not only helps our clients to minimise their ecological impact but also delivers cost savings by doing so. In fact, we are often able to help small businesses reduce their greenhouse gases by up to 90 per cent, which has a significant positive impact on their bottom line.

LINKS TO THE COMMUNITY

Ethical practice at a local level is also about treating people fairly, with consideration and without prejudice. We have an open policy whereby we are always willing to talk to people about any business or environmental issue that we may be able to help with.

Many great activities are being carried out by real people in real communities. Often a little advice, perhaps just a half hour chat, can make a huge difference to the outcome of these activities. We have seen too many disaster stories where honest people have fallen foul of
tax rules, employment law or market principles for want of a little advice. We prevent this by helping people understand how to make a living from the activities they enjoy. Simple record keeping, how to price and raise invoices, understanding the tax system as it applies to small businesses and having contacts that can help are all part of earning an enjoyable living.

Our willingness to put people first and help in practical ways means that we are acknowledged as approachable. People call us for a chat, to ask questions and to arrange to meet.
We have worked with foresters, musicians, writers, artists, therapists, carpenters, plumbers, organisers, cooks, designers, gardeners and landscapers; all of whom may have found it difficult to secure assistance from a traditional accounts practice.

WE OFFER A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO MOST ACCOUNTANCY FIRMS, INTEGRATING FINANCIAL ADVICE WITH ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANCY

MAIN ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES

  • We aim to operate our organisation with as little environmental impact as possible. All of the actions we take are accessible to most small business operations.
  • We have a home based office which is well insulated and receives good natural light
  • We refurbish and purchase recycled equipment where possible – our favourite office desk is in its fourth ownership and was made in 1981
  • Most of our day-to-day work involves no transport. Meetings are held at our office locations or clients’ premises in Oxford, Reading or London. All travel to such meetings is by bus, train, tube or occasionally we use our low emission Ford Fusion which we fuel with recycled waste vegetable oil
  • We monitor and minimise the amount of electricity used. All of our electricity is 100 per cent renewable provided by Good Energy. Our website is hosted by Ecological Hosting using servers that are powered entirely by solar panels
  • We tread as lightly as possible in terms of paper, printing, recycling, water usage, purchasing, banking and investments
  • We purchase and plant one tree for every 10kg of carbon dioxide per year that our business currently generates

SMES CONSIDERING THE ENVIRONMENT

Once the basics have been established we find that most small business owners want to run a sustainable company; becoming more efficient, saving tax and motivating their workforce.

Public attitudes are changing. The Carbon Trust reports that 64 per cent of consumers are more likely to use a business that can demonstrate it has a low carbon footprint. Procurement policies of many large buyers including local authorities require suppliers to have a sound environmental policy. Whether customers are consumers, public sector or other businesses it is possible to reach an expanded market through solid environmental policies.

The government is encouraging businesses to take up the environmental challenge in the following ways:

  • Cars emitting less than 120g CO2 per km are treated very favourably by the tax system Schemes encouraging employees to use public transport and bicycles are tax efficient

  • Enhanced capital allowances and interest free loans are available when purchasing equipment that saves energy or water

  • Climate change levy is avoided by purchasing renewable source electricity and landfill tax is avoided by recycling

No-one ever created a great business by shaving a few percentage points off overheads. However, rising costs of electricity (up 78 per cent since 2003), gas (74 per cent), fuel (36 per cent) and water (24 per cent) mean that efficiencies in these areas help to balance the books and reduce climate change.

The efficiencies don’t stop at costs savings. For example paperless systems give quick access to information. Taking the train instead of driving frees up valuable reading and working time. Maintaining or refurbishing equipment rather than replacing can avoid expensive down time, installation and training.

By taking simple actions, counting your greenhouse gas emissions and setting green policies it is easy to reduce environmental impacts, grow business, reduce costs, save tax and improve the morale of your workforce. In a competitive market, and that includes tougher trading conditions which may be on the horizon, considering the environment will help any small business prosper.

Green Accountancy was founded by David Wilsdon and is a firm of chartered certified accountants qualified in environmental conservation. The company offers a full range of accountancy and taxation services, all provided with consideration of the environment and ethical issues. For more information visit www.greenaccountancy.com

© BLUE ROCKET AND THE GOOD FOLK 2009