Sustainable practices can boost your business

‘Spiralling energy costs’ and ‘soaring resource prices’ are common issues raised when Northern Ireland businesses discuss the barriers they face to growth.

Over the past 3 years, Invest NI has helped companies identify £78m of savings, and realise £26.8m worth of savings through reducing costs and incorporating sustainable practices into their operations.

Increasingly, greater numbers of firms are engaging with us to explore and implement measures which could help alleviate these pressures.

Most companies these days have – and should be encouraged to have – carbon and waste reductions targets, in place; it’s the responsible thing to do. However, if this is at a cost to the company, does it fall by the wayside? I would argue that these practices shouldn’t detract from your day-to-day business activities; it should become part of them. Done right, companies can really boost their competitive advantage and increase their productivity.

Our Sustainable Development support is focused around 4 key areas and offers local businesses a range of advisory and financial support:

1. Free Technical Consultancy & Support

  • One-to-one support from Invest NI's technical advisors.
  • Up to 5 days with a private sector consultant specialising in one of 9 different categories of support.
  • Projects range from Solar PV and Waste Minimisation to Biomass and Water Efficiency. This support is available to businesses spending £30,000 annually on their resource and energy costs.

Ian Hayburn, Managing Director of Hayburn & Co, in Ballymena, shared his thoughts on the advice his business received from Invest NI’s experts. “The audit and subsequent advice were instrumental in identifying opportunities to reduce energy consumption and heating costs. We have now installed a new heating system throughout the premises based on the advice we received specifically on new technologies and available funding through the Renewable Heat Incentive.”

2. The Energy Efficiency Loan Fund

  • Operated by the Carbon Trust.
  • Provides interest free loans of between £3,000 and £400,000 to businesses that are interested in investing in energy efficient equipment and/ or renewable technologies.
  • The size of the loan is based on the projected CO2 savings of a project – Carbon Trust offer £1,000 of loan for every 1.5 tonnes of CO2 your project is expected to save per annum.

MJM Marine in Newry are among the many businesses which have utilised this loan. Jude McCann, Operations Director, commented: “The incentive of the interest free loan scheme made the decision to reduce our Carbon foot print and lower energy bills by implementing our plans much easier, and made it possible to action our cost reduction plans without tying up cash flow of the business. From a company perspective, the application process was very straight forward, and we are currently working on renewable energy projects.”

3. Resource Efficiency Grant

  • Offers grants of up to £40,000 or 40% of the project costs for the purchase and/ or installation of new equipment that will reduce water or material costs.
  • Available to Invest NI customers.
  • The next call for applications is opening on 1st February 2016 and will run for 6 weeks until 11th March 2016.

Porsha Stoneworks in Enniskillen is one of over 50 businesses to benefit from this highly popular grant recently. Roy Persse, Managing Director, said: “The Resource Efficiency Grant we received has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to achieve both cost savings and increase the quality of our finished stone and cutting process recycling water and reduce material waste.”

4. Industrial Symbiosis Service

Speaking about his experiences, Brian Campbell, Event Services Manager for the SSE Arena said: “The SSE Arena was under pressure to find a suitable solution for resource streams that had been generated during the refurbishment of the Arena. The Industrial Symbiosis practitioners provided an excellent service in identifying and managing relationships with potential solution providers. It is fantastic that all the items have a new lease of life through a number of social enterprises across Northern Ireland.”

For more information or to speak to someone in our sustainable development team call 0800 181 4422.