Sustainability in tough economic times

Company: HTA

In the past, sustainability and environmental credentials have been seen as an add-on, a premium extra, or an aspect of branding, and something that tended to be cut when economic times got tough.

But this is changing, and sustainability is a now core pillar of countless businesses, which understand that sustainability brings real benefits to people, planet, and the profit, and removes an element of risk from the business’ future. Indeed, sustainability and a robust financial bottom line are by no means mutually exclusive.

Short- and medium-term benefits

Looking at energy use as an example, there are plenty of things businesses can do to gain short- and medium-term benefits in terms of cost savings and carbon emissions savings. For instance, an energy audit will show which areas of a business are using the most energy and the associated costs.  This can help identify opportunities to save costs.

Checking the efficiency of equipment and appliances, swapping to newer, more energy efficient appliances could make a huge difference to your energy bills either in the short or longer term. For bigger savings you may have to invest more money first to get the bigger pay-off.

Swapping to LED lighting, reinsulating the walls and ceilings, or investing in your own energy generation such as with solar panels will take a bit more time and money to begin with, but the savings are realised within just a few years.

Sources of finance and support

Of course, achieving these sorts of savings requires initial investment; increasingly there are more and more sources of finance and support for businesses looking to make green investments.

You can often find green finance or sustainable finance options for SMEs from banks with eligibility for projects almost always including investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency measures, improving biodiversity, and clean transport options. Plus, there can also be local and national government grant funding opportunities and incentives.

It's not just energy

It's not just energy that you could be looking at, although this is a key consideration for businesses. As horticultural businesses, water use, plastics and packaging waste, and materials use are all areas where you can save money and carbon.

Water is an essential resource, but many businesses still rely heavily on mains water supply. Rainwater harvesting and water run-off capture and reuse can be efficient options to increase your drought-resilience and mitigate the risks posed by disruptions to mains water supplies.


Reducing your packaging and waste will reduce your costs both in terms of the goods and supplies you buy in and your waste disposal costs. Also, by swapping to easily recyclable materials you will reduce the volume of waste to landfill. This will reduce the impact your products have on the environment, particularly as landfill releases a huge amount of methane, which has more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 in the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere. Avoiding waste to landfill will have a big effect on your environmental impact, while reducing your costs overall, and showing staff and customers your commitment to protecting the environment.

All in all, embedding an ethos of sustainability into as many aspects of a business as possible, and in particular a ‘waste-not-want-not’ mentality, presents businesses with a way of coping with increasingly tough economic times. 

About Liz Wiliams

Liz Williams is the Sustainability Executive at the HTA, and she works with colleagues to help guide the industry to become more sustainable through the HTA's Sustainability Roadmap, launched in 2020. Before joining the HTA, Liz studied a Master's degree in Sustainable Environmental Management at Plymouth University.

HTA Resources

The HTA has a number of resources available to help members on their sustainability journey, such as how-to guides, access to Planet Mark workshops specific to the industry, and technical knowledge exchange for growers on a number of sustainability aspects.

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