Corporate Social Responsibility

Using a Costs-Benefits Analysis to help your business reduce its plastic use.

With it being Plastic Free July, everyone is thinking more about their plastic use and how they can reduce it. So I thought I’d take a little look at costs-benefits analyses and how they can be used to help your business find alternatives to plastic and help you become more sustainable.

What is a Costs-Benefits Analysis?

A cost-benefit analysis is basically a fancy term for looking at the pros and cons of a decision or project. It can be a large in-depth investigation that researches everything thoroughly with a structured 25-page spiral bound report for people to read or it can be a simple pros and cons list on the back of an envelope.

You can include financial costs and returns on investment as well as non-financial ones, such as positive and negative impacts on yourself and your business. You can also include what the effect will be for your customers. I like to include my emotions as well and other influences as they can be a big part of decision making.

You’ll be doing costs-benefits analyses every day without even realising it. Like making the decision between having a gin and tonic in the evening or water. Gin and tonic is tastier than water, but water has zero calories and as it comes out of the tap, is practically free. Alcohol affects your brain and body functions, which can make you feel happy, however, water won’t give you a headache the next day.

Once you’ve written all your costs and benefits down, it’s usually quite clear to see what option you should go for as you will have more pros than cons or vice versa.

So, let’s look at an example of swapping plastic mailing bags for a non-plastic alternative.

Plastic vs Non Plastic Mailing Bags

Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns wrote an article about sustainability, recycling and re-using, including packaging to send out all those lovely parcels of yarn. So let’s look at what a simple costs-benefits analysis could look like for swapping from plastic mailing bags to a non-plastic alternative.

Table showing costs and benefits of plastic mailbags and a non-plastic alternative.

If you’ve read the article, Victoria actually looked at a couple of non-plastic alternatives and one option was discarded due to “there [being] no way of opening them without the bloody fluff going absolutely bloody everywhere”. This definitely counts as a con/ cost.

What other resources can I use to help me reduce plastic in my business?

Like most things in business, reducing plastic in your business will take a bit of research. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Visit the Plastic Free July website
  • See what your competitors and peers are doing
  • Have a look on Pinterest for some ideas – I’ve created a ‘Sustainable Workplace’ board with some ideas for plastic free alternatives.
  • Reach out to your peers and customers and ask them for their opinion

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