Helping businesses and the environment in Poland
Through promoting sustainable development among small and medium sized enterprises, a Polish project has helped businesses save money and protected the environment.
“The main idea behind the project was to promote and implement sustainable development principles among small and medium sized enterprises in Poland in a way that would also make sense business-wise”, says Joana Wegrzycka, vice-president of the Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation and the person in charge of the project.
“The link between protecting the environment and reducing costs was very important,” she explains. “One of the most important things we did was to try and explain to the businesses participating in the project that you can actually be environmentally friendly and cut costs at the same time.”
Energy consumption down by 38%
Through various measures, such as switching to energy-saving light bulbs or faucets and improving building isolation, the 500 businesses that participated in the project managed to reduce their overall energy consumption by 38%, their water consumption by 20% percent and their waste 37%.
During the project, participating SMEs had access to information and advisory services, seminars and workshops. Environmental specialists helped the companies understand the role of environmental improvements in business operations and find the best ways to reduce adverse environmental impacts while achieving financial gains for the company.
The project was being implemented when the first financial crises hit in 2008, making it essential that the proposed measures did not require big investments. “Many of the businesses we worked with were trying to save money. Therefore it was important that the suggestions we came up with were simple and did not cost a lot of money”, explains Wegrzycka.
The project was carried out in partnership with the Norwegian organisation Green Business Norway, a Norwegian network of more than 40 enterprises and organisations working in support for environmental protection. To carry out the project on the ground, the Polish Environmental Partnership Foundation relied on close cooperation with the 18 local chapters of the Clean Business Programme.
“It was the local Clean Business Clubs-chapters that met with the different business leaders and educated them about the potential of environmental policy measures that also are cost-cutting,” explains Wegrzycka.
The project was finalised April 2010, but the work of promoting sustainable business practices continues. “We still keep in touch with the businesses that were involved in the project and continue to advocate for practices that can help both cutting costs and saving the environment,” says Wegrzycka.
Photo credit: The Polih Environmental Partnership Foundation