Here at New Links Training Solutions, we recognise the need to lead by example in implementing sustainable and environmentally friendly policies. SMEs individually may have a small environmental footprint, we constitute the majority of businesses in Ireland (99.8%). Collectively, our activity has an enormous environmental impact and we must take responsibility for mitigating or minimising this impact. To that end, we have conducted a sustainability audit of our business activities to identify areas where efficiency improvements could be made.
The audit is ongoing and we anticipate the implementation of several efficiencies over the next 6 to 12 months and into the future as we continuously improve. Upon commencement of the audit, it immediately became obvious that our printing activities were operating at an unsustainable and harmful level. Energy and resource consumption, expenditure, and staff time were not remotely justified by the benefits gained from the volume of inhouse production of materials as numerous issues were identified.
- Opportunity cost
Feedback from learners and tutors has indicated that the printouts and notes previously provided, while appreciated, were unnecessary and often ended up discarded in general waste.
In addition to the environmental and sustainability impact, we became aware of many learners who were unable to use the materials in the format provided, due to varying individual learning needs. Many learners asked for notes and materials to be provided in different formats to facilitate accessibility and the most commonly requested format was electronic.
Our tutors engage in continuous research, training, and upskilling which they will always pass on to our learners. Hard copy learning resources do not lend themselves to the continuous improvements our tutors are committed to, leading to large volumes of pre-prepared materials becoming out of date and therefore going to waste.
There is no way to achieve maximum productivity and minimal waste in a small organisation if one employee is engaged solely to print and organise materials.
Consumption of energy, ink, paper, plastic, time, and revenue constituted a high enough proportion of the businesses resources as to be unsustainable in every sense.
6. Opportunity cost
The time and energy devoted to creating physical materials can be better spent in a number of ways, including but not limited to further learning and research, business development, more support to learners and clients, improving our client offering.
For these reasons we have decided that we will henceforth provide all materials in an electronic format to all learners. Learners themselves can decide to print all, some, or none of the materials if required. We will ensure that no learner is disadvantaged by any policy we implement. We have a new range of video tutorials available to learners to enhance their experience and to ensure that they have access to every resource possible to support their learning journey. Our combined efforts will result in reduced waste and energy consumption as well as enabling learners to reformat their own materials to accommodate their individual learning needs.
We appreciate the support of all our learners in our continued sustainability effort and welcome your feedback and suggestions. Ultimately all business and education decisions are made in line with recognised best practice, governance and evidence-based advice from expert organisations. Ultimately the success of our learners is our number one priority in every decision we make.
“reducing the environmental impact of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in both manufacturing and services is a key success factor in greening the economy. Improving the environmental performance is also a significant business opportunity for SMEs themselves as important suppliers of goods and services.”
Source: environmental policy toolkit for greening SMEs in the EU eastern partnership countries first edition