How to Work More Sustainably and Ethically as a Freelancer

How to Work More Sustainably and Ethically: Tips From the Small Business and Freelance Community


This summer has been a challenging time for many countries around the world, with wildfires raging across several regions. As of August 2023, wildfires have been reported in 11 countries including Greece, France, and Spain. The fires have been fueled by record-breaking temperatures and dry conditions, leading to a state of emergency being declared in several areas. Meanwhile at home, our summer has been a washout with July being one of the wettest on record.

In a world where every little choice matters, small businesses and freelancers have a unique chance to make a big social and environmental impact. Today we’re serving up easy and actionable ideas for small business owners and freelancers who want to do good for the planet and society while doing well in their careers; along with what our community is doing within their business to make a difference.


Suzi Brown, a website designer, is working in a more digitally sustainable way:

  • “I made my whole business more sustainable in the last few years. I changed my website so it was faster and used less resources and I changed my suppliers where I could to those more ethical/sustainable. I now help customers change their website or hosting to be more sustainable/reduce their carbon footprint.
  • I was already pretty paperless being a digital company but I’ve tried to increase this as much as possible and after covid, I mainly do online meetings now rather than me or the client travelling about.
  • My tip for other freelancers is to buy ‘preloved’ where possible instead of new – or you can use ‘buy nothing sites’ to get pretty much anything for businesses. And A Good Thing helps you get rid of businesses things by giving them to a charity who needs them.”



Richard Shrubb, a copywriter specialising in EVs, social affairs and psychotropics, has invested in green energy to offset his business and personal energy use:

  • “My business would be carbon neutral to carbon negative.
  • I have 4kW of solar panels on my roof. Even with my much higher energy consumption in winter I produce more energy from my roof annually than I use. Consequently, my Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions are carbon negative. Scope 3 (suppliers) emissions might even result in being carbon neutral or negative as other than internet, laptop and analogue stationery my requirements are negligible.”



Adrian Ashton, enterprise and charity consultant, is making his business more ethical and sustainable through easy to implement ways people can adopt straight away:

  • “Prioritising public transport for business travel (and even cycling for business meetings on occasion! although this risks clients going blind at the sight of me in lycra…) – but always encouraging clients to meet by zoom/phone to mitigate the need for any such physical travel in the first place
  • I co-offset the carbon generated from the travel I do undertake though Co-op Climate Action at my own cost.
  • Using local suppliers wherever possible (even if it’s more expensive) to reduce transport miles in supply chains.
  • Purchasing any equipment needed (projectors, portable hearing loops, etc) second-hand/refurbished where possible to reduce landfill.
  • Changing out all the lightbulbs in my office for low energy LEDs and installing cheap DIY insulation on the windows using the bubble wrap that the second-hand equipment I’ve bought has been wrapped in to send to me.
  • Reducing the use of heating in autumn/winter through modelling of hats, scarves and towels (nod to hitchhikers – ‘always know where your towel is!’).
  • Not buying notebooks, but making my own with the blank reverse of papers and letters I receive.
  • Having a solar panel backpack to top up the battery pack for my phone to be recharged with.
  • Annually publishing details about my environmental impacts and how I am seeking to manage them as part of my impact report on myself, and commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 13 (take action to combat climate change and its impacts).
  • Offering my practices for scrutiny and validation each year through my certifications with the Good Business Charter, and Responsible Business Standard.”



Tracy Weeks from Purplelily Design‘s passion for being ethical and sustainable is woven throughout her practice, all the way to the way she networks:

