As environmental sustainability becomes increasingly recognised as an indicator of good business practice, Irish companies are paying considerably more attention to this area, according to Declan White in the Competitiveness Department at Enterprise Ireland.
Companies see the opportunities to gain a competitive advantage through better resource efficiency and winning a greater market share in key export markets, said White.
Implementing sustainable practices helps companies to better manage their environmental impacts while identifying potential cost savings on resources, such as, energy, waste and water used in their processes.
White said that focussing on resource usage could help companies achieve a more competitive position.
The state agency Enterprise Ireland, through grant support from its Green Offer, helps companies to develop sustainable practices in their business.
This offer, which was launched last year, has assisted up to 30 companies to make savings in the past year which go straight to their bottom line. An encouraging number of companies have already applied, or plan to apply, for green supports in 2015, he said.
Enterprise Ireland’s Green Offer complements other State Agency supports, such as those available through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Business scheme, said White.
These agencies have a national remit in improving energy and environmental efficiencies in the commercial, residential, retail and hospitality sectors.
White said that enhancing a company’s credentials could lead to improved access to tenders, particularly in supply chain or public procurement tenders which may contain environmental criteria.
This not only improves competitiveness but has a ‘knock on’ benefit to the environment, he said.
There is also a growth in the considerable expertise made available through environmental consultants offering diverse services in all areas of environmental best practice including waste reduction, packaging, energy efficiency and renewables.
Most importantly from an environmental perspective, White said good sustainable practices involved meeting regulatory requirements.
In Ireland, compliance with regulations is overseen by local authorities and the EPA. Companies are better placed to comply with regulatory requirements in effluent, waste, air emissions, storage of hazardous materials, etc if they embed best practice through a structured management system, he said.
Success in improved performance can be monitored by implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS).
An EMS can help to keep sustainability as an integral part of business strategy. Irish companies, particularly those in the food sector are becoming the leaders in embedding environmental best practice, said White.
By implementing internationally recognised management systems, such as ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 or other accredited sustainability standards, companies like Kerry Group, Carbery Milk, ABP Food Group and Dawn Meats have seen the benefits and made considerable savings through improved resource efficiencies, he said.
Adherence to international standards helps companies to embed good practice, document procedures and practices, and drive continuous improvement, and more and more companies find them useful marketing tools with customers.