Last summer’s record-breaking European heatwave has given consumers and businesses alike another warning about the dangers of man-made climate change. It is a warning that many businesses now appear to be heeding. A recent survey carried out by the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has suggested that business leaders are ‘committed to combating climate change’.

The survey revealed that nine out of ten directors believe that business leaders need to act to mitigate the effects of climate change. Identifying positive steps that a business can take may seem a daunting prospect for many SMEs, particularly if cashflow is tight. However, many ideas are simple to put into action and some could save businesses money.

Here are some practical steps that all businesses can consider:

• Increase awareness – educate employees on the environmental impact of their behaviour and the simple steps that can be taken to reduce ecological footprints.

• Reduce and recycle – every business can make an effort to reduce the volume of waste it produces. Waste reduction also makes good business sense as it minimises the costs associated with both purchasing and disposal. Promoting a paperless office, banning plastic water bottles and organising recycling bins properly are all simple ways to make a significant impact.

• Improve energy efficiency – possibly the biggest way any business can make a difference. Cut down on fossil fuels by changing energy supplier or by looking at renewable options. Make sure computers, screens and machinery are all switched off when not in use to reduce energy usage. The installation of smart thermostats and LED light bulbs also has the potential to make significant savings. Moving to electric vehicles won’t just reduce your carbon footprint: it is increasingly tax-efficient too.

• Cut out plastic – beyond water bottles, businesses need to look at packaging. Plastic is already subject to a clampdown, and using it will become more costly in terms of both cash and reputation as consumers become more environmentally aware.

• Reduce travel – help reduce the number of cars on the road by working from home, encouraging carpooling, subsidising public transport or installing a bike rack. Video conferencing technology has improved substantially in recent years, making travelling for meetings unnecessary.

• Use the cloud – cloud computing addresses two critical elements of a green IT approach: energy efficiency and resource efficiency. Cloud technology saves space and provides flexibility, and it also cuts back on hardware and manufacturing, plus the emissions that go hand-in-hand with both.

Businesses may well be forced to change how they behave through a combination of consumer preferences and the implementation of future regulations. However, taking positive steps now will help to minimise businesses’ carbon footprints.