  • “Purplelily Design is run as an ethical and environmentally sustainable business wherever possible, as a result there are some clients I will not work with. Other ethical and environmentally sustainable businesses are my target audience and I offer a 10% discount if they meet this criteria.
  • I’ve signed up to the League Against Cruel Sports Business without Bloodsports Pledge and I am waiting to get an upstate from Business Declares.
  • Ecosia is a bit better known now but it’s a great search engine to use instead of Google. There are loads of things people can do; from a digital detox of all those emails that come in that never get read (this actually helps those sending the newsletters too); clear out your email inboxes (most people have more than one); Mike Berners-Lee calculated that the emissions generated by an email can be between 0.03g and 26g, this depends on the device used to create the email (latest phone or desktop computer).
  • Don’t send large files by email or leave them sitting on the cloud; just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Some servers will be more environmentally sustainable than others, but it’s better to use B Corp or We Transfer, to send large files. I am working how to keep my website footprint down and I’m not convinced that Squarespace is the best host, I’m also working on my environment policy but these things take time when there is work to do.
  • Just like the above, when managed correctly, print can be much better for the environment. Most printers now use vegetable based inks for general print and FSC accredited paper can be better for the environment than some recycled papers (energy and processing). There is an organisation called Two Sides that covers both sides of the arguments when it comes to paper. When printed materials are designed well they can consider the life expectancy of the printed item, this ensures that the print doesn’t have a short life and is disposable.
  • Many organisations are using less plastic in their packaging, however, sometimes plastic is unavoidable and can give an item a longer shelf life. Its mainly single-use plastic that is the problem, general plastic use is in almost everything we use.
  • There are loads of networking groups and organisations, the list keeps on growing! From Little Green Duck’s Flock Together; Creatives for Climate; Ethical Hour; People, Planet Pint (I’ve been to the Southampton one and Poole is launching in August); Work for Good. There are loads of events around the UK and beyond too, I normally go to the Big Sustainability Expo in Southampton. I was recently introduced to Crewdle for online networking and our 1-2-1 saved 545g eqCO2 compared to getting in a car.
  • This doesn’t cover the energy consumption of working from home or office spaces. I’d like to think I use less energy working from home and not going out to an office, I have much more control over my consumption and my energy supplier. One big area that will make a huge difference to sustainability financially is for businesses to divest from fossil fuel supporting pension and investment companies. I know a few financial advisors who only work with ethical investors who don’t support fossil fuels or the arms trade.”



Katie Taylor-Thompson, copywriter, shared with us her article on why sustainable copywriting matters.

A few important numbers or areas of note from the blog:

  • 50% of copywriters who label themselves as sustainable or ethical believe they do better quality work when working for a client who shares the same values as them.
  • 20% of copywriters switch to working for sustainable businesses because of bad experiences, e.g. learning about the negative environmental impact of a previous client.
  • Those who label themselves as sustainable or ethical have to be careful of the clients they choose to work with.
  • Participants of this blog research haven’t had trouble finding clients.


We also asked our Facebook community for tips on working sustainably and ethically:

Abitha from Abitha Digital suggests:

  • “Delete any emails you don’t need! Just having them sitting there in your inbox is bad for the environment. Take the time to archive stuff you want to refer back to and delete the rest!”


Kate Bunn from K&K Legal Consulting says GDPR compliance and saving paper goes hand in hand:

  • “Try to become paperless. I would say we operate our business at 98% paperless. But we are conscious of the digital footprint we are now leaving because of it and we are ramping up our efforts to ensure we only keep what we need and get rid of the rest – this has been really easy to adopt because we are really strict on this anyway to be GDPR compliant.”


Lizz from Wild Human Skincare shares with us ideas independent makers can adopt when producing their products:

  • In our small independent skincare business, we choose to formulate with 100% natural ingredients and where possible we always choose ethically sourced organic ingredients. We use Fairtrade organic cocoa butter, and the shea butter we use is from a women’s cooperative in Ghana and our supplier invests money back in to their community, helping to build local amenities and infrastructure. Choosing to buy ethically sourced, organic, Fairtrade ingredients means that we pay more for what we want to use, but it’s important to us that we are not just taking from the earth but giving back in some small ways.
  • Our natural skincare products are packaged in glass jars that can be returned to us to be reused or recycled at home, along with the aluminium lids.


Are you a freelancer or small business who is passionate about reducing your carbon footprint and supporting social initiatives? Share your tips on how to work more sustainably or ethically on this blog by dropping us an email on [email protected